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Rocket Knight – The PS3 Attitude Review

Submitted by on Thursday, 20 May 20104 Comments

Sparkster is a jet pack wearing opossum equipped with a sword. The knightly rodent made his debut in Rocket Knight Adventures for the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis in 1993. After the inevitable sequel (and spin-off), Sparkster mysteriously vanished.

Rocket Knight is Konami’s attempt at reviving the under appreciated series. Does Sparkster still have what it takes to soar high or does he just fall flat on his face?

The story is simple. Sparkster left the kingdom of Zephyrus 15 years ago and has since been living a quiet life with his wife and child. One day, Zephyrus is attacked by wolves armed with guns. After seeing the destruction for himself, Sparkster knew that only he could put an end to the madness. And so the tale begins…

Right from the start you’ll notice that the controls work wonderfully. Sparkster can jump, swing his sword, and use his jet pack for burst moves. The jet pack is crucial to playing the game effectively. By using the Rocket Burst technique you’ll be able to propel Sparkster in any direction. Bursting diagonally allows Sparkster to ricochet off walls to reach higher platforms. The controls are nearly flawless and really enhance the experience. Everything just feels right.

For every action that Sparkster makes that utilizes rocket power, his Burst Meter depletes. This means that you have to be more strategic with how you use your abilities. For the most part, you won’t have too many issues with the Burst Meter. You’ll never feel limited since fuel gradually recharges. There is very little downtime and a lot of action.

Occasionally the gameplay changes from being a side-scrolling platformer to being a side-scrolling shmup. For whatever reason, Sparkster can now use his jet pack to fly. There’s nothing too special about these levels, but the controls do change. For instance, all sword slashes are now long range burst shots. You can also charge your sword to unleash a devastating attack. If you need to maneuver quickly, there’s a boost button. These levels add to the variety of the game, but they are a bit too easy.

He can fly in these levels but not in others. How odd...

The level design in Rocket Knight is phenomenal and only gets better as you progress through game. There’s a satisfying amount of clever platforming to be done with tons of secret paths to explore. Your skills will be tested in each level and nothing ever feels cheap or out of place. Sparkster’s jet pack will freeze at some point and this makes the platforming challenging and rewarding. There are heating stations scattered throughout those levels, so even if you mess up you can always go back to recharge you fuel. It’s a nice change of pace.

The game design itself is a mix of old and new. If you happen to die frequently, there is a convenient checkpoint system. However, lives and continues are limited. It’s actually a very interesting combination. If you run out of continues during the arcade mode, you have to start the game over again. It’s a punishing system for newcomers, but veteran gamers won’t have any issues. With the checkpoint system, even if you do lose a life, there isn’t much backtracking to be done.

Like most games in the genre, every enemy has a pattern. Nothing is particularly difficult to figure out, but learning how to defeat the bosses is a lot of fun. Even normal enemies require some extra effort near the end of the game. The developers did a great job at steadily increasing the difficulty without making you feel overwhelmed.

Axel Gear!?

The visuals are fantastic. Everything is colorful and full of life. Sometimes you’ll see tons of enemies in the background of a level, even large airships. There is never a dull moment and the art style certainly helps. While some purists might be annoyed that the game isn’t sprite based, the 3D graphics are stunning. It’s difficult not to appreciate little details like the icicles under Sparkster’s healthbar when it’s cold.

The music is a bit underwhelming. That’s not to say that the soundtrack is bad, it’s just unremarkable and easily forgettable. Even though you’ll hear classic tunes, they just don’t have the same charm as before. The sound effects are appropriate but nothing really stands out. Although, navigating through the menus is a treat thanks to the nostalgic chimes.

Yes, those are wolves with rocket launchers.

Unfortunately, Rocket Knight’s biggest downfall is its length. During your first playthrough you’ll most likely beat the game in about 2 hours. It’s that short. Even though there twelve levels in the game, they can be beaten pretty quickly. Don’t bother even playing the game on Normal. Hard mode is available right from the start, but you have to perform certain techniques on bosses in order to unlock the difficulty for the later worlds. For an even greater challenge, try the Gold Sparkster mode. You’ll have less health and the bosses are even more aggressive.

Rocket Knight is built around the idea of multiple playthroughs. This is especially true if you’re trying to beat  all of the levels within the par time. There’s also character skins that unlock after completing the game on the higher difficulty modes. Aside from that, there is replay value in attaining trophies and trying to reach the top spot in the online leaderboard.

Rat > Wolf

So what’s the verdict?

Rocket Knight is a revival done right. A lot of love went into making this game and you can certainly tell. However, it’s difficult to recommend due to the high price point ($14.99/£9.99/€12.99). Considering how you can beat the game within 2 hours, that’s just not cool. If you don’t care about the cost, by all means, buy Rocket Knight. You’ll enjoy what the game has to offer and want more. For everyone else? It might be best to wait for a price drop. At the very least, try out the demo. It’s worth your time.