Monday, August 8, 2016

VGR Rocket Knight

Probably my favorite attempt at another retro revival, not simply a remake of a cult classic like those recent Disney remakes (see Land of Illusion or DuckTales) but an actual modern follow-up!

VGR: The Return of ROCKET KNIGHT, also known as simply Rocket Knight (2010)
From Climax Studios/Konami Digital Entertainment
Played on PC (Steam)
Also available on PS3 (PSN) and Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Arcade)

Type 2.5D sidescroller platformer game
Year May 2010

While Konami's attempt at a mascot kinda disappeared after the 16-bit era, Sparkster was never truly forgotten like those other countless 90s extreme cartoony mascots. For one thing, his games were actually good. This was probably the best Sonic/Mario "clone" out there, the game had its fair share of fans thanks to its very own unique atmosphere and pretty original and interesting gameplay.

In fact Sparkster would receive a few cameos here and there in a few handful of Konami titles over the decades - such as Konami Krazy Racers or New International Track & Field.

Finally a new game brought Sparkster back from his imposed retirement, the 2010 digital title Rocket Knight. The game was made by Climax Studios, the small developer responsible for two of my favorite non-Konami developed Silent Hill games, Silent Hill: Origins and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.

The game is not a remake of the original 1993 Sega Megadrive title Rocket Knight Adventures, but actually a proper sequel to the Super Nintendo Sparkster and Sega's Rocket Knight Adventures 2.

Finally our jetpack-powered opossum is back!

The story is set in the world of Ethorn, a few years after Sparkster defeatd the last villains, the Gedol Empire in RKA2. Like those previous games it's a story about different "clans" of animals facing each other for territory, each group of animals relying on different type of technology and habits.

The pigs of the Devotindos Empire Sparkster originally fought in the very first RKA game have now been trying to cohabit along the opossums of the Zephyrus Kingdom. Our "Rocket Knight" Sparkster is now a war veteran, trying to live as a farmer with his family outside town. 15 years have passed. Until one day, an army of wolves attack the opossums!

This pig General Sweinhart mounts forces to help defend the opossums, and soon the pigs end up fighting the wolves alongside the opossums!

Sparkster is forced to leave his retirement behind (kind of an analogy for this new game, if you will). But Sparkster's old rival Axel Gear takes credit of his victory on the wolves, and he helps the pigs establish a rule over the opossums! Sparksters end up joining the fight back against the wolf army only to discover the truth about this betrayal!

... The real threat is not one expected from outside, but from within the opossums' home!

All the story is told via ingame cutscenes with no dialogues (think Sonic 2 and Sonic 3), classic retro game-style, but you can find some texts in the game's menus if you want some backstory.

Gameplay is a fairly fun hybrid of platform action and sidescroller shooter, in a 2.5-dimensional plan.

Controls of the game actually take some cues from all past three original Rocket Knight/Sparkster games. It's a mix of elements from the previous games.

Sparkster's default attack is his sword. He can't shoot like in the sequels, but he can still charge it for short-range attacks like in RKA1. The jetpack is the game's main gimmick feature. The rocket boost is closer to RKA2 and the SNES Sparkster game's, the game has a same fast-paced flow to those two.

You can jump, slide on rails or use the rocket to boost into the air. The energy meter shows what you can use to power both the jetpack and the sword's attacks. It auto-powers up the meter like in Rocket Knight Adventures 2.

You basically have access to all of Sparkster's classic moves (and yes, that's a lot of moves). You can hover for a short amount of time, bounce off walls, shoot short-range attack, employ a drill attack, and also deflect projectiles with the sword. The idea is to create your own pacing while you decide to explore or zip through stages.

Along the way there's all sorts of bonuses and power ups to boost you up.

The idea is to combine all these moves and precise timing to move around the levels.

There are checkpoints. And at the end of worlds there's also boss fights that will make you use all these moves you explored in the levels before.

Climax producer Tomm Hulett really wanted to revive Spakster for Konami. They pitched various ideas, trying to go back to the concept of the original game. The fact this game happened shows the perfect timing, what with various revivals of other classic franchises.

They wanted to make a modern 3D Sparkster game as expressive and cartoony as his original classic 16-bit counterpart.

The game would sadly only be released as a digital downloadable title for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. Which is a shame, because unlike those other Konami "Rebirth" titles Sparkster doesn't rely on low-res 2D, they completely recreated Sparkster's world in 3D while keeping the 2D-sidescroller controls.

The game uses really nice cartoony graphics, which really suit the style of Sparkster. 

The game is about 14 levels-long. There's kind of 3 type of levels - normal platform stages, flying stages and boss levels.

From time to time the game will change pacing in the form of these flying stages, usually at the beginning of a new world as a transition to these new locations.

The boss fights are pretty fun and massive (they're mostly robots).

There's always some twists added here and there in the formula, to keep you on your toes. Like the freezing stages where you will slide and it will freeze the jetpack so you have to go next to a fire to keep your engine working.

The levels can be pretty big and open.

The more the game progresses, the more it will focus on pure platforming elements.

If you lose all lives, though, you will deplete a continue! Don't lose all your continues or you will be forced to restart the entire game form scratch!! (I know that for a fact!)

The strongest point of the game in my eyes was its ability to tell a story through environment, silent cutscenes and subtile background animations. It's really clever! You see this entire pig army fighting other armies around you. The world feels inhabited. And I really liked Sparkster's little mimics with no dialogues! It's cute!

The game is not super long, despite how many levels there are, but it can get pretty tricky at times.

There's a story mode and a free play mode you unlock so you can attempt beating high scores, like old school games.

And if that isn't enough for you, there's some alternate skins you can unlock! Not only you can get to play as Sparkster's rival Axel Gear but the game also brings back Sparkser's classic Golden Sparkster form for old time fans!

Finally, the music was great. It perfectly recaptures the atmosphere of the classic Rocket Knight games! It has a lot of remixes of original Rocket Knight Adventures songs and gives an appropriate epic orchestral tone to this cartoony adventure!

Overall, Rocket Knight is a really fun platformer, A Must Play for fans of the genre!

This was a great revival made with a lot of style! I honestly never expected to see a new Rocket Knight/Sparkster entry 15 years later! This was a great return for this little forgotten Konami hero. 

The game has a great gameplay, which combines the best elements of all three original classic games. It's fast paced, fun and always keeps you on your toes.

There's not really many negative aspects in my eyes. The game is a bit short, but about as long as would expect from this sort of game. The only problem I had is how the game forces you to replay this entire game if you lose too many times - it happened to me!

In a way, this game was everything I honestly wanted Sega's Sonic 4 to be. It looks great, pretty close to the originals while bringing its own ideas. It has a classic timeless feel, a perfect style and updates the series to modern graphics while staying true to its roots.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Bruces!

No comments:

Post a Comment