About the Game:
In Rocket Knight Adventures you take control of Sparkster the Opossum and hack, slash and jetpack your way through an army of evil pig soldiers to save your princess… If that’s not the best description for a platforming game I don’t know what to tell you. Rocket Knight Adventures (as well as Sparkster on the SNES) has always been a game I’ve been vaguely aware of but never actually sat down to play.
It is a Konami game, and even back before I really started paying attention to producers and developers I always knew that I’d be in for a good time after hearing that familiar chime while the game was starting up.
Gameplay, Story and Value:
All things considered, Rocket Knight is your typical sidescrolling platformer. You run and jump and can charge your jetpack to rocket off in any of eight directions. Press B to jump and hold it to charge said jetback, and press A to slash with your sword which also fires off a short-range projectile. You’re able to rocket through enemies or over obstacles, and you can hang off (and rocket off of) branches, beams and other objects. Basically, you have plenty of options to hack and slash your way through every stage, and the controls accommodate them quite well. Aside from a couple jetpack misfires, which you’ll learn to avoid, the controls are spot on.
In addition to basic platforming, you’ll also encounter schmup stages that do a perfect job of channeling Konami’s space shooter, Gradius. These offer a great diversion and for the most part are fun as hell, if not somewhat frustrating at time due to an absence of checkpoints.
Every level is broken up into three sub-stages, with each sub-stage ending with a boss fight. The first two bosses of any level are generally simple, with the third one being more involved. Even the lesser bosses are a ton of fun, as they’re brimming with character and usually involve some interesting mechanic or other.
Even after getting a handle on the game’s mechanics, Rocket Knight Adventure proves to be a fairly difficult game. I actually had to turn the gameplay level down to Easy just to get through most of it, and even then death came often. Still, the game never feels overwhelming or cheap, and there’s a tangible level of satisfaction every time you start the game again and progress further than last time. Every time you nail a boss fight without taking damage, or time your jetpack boosts perfectly to zip through a stage.
Ever level in Rocket Knight is unique, and I always found myself excited to see what would be coming next after defeating a boss. While the first level is your basic introduction to the game, you’ll quickly find yourself riding mine carts, navigating underwater minefields, bringing down airships and even flying through space. The pace never feels slow, and the game never fails to provide new gameplay elements over its seven long levels.
It took me just over an hour to reach the final phase of the final boss, who I couldn’t quite beat before getting losing my last continue, and it was definitely time well spent.
Presentation, Music and Sound:
This game looks fantastic. Sprites are large and colorful and visual effects like reflections are used extremely well. Level designs are varied and enjoyable, and in spite of everything going on onscreen there’s never a hint of flicker or lag. Everything is distinctive and fun to look at, and the attitude Sparkster conveys during his many animations rival even that of a certain blue hedgehog.
Music is very reminiscent of Konami’s Gradius games, which is to say it’s very good. Though I won’t find myself humming any of the tunes from this game, everything was very appropriate for it’s stage, and only added to enhance the experience. Sounds are equally as good with clanking swords, charging boosters and… screaming pigs.
Though I expected to enjoy Rocket Knight Adventures I didn’t expect to actually have as much fun as I did! Everything about this game just clicked with me, and I feel like it doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. It’s a fantastic platformer, and one that I was so close to beating that I won’t be able to help but pull it off the shelf again in the future. Even after that, learning how to play at high difficulties is a compelling reason to keep on going.