Rocket Knight Preview
It has been over 15 years since we took control of an uber-deadly opossum named Sparkster. It was sort of a trade-off for the time: while Sega took the hedgehog and began a revolution, Konami took the opossum and…well, gave him a sword and a jetpack, which was pretty darn amusing for a while. Rocket Knight Adventures debuted on the Sega Genesis and believe it or not, there was yet another installment before Sparkster went dormant for a very long time. But now, Konami is bringing him back; Rocket Knight will fittingly show up on the PlayStation Network and the Xbox Live Marketplace some time later this year. So if you never got a chance to slice and dice hordes of evil wolves back in the ‘90s, you get a new opportunity. The trend of dressing up random animals in knight-like apparel kinda died out a few generations ago – right around the time the industry began to grow up – but nostalgia can be quite healthy. …or at least semi-guilty indulgence.
Rocket Knight will be depicted in 2.5D, which is the modern take on old-school side-scrollers like this one. Basically, it’s still technically a “side-scroller” but the background environments and characters will be in three dimensions. This is good news and as far as I’m concerned, Sega should’ve kept Sonic in the 2.5D realm, as unrealistic as that sounds nowadays. Sparkster will have his protective armor, effective sword and aforementioned jetpack, all of which are required to deal with the invading beasties. If you actually played with Sparkster back in the day, you’ll probably remember the jetpack dash; he’s a nimble little guy, after all, and he’ll be able to speed about, hover, and even break through walls. As for additions to his sword, he can shoot fireballs at his enemies and we’ve heard there will be a few new abilities, too. Also, let’s not forget that Sparkster can actually bounce around and ricochet off walls when boosting, which is a little unique.
You’ll nab some power-ups and other useful items as you progress and that ricochet aspect of the gameplay will play a major role, especially when timing is required to reach tough places. Basically, it’s a platformer and an action game, which is fairly straightforward for a game of this type, as it requires solid reflexes and a good amount of trial-and-error experimentation. You can also expect a good amount of diversity in the backdrops and environments: one minute, you might be leaping around a lush, natural area and the next, you’ll find yourself freezing to death in an intimidating icy atmosphere. Here, you’ll have to locate fuel cells or sit near fire spurts in order to survive, so there’s obviously a little more strategy involved than one might anticipate. Add to this the colorful, appealing atmosphere and you’ve got a very charming little game that should appeal to all those who desire a dose of the rose-tinged past. And speaking of the past, there’s one last feature the veterans might recognize…
It’s the return of Sparkster’s nemesis, Axel. In the original game, he looked a lot like Sparkster’s twin, only he wore red armor and liked to cause a lot of problems. He’s back in Rocket Knight and once again, it’ll be up to Sparkster to put a stop to Axel’s infernal plans. Oh, and let’s not forget that sometimes during your adventure, you’ll actually fly around and the game will become more of a shooter! There’s really a surprising amount of stuff to talk about, especially when you consider the subject of our analysis. I mean, it’s just a freakin’ opossum dressed up as a knight. But there’s platforming (much of it with an original twist), hack ‘n slash battles, item collecting, diverse levels (a total of 14 to work through), a bit of strategy, and even a flying mechanic. In many ways, it sounds a lot like what developers should continue to do in the pseudo-2D realm; it would be much appreciated and if they stay cheap on the PSN and XBLA, they’ll also be very accessible. You just gotta love Sparkster!
4/5/2010 Ben Dutka