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Rocket Knight Review

KevinS By:
GENRE Action 
DEVELOPER Climax Studios Ltd 
E10+ Contains Cartoon Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Dude, I totally called this one.

I did a review a little while back for the game Klonoa, a remake of the unknown PSOne classic, and at the very end of it I brought up how I love that the classics that truly deserve a second chance seem to be getting just that. I named a handful of games I would like to see more of, including Bonk's Adventure and Wonderboy. And in the last line of my review, I said this:

click to enlarge“If someone could do as good a job bringing back Rocket Knight Adventures, I would be in heaven.”

Oh yeah, I'm taking so much credit for this one. Rocket Knight is all about the return of Sparkster, the former hero of the Zephyrus kingdom of possums, to fight the forces of General Sweinhart and his bitter enemy, Axel Gear. Sparkster, who hadn't donned his trusty rocket pack for over 15 years (since the two sequels both back in 1994, Sparkster 2: RKA for the Genesis and the simply-titled Sparkster for SNES), finds the kingdom he swore to protect in chaos from the swine that is the, err..., swine. Pigs are everywhere, as are their wolfy minions (don't know how that worked out on the negotiation table, but hey, possums have a kingdom of their own and have perfected rocket technology. Who am I to say anything?).

What really makes this different from other platformers is the presence of the rocket pack. True to the original RKA and its two follow-ups, every level revolves around what the pack is capable of. Not just rocketing forward or up into the air, that would be too simple, but ricocheting off of walls to reach higher platforms and hidden areas/items. That pack is even more useful in this iteration, with the addition of destructible barriers and a new spin attack to use against them. And the levels are well-crafted to make a player feel like they should rocket around a little extra, just to see if there's a gem or two that's hiding a bit out of reach. It's enough to have you bouncing off the walls like a little kid. (HA! Get it? Bouncing... ahh, you get it.)

click to enlargeThere are actually two genres mixed in here to liven up the mood; some of the levels are horizontal shooting stages. That shouldn't be too surprising since he's wearing a rocket, but it's a nice change of pace from the expansive grounded levels. Each one is fairly basic, with just the projectile and boost coming into play, and a charge attack that can fire across the screen instead of a short burst. There aren't many of these levels, but they fit into the storyline well enough and they're fun to boot.

The world is as colorful as ever, and even though it's obviously upgraded over the original game,  it retains that feel of pastel-love from the time period. Now that the characters are all rendered in 3D and the backdrops are deeper and animated, the whole thing looks like a modern-day cartoon, instead of the “classic” cartoon look from the sprite-based games of yesteryear. What bothers me a little is that it's supposed to be 15 years later and Sparkster looks like he's still a young buck, ready and willing to save the day. Shouldn't he have a few wrinkles, look a little weary? According to the opening he's married with a kid, and doesn't think twice before grabbing his pack at the first notice of trouble. Maybe he's just happy to be out of the house.

And to top off the main experience, for the hardcore players, there's a free play mode. It's for everybody and opens up stages when they're beaten, but really it's for those players who love their speed runs. Each stage shows the leaderboard with your friends that have the game, with both their clear times and their score. It's fun competition, and if you have some friends with the game, it enhances the replay value. The game by itself is fun to play through, but having leaderboards like those can really make the juices flow. Gotta love that old arcade “beat the high score” mentality.

click to enlargeControlling the little guy is a little funky, with jump/shoot/sword slice/rocket buttons being a little unwieldy in the early goings. I don't know quite why the designers decided to break up the attack buttons; they used to be mapped to just the one button. That wouldn't be too much a problem if the two attacks didn't feel so different in strength. If the game had a steeper learning curve, the problem would have been worse. As it stands, it's more an inconvenience than a problem, but the option to combine them would have been a nice touch.

A game like this is exactly what I wanted in the classic remake trend. Sure, it doesn't bring much that's new, but it does expand on all that makes this genre great and, even better, it brings back the memories of great games from years past. New players will enjoy this, and the old guard should be very pleasantly surprised by that feeling of upgraded nostalgia that gets people playing games in the first place. This truly is as nice and polished as it could be which makes me a happy classic-loving gamer.

And don't forget, I called it!
A- Revolution report card
  • Beautiful visual cartoon style
  • Large, extensive levels
  • Shooting stages break up the action well
  • Free play adds replay value
  • Price well worth it
  • Controls are a little funky
    Reviews by other members
    No member reviews for the game.

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