One of the Finest Possum-With-A-Rocket Games of All Time
My introduction to Rocket Knight Adventures happened when my little brother brought it home one day from the used bookstore. I had no clue what this thing was. Then I watched him play it. That's when I fell in love with the game.
Rocket Knight Adventures came out in 1993, a time when you couldn't throw a rock without hitting a mascot-based platformer. Every company was trying desperately to create their own Mario or Sonic. Rocket Knight Adventures' hero Sparkster was definitely an attempt at this, but rather than making another clone of those classics, Konami made the gameplay stand out from the pack. The difference maker was the rocket pack. Rather than just saying, "He's a possum with a rocket! EXTREME!!", the rocket actually played a vital part. Charging up the pack would blast you off in one of eight directions. Levels were designed with traps and pits that required accurate rocket blasts to get past. It was really a kind of predecessor to Mario's wall jump, or the more recent Splosion Man.
The levels were split up between the side-scrolling (and occasionally vertically-scrolling) platformer and a side-scrolling shooter. Sparkster would use his jet pack to fly through the air and beat down pigs in ships and helicopters with his sword. Tell me that doesn't sound awesome! And of course you had to face off against Sparkster's rival, Axel Gear. This was basically a dark version of Sparkster, though Axel had some wicked weapons at his disposal. The combat, jumping, and rocket blasting all felt tight and responsive, and culminated in a game that was a ton of fun to play.
Like most platformers of it's era, Rocket Knight Adventures really ramped up the difficulty as you got further into the game, so that pattern memorization and split-second timing were mandatory. And there were no passwords for the game. If you ran out of continues, you started over from the beginning. Yet somehow I managed to power through that. Sure, it got old having to run through the burning castle at the start of the game for the thirtieth time, but I pushed through and managed to beat the game. For a guy like me to be dedicated to that kind of task, I had to really like the game. And I definitely loved Rocket Knight Adventures. The recent sequel released on XBLA and Steam have brought back the fond memories of this game, and it definitely plays on that nostalgia. Still, for the finest in games focusing on a beknighted possum with a rocket pack strapped to his back, you can't really beat the original. In my opinion, Rocket Knight Adventures stands tall with the best of the old school games.