Rocket Knight Animation Frame
Image via Limited Run Games

Review: Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked Collection

Blasting off again.

I had never heard of Rocket Knight Adventures until I was starting to fill out my Genesis collection. This was back in the ‘00s when that was actually an affordable thing to do. It quickly became (and remains) my favorite game on the console.

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I didn’t understand why it wasn’t more talked about, but that was back when I thought that quality had a correlation with popularity. Oh, how naïve. Now that I’m older I realize that it’s all marketing and maybe sometimes people shouting, which is a form of marketing.

Now I’m going to shout at you about Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked Collection. I’m going to tell you about the overall quality of the collection, but none of that matters. You should play Rocket Knight Adventures, and this is your chance.

Sparkster Genesis Boss Battle Rocket Knight Adventure Resparked
Screenshot by Destructoid

Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked Collection (PC, Switch, PS4, PS5)
Developer: Konami, Limited Run Games
Publisher: Konami
Released: June 11, 2024
MSRP: $29.99

The Rocket Knight series centers around an anthropomorphic opossum named Sparkster as he works to protect his kingdom, and usually its princess, from invasion. Each time, he faces off against his foil, Axel Gear, who seems motivated to just be a dick. That seems to be his only ambition. He partners up with the enemy each time and harrows Sparkster. There’s maybe an indication in the Genesis version of Sparkster that he just wants to test himself against the protagonist, but partnering with an invading force seems like going a bit far.

I’m already off track. Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked Collection, contains Rocket Knight Adventures, Sparkster, and Sparkster. The former Sparkster is Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2 for Genesis/Mega Drive, and the latter is Sparkster on the SNES.

Beyond that, the Re-Sparked collection has a music player and an art viewer with production documents. There’s also a boss rush mode, which is appropriate for these games. Really, the most striking part of the package is the fully animated cartoons interpreting the gameplay. Aside from that, these are straight ports from their home consoles with few bells and whistles.

Of the games, the original Rocket Knight Adventures is the standout. If I haven’t oversold it enough, it’s one of the best 16-bit platformers. All three games have Konami royalty behind them, but, well, we’ll get to what drags the other two down.

With Rocket Knight Adventures, however, it’s just a fun production. While the mechanics are straightforward, they get stretched in every direction. Each level presents something new and different, and it’s rarely just a platformer. One moment you’ll be jetting across the surface of a lake, and the next, you’ll be judging your jumps off the reflection of undulating water.

One particularly fantastic level has Sparkster assaulting an enemy airship. He’s fired out of a cannon and punches right through the side of the craft, like Doomguy in Doom Eternal. You travel a short distance through the interior before heading to the top, where you battle against intense wind. You move to the front of the airship before dropping down to the railings beneath it. You then return to the interior and move to the front to finish the boss off.

Rocket Knight Adventures Resparked Front of the airship
Screenshot by Destructoid

It doesn’t let up. There are only a couple of issues. The first is that it’s really hard to gauge what kind of damage you’re doing. You can dash into enemies, hit them with your sword, or just hit them with a projectile that is fired when you swing your weapon. You can also spin in place, which sometimes just happens when you hit an enemy at the right angle. But what actually does more damage is hard to tell.

Likewise, it’s pretty vexing that touching an enemy does significantly more damage to Sparkster than getting hit with a projectile. If your only option for getting out of the way of a projectile is to get danger-close to the enemy, it’s sometimes worth it to take the hit rather than risk getting brushed and taking twice the damage.

Lastly, there are limited continues, and to actually play the entire game, you need to be on “normal” difficulty. This wouldn’t be so bad, but the default difficulty is easy, so you have to know to check. Also, North America’s “normal” corresponds to Japan’s “very hard.” It’s not impossible, but it is deceptive.

Rocket Knight Adventures Resparked Sparkster SNES
Screenshot by Destructoid

With the two Sparkster sequels, it looks like Konami’s marketing department or management got involved and gave the mandate “more like Sonic the Hedgehog.” It’s rather obvious because Sparkster in Rocket Knight Adventures looks like a rat in a trash can, while in the Sparkster games, he’s all ‘tuded up. Stringy limbs, pointy ears, spikey hair; the works.

The artwork you can view in the collection really reinforces this. The sketches of Sparkster in Rocket Knight Adventures showed him snoozing or snacking on apples. There are early design documents for Sparkster that changed his design, but not in such an aggressive Sonic kind of way. I preferred him looking more earnest than cool.

I would have loved to hear about how these changes came to be, but even if the Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked Collection had interviews (which it doesn’t), I doubt they’d really include talks of corporate meddling.

The Sega Genesis version of Sparkster goes further to imitate Sonic. The levels are more open and have more exploration involved. One of the side goals is collecting seven swords scattered throughout the levels, and doing so powers up Sparkster and turns him gold. To be fair, Sonic just lifted that from Dragon Ball, but it’s more obvious when an anthropomorphic rat with spikey hair does it.

Speaking of which, Genesis Sparkster has a cold opening that involves fighting Axel Gear in a robot suit. It’s so easy to lose that you may think this is a scripted defeat to set up their rivalry, but you are actually supposed to win it in order to get the first sword. Pro tip.

Rocket Knight Adventures Resparked Sparkster without his helmet.
Screenshot by Destructoid

As for SNES Sparkster, it’s mostly fine. You’re fighting wolves, and if you hit them, they get knocked out of their armor and display their chiseled physique.

It follows the same ‘tuded up design as Genesis Sparkster, but the levels are more linear and there are no swords to collect. It’s an above-average platformer and does feature some variety and ambition, just nowhere near as much as the original.

That’s kind of the issue with the two Sparksters. They’re competent, but they only have a fraction of the soul of the first game. The changes in visual design just put a big spotlight on this.

As for Limited Run Games’ Resparked collection, I once again have to wonder why I can’t rebind the controls. I understand that, on console, most people just use the stock controller configuration, but is it really that hard to allow the option to change it? I’d suspect not since the original versions of the games allow you to change the bindings which, for some reason, they removed from the versions in this release. I’m so frustrated, I just want to play with a Genesis-like controller.

Rocket Knight Adventures Resparked reflective liquid
Screenshot by Destructoid

Aside from that, these are basically just emulated versions of the game. I feel like the main point of these collections is to make the games available on a modern platform. Any changes made are rarely impactful. For example, updating the graphics on Gargoyles didn’t suddenly make it a better game. The rewind and save states are appreciated, and I found the included production art very interesting to look at.

There isn’t anything mindblowing here. I would have loved to see interviews with the staff or design documents beyond just concept art, but I guess that wasn’t in the cards. The only thing that really elevates the Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked Collection beyond, say, the recent Felix the Cat collection is mainly the animated openings and the boss rush modes. The entire collection is rather pricy for three emulated games. It is, for comparison, $10 more than the Castlevania Anniversary Collection.

On the other hand, if you get anything from this review, it’s that Rocket Knight Adventures is an underappreciated classic, and you should definitely play it. The two Sparkster games are more Sparkster, but more disposable and with a feeling of cynicism. Whether you wait for a sale is your decision. Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked Collection is fine, just play Rocket Knight Adventures already.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.

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Zoey Handley
Staff Writer - Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.