Review by Retro
"A vastly overlooked game that more gamers should check out"
The joyous Kingdom of Zebulos has suddenly come under attack from the evil Devotindos Empire. Zebulan forces were not powerful enough to put a halt to the various armies made up of pigs, so it's up to a brave opossum named Sparkster to try to help out the King of Zebulos. The king's daughter, the Princess, has also been kidnapped. Sparkster boldly agrees to try and find her during his journey.
Even though he is armed only with a suit of armor, a rocket pack, and a sword, Sparkster is brave enough to go this expedition alone. He must make his way through seven terrifying levels full of demonic pigs and powerful bosses in order to get anywhere near his goal of rescuing the Princess and getting the Kingdom of Zebulos back in its original, peaceful form.
Each of the seven levels in Rocket Knight Adventures is full of enemies that are almost completely made up of pigs. There are pigs that just run at you with a sword as if they were He-Pig yelling ''I have the power!''; some are armed with powerful contraptions such as a walking robotic machine; a few float around with balloons amidst the stormy skies towering over them, and so on. There are so many dang pigs that it might have you thinking to yourself: ''Geez, I sure hope Sparkster likes ham and bacon.''
The levels have a great variety to them. In many of the places, Sparkster will just need to travel by foot and use his almighty sword and rocket pack with the game's virtually flawless controls in order to destroy or slip by the numerous enemies. Each of the seven main levels has a few different parts, or stages, to them. Sparkster will have to swim through deep water depths; ride a fast-moving wheel on railroads that are full of overhead spikes and enemy trains; glide through a terrestrial, alien-infested area in outer space, and so much more. In a couple of areas such as outer space, Sparkster automatically glides through the unforgiving air the whole time, and he just has to swing his sword to let it do all the talking.
Sparkster really does have to be brave, because he doesn't have much of a weapon selection. Throughout the entire game, all he will ever be able to use is his rocket pack and sword. Each time you make Sparkster swing his sword, a sort of spinning projectile made of fire sails through the air for a short distance. Also, if you look at the top of the screen, you should see a line that will fill up anytime you keep hold of the firing button on your controller. When you fill that line up to where it's flashing and making a beeping sound, you can either make Sparkster take off and fly in one of eight directions, or make him spin in place like you often see ninjas do, with his sword held out as a furious blade. Filling that line up and making Sparkster beam through the atmosphere is how you'll get to high places and it's also a great way to attack any of the enemies and bosses.
At the end of each level in Rocket Knight Adventures, a main boss awaits your presence. The bosses can be anything from a huge terrestrial ship that is light years away from earth, to a towering robot that literally looks to be doing ''the twist'' in order to try and make parts of a building fall on top of you, to a gigantic metal fish that is hungry for opossum, and many more. Just like most of the enemies, almost all of the bosses are influenced in one way or another by a pig. For instance, many of the contraptions, such as the ship in outer space, resemble a pig in ways. In a few places, you must also face a mini-boss such as a bomb-wielding snake, a pig in a tank (not blanket), or a dragon that really knows the meaning of hang time.
Rocket Knight Adventures is a game that unfortunately never got the limelight that it deserved. That's hard to believe because it's a truly great game in almost every way.
One thing I've always liked about it is how some things seem innovative. For example, in one part, red lava keeps rising and falling from the bottom of the screen. There's a place in that stage in which you can't see where you're supposed to jump next, until the lava rises up. You can see Sparkster's reflection in the lava, and you have no choice but to use that upside down reflection as a guide to know how to judge your next jump. In another section of the game, Sparkster has the honor of facing a boss of his own kind. Both Sparkster and a dark, eerie enemy get to climb into a huge robot that has the face of a pig (of course), and use their mechanical toy's powerful metal arms to try and destroy each other. This was great stuff to see in a platformer at the time.
For beginners and experts alike, Rocket Knight Adventures includes a very effective option that allows the players to change the difficulty of the game. The game can be set to be easy enough for even the most amateur platform gamers, to even being a challenge to the most experienced gamer. If you really think you're good, try and play the game on Hard mode. Playing it on the Hard setting will make it where poor Sparkster will lose a life after just one hit from any nemesis or obstacle. Unfortunately, there is no two-player mode.
There are many parts in Rocket Knight Adventures that have superb graphics. Most of the backgrounds have a good bit of detail to them, such as the first stage's scrolling clouds and the main boss's headquarters sitting miles away. The characters (especially Sparkster) have great animation. One of the things I'll always remember the most is what happens when you complete an entire level. Sparkster becomes stationary in his current form and is brought up to the center of the screen. But here's the thing. You can move around for a few seconds after you complete a level before it'll do that to Sparkster. Let's say you heat up the rocket pack and decide to fly. If you time it just right, Sparkster could be falling from his short flight, flapping his arms and literally sweating in his fear of falling when the game freezes him in place and brings him to the middle of the screen (talk about a hilarious sight!). There are also a few standout graphical effects, such as seeing Sparkster's identical reflection in the lava, viewing planet earth from outer space, and the many unforgettable explosions. It's also neat how Sparkster himself looks to be too 'nice' in parts (by the look on his face), but in other parts, he has a mean, evil expression on his face, making him seem like a determined hero.
A few of the sounds that Sparkster makes, such as when he gets a little scare or surprise from something, sound a little corny, but most of the sound effects aren't bad at all. The music, while not some of the best that I've heard in a 16-bit game, are catchy tunes that go well with the personality of Sparkster's current, surrounding environment at any given time. The tune that accompanies the very first level will make you feel like a role model with its heroic theme, while the fast-paced music of the final battle is likely to get your adrenaline flowing as you send this piggish boss back to its mud pit where it belongs.
For some reason, Rocket Knight Adventures is one of the most underrated games for the Sega Genesis, but if you like 2-D platformers, then don't let that stop you from purchasing it, because it is a great game. It will probably be one of your new favorites during your very first play.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 07/17/01, Updated 02/27/03
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