Name: Rocket Knight Adventures
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Year: 1993
Platform: Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
Genre: Platformer
Players: One Player
Rarity: Reasonably easy to find second-hand
"Sparkster - the only hope of a desperate nation."
A classic platformer for the Sega Mega Drive, featuring Sparkster, a cute sword-wielding, rocketpack-wearing opossum. Released in 1993, this title was Konami's answer to Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario, and can easily be ranked as one of the best platformers on Sega's system.

The Story

Rocket Knight Adventures is based in a world called Elhorn, a world of warriors, magic and machinery. Within this world is a kingdom known as Zebulos. The kingdom of Zebulos has a turbulent history, the area being part of a great war. During the reign of El Zebulos, the kingdom's first monarch, a group of invaders arrived in the country, bent on the destruction of El Zebulos and his clan. They sailed a powerful, evil ship known as the "Pig Star". If it were not for the determination and courage of El Zebulos and his kingdom, their strong opponents would have easily crushed the peaceful land and its inhabitants. The invaders were defeated, and the Pig Star was placed under a magical seal to prevent it from falling back into enemy hands. The seal can only be removed using the "Key to the Seal", which was, and still is heavily guarded by Zebulos and his royal family.

To acquire the key would give the bearer the power to unlock the Pig Star, and it's potential to destroy whole worlds. To prevent this possibility from occurring, an elite fighting force was formed, known as the Rocket Knights. They're heavily armoured warriors who use rocket packs and mystical swords to protect and serve the kingdom and it's people. The current leader of the Rocket Knights is Sparkster, who came to power after the Rocket Knight master, Mifune Sanjulo, was killed by a corrupted Knight called Axle Gear. Sparkster exchanged in a fierce battle with Axle, and banished the murderer from the land.

The kingdom has come under threat again, this time from the nearby Devotindos Empire. They have used huge robots and a massive army in their attack, which has left the Zebulan army at near-defeat. Sparkster, fearing the worst, heads to the Castle Zebulan, to find that the Princess has been kidnapped by Axle Gear! He plans to use the princess as blackmail against the King, in order to obtain the Key to the Seal. However, Axle doesn't know that the Princess is the only remaining royal family member who knows the location of the key...

The Game

RKA is a side-scrolling platform game. You control Sparkster, travelling through seven stages of increasing difficult encounters with enemies, and more taxing platforming, in order to save the Princess. Beginning in the Kingdom of Zebulos, Sparkster will go through the Mountain Range, Underground, onto the Flying Battleship, into the Kingdom of Devotindos, fly into Deep Space, and end up on the Pig Star itself.

Every platform game has a unique gimmick, and RKA's is Sparkster's rocket pack, as well as his sword. By charging up the pack, you can fly for a short period of time in a specific direction; left, up-left, up, up-right, or right. You need to charge up your pack each time to be able to fly. There is a gauge at the top of the screen showing how much you have charged, which flashes when you can use your rocket pack. If you press down on the d-pad while the rocket pack is charged up, then Sparkster will perform a spinning attack on the spot, using his sword to hit anything in close range. The sword can also be used to quickly attack enemies in close-range. If you pick up a power pack item, you can fly continuously for extended periods of time.

You can use the rocket attack for more than just flying short distances. Sparkster will rebound of walls or other objects if you fly against them, which allows you to climb up narrow passageways that you would not be able to jump up to normally. If you need the extra jumping height, you can perform a normal jump first, then activate the rocket pack.

Sparkster can also hang from trees and branches by using his furless tail, and is also capable of swimming, using his tail in that situation to grab onto objects to prevent him from floating upwards.

There are a few types of item to collect in RKA, the main pick-up being the Gem, which earns you bonus points. Food, such as bananas and apples, restores life, where a 1-up gives the player an extra life.

The Characters

He's a war orphan, who was taken in by Mifune Sanjulo, a descendant in the long line of Rocket Knights. Sparkster was raised as a Rocket Knight himself. After his master was killed by Axle Gear, Sparkster left to search for the killer, and the search lasted 10 years, with no success. He wishes to seek revenge, and poses as a wondering outlaw, although he is in fact a strong defender of peace. Sparkster has a careless streak, and is easily pleased by praise or flattery.

King Zebulos:
A descendent of the royal Zebulos family that have protected the Key to the Seal since it's creation. A fair and tolerant ruler, he is loved by his people. At a young age, the King was friends with Mifune, and they travelled on a number of adventures. He's a widower whose only child is Princess Sherry.

Princess Sherry:
A slightly naive, but kind and proper daughter to the King. She is to inherit the Key of the Seal, which causes her to be the target of the kidnapping by the Devotindos Imperial army.

Axle Gear, the Black Knight:
Tainted by evil, the Black Knights are a group of Rocket Knights who are corrupted by power and greed. Axle once tried to steal the book that contains ancient secrets about the Rocket Knights. Mifune protected this book, and died trying to save it. The Black Knight is the assistant to Emperor Devligus - the leader of the Imperial army. Although he doesn't show it, Axle secretly hates the Emperor, and wishes to overthrow him and take over power of his people. Axle also holds another secret: He is in love with Princess Sherry...

Emperor Devligus Devotindos:
He single-handedly built up the powerful Devotindos Imperial Army, which he also commands. With a deep understanding of archaeology, he dug up and revived robots from the ruins of the old Empire. He has strong powers of hypnosis, which he uses to control crowds and oppress neighbouring countries and planets, although his ultimate goals remain unclear.

Captain Fleagle:
Captain of the Empire's great flying battleship, The Big Baroné, Fleagle is a clumsy oaf who never seems to get things right.

Other Information

Sparkster has a very appealing and youthful design. He wears ultramarine coloured armour, and a twin-engine rocket pack. He's quite small and stumpy, sporting the typical deformed look of most Japanese game characters. He wears a helmet and goggles, and via two holes, his ears stick out of the top. Underneath the armour is a cute possum with soft brown fur, oval eyes with large pupils, a few whiskers, and a small black nose. And of course, he also has a short, thin, fleshy tail.

Rocket Knight Adventures is a beautiful, but difficult game. It will pose a great challange to even the most hardcore of gamer. This can sometimes make the game very frustrating, but you always know that your failing is not the fault of the game, but of your own playing abilities. The graphics are gorgeously detailed, the character sprites cute and appropriate, the background deep and parallax scrolled. RKA also features some wonderful music, especially on the first level, and on the minecart stage that leads into the Underground level. All in all, a fun but challenging platformer that deserves to be played at least once in your lifetime.

There are a few small differences between the Japanese and US/European versions of the game. The Japanese introduction paints a better story than the Western version of the intro. In the Japanese version, the scene is set with a few possums sitting in the countryside, with a dog closeby. Sinister music begins to play, as a few pig soldiers cross the stream next to them, the sky blackens, and a ghostly image of Emperor Devligus appears behind them. In the Western versions, the game begins with Sparkster standing on the top of a huge mountain-like rock, with a castle in the background, against a dark red sky. He takes out his sword, and the view rotates around him, till it shows his back, and in front of him, the image of Empreror Devilgus is shown, and laughs evilly. Also, the stage introduction screen differs between versions, too. In the JPN version, there is a opossum bass band, that plays the stage intro music. On the US/Euro version, an image of Sparkster is shown against a starfield.

Similar games include Sonic the Hedgehog, Earthworm Jim, and Dynamite Headdy. There is a sequel to RKA, known as Sparkster, which was released on the Mega Drive/Genesis and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

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