Over the last several months, Konami has been reVitalizing old gaming franchises with rebirths, remakes and sequels. Unlike Contra, Castlevania, or even Vandal Hearts, Rocket Knight is probably the least known gaming icon out of the lot but still offers an enjoyable gaming experience even if you never played the original.
Released in the summer of 1993, Sega Genesis owners were treated to the original Rocket Knight Adventures, a highly explosive rocket-induced platformer in which the player took control of Sparkster, a possum that is known for traveling via jetpack, hanging from his tail, and carrying a big sword.
This sequel is a solid throwback to the original’s design but seems to have replaced the higher gameplay speed and explosions for a more structured and organized style of platforming. Instead of having over-the-top action like any Treasure produced game, Rocket Knight might actually be best summed up as a hybrid between Klonoa and Bionic Commando Rearmed. Using a similar 2.5D gameplay style, Rocket Knight uses the platforming and storytelling techniques of Klonoa but blends jetpack usage in the same way as Rearmed used the grapple hook – Jetpacking is not only a way to travel, but can also be used in combat, reach new places and solve puzzles. Far from a gimmick, the jetpack is an integral and welcomed gameplay element. Even though Sparkster cannot truly fly, the jetpack is used to dash as high speeds, bounce off walls, platform, and attack baddies.
A large part of the Rocket Knight’s success is contained with the playcontrol. Sparkster just moves exactly how you want him to. These spot on controls make the game highly detailed and player friendly. Basically, if you fall down a hole or run into an enemy, it is your own fault; you cannot blame the controls here. Enough cannot be said regarding the pixel-perfect accuracy of controlling Sparkster.
Stemming from the welcoming controls is the level design. Because the controls are nearly perfect, each level will challenge the player thanks to some coolly designed stages. Just like Klonoa, where the player is given all character abilities from the start of the game, Rocket Knight uses the same abilities throughout the entire game but constantly innovates the player with new ways to solve platforming problems. Because of this, each stage was clearly designed with care as Rocket Knight has absolute perfect pacing. The initial stages will warm the player up for the much more challenging stages toward the end. The last two levels in particular definitely offer the most challenge; the way a properly paced game should be.
Substituting polygons for pixels, the entire game is made in three dimensions. Each stage is colorful and also features some pretty decent special effects. Unfortunately, this indirectly might be the game’s biggest flaw – the price tag. Rocket Knight costs 1200 MS Points ($15). Is this higher price point because the game needed the extra budget money to create the game in the colorful 3D that it is? But even though the game looks great, it is quite short. Each of the game’s dozen or so levels can be finished anywhere between 4-10 minutes. Further, the game also encourages speed runs as the online leaderboards are based around time; there are even achievements geared towards beating the game within a specific amount of time. Speaking of achievements, all of them require skill and patience to unlock so achievement farmers should look elsewhere.
Rocket Knight will undoubtedly provide an entertaining experience with its welcoming visuals, detailed control and perfect pacing whether you played as Sparkster on the Genesis or not. The only solid flaw that this game has is its pricing. There are so many other XBLA and PSN games that offer more content for the $10 price tag. The sequel to Vandal Hearts and some of the WiiWare remakes were also culprits to a higher price point. But if you are not pinching your pennies when looking for entertaining games, Rocket Knight will not disappoint even though time spent will be short. At the very least, the free demo is quite long and offers a great sample of the experience of the full game.
Funnest Part: Dashing around jetpack style/large boss battles
Simile: Rocket Knight’s jetpack is the grapple hook to Bionic Commando
Wait For It: the original on Virtual Console
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