Zebulos, a Magical Land full of Funny Animals in the world of Elhorn, has a problem. Long ago, during the reign of El Zebulos, the first monarch, an invading power used a giant warship called the Pig Star to wreak havoc. They were defeated at great cost, and the dreaded Pig Star was placed under a magical seal to keep future enemies of Zebulos from using it. Since then, the descendants of El Zebulos have kept the Key to the Seal safe, and an elite order of fighters, the Rocket Knights, was founded to protect the royal family from harm. Sparkster, the current leader of the Rocket Knights, came to power after a traitorous Knight, Axel Gear, killed his superior. He banished Axel Gear, but this proved to be a bad move. Our story begins when Sparkster, hearing of a new invasion, speeds to the capital to find that Axel Gear has returned as the stooge of the aggressive Devotindos Empire and kidnapped the Princess while the Empire's troops burn the castle, hoping to get the Key to the Seal as ransom. What Axel Gear doesn't know is that only the Princess herself knows where the Key is...Rocket Knight Adventures is a side-scrolling action platform game series by Konami with diverse and distinctive gameplay mechanics such as short-range jetting in eight directions (including ricocheting off walls and around corners), charged attacks, swordplay, the occasional bit of shmup-style sustained flight, and muchmuchmore. The original game, on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, spawned two more games: Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2, a sequel also on the Mega Drive, and Sparkster, a game on the SNES which takes place in an alternate continuity. The series may owe its existence to the Sonic series, which put Funny Animal mascots in vogue and likely influenced the series's art style.Sparkster returned in 2010 in a new 2.5-D adventure developed by Climax Group, simply titled Rocket Knight. According to the story, there haven't been any new games in the past 15 years because nothing's happened in 15 years. And when an army of Wolves attacks, Axel and the Devotindos are fighting alongside the possums. Apparently when Sparkster defeats you, you stay down.
American Kirby Is Hardcore: More subtle example. US covers actually used Japan originated promotional artwork, but edited Sparkster's anime smile into a angry scowl. Interestingly the European covers used an identical box art as the US, but edited it to reuse the original cheerful Sparkster art.
Badass Adorable: Sparkster, especially in his end-of-level victory animation.
Band Land: The sixth level in Sparkster for the SNES is composed primarily of giant musical instruments, in a rather odd contrast to the grim, warlike (if still somewhat whimsical and cartoonish) feel of most of the other settings.
BFG: Axel Gear comes at you with one in Stage Six of the original game. Also doubles as a Wave Motion Gun.
Climax Boss: Axel Gear. Especially when you face him head-to-head with no mechs nor anything.
Collision Damage: A slightly odd example—in the first game, the distressed pigs on fire just fleeing past you in the castle do the same damage if they touch Sparkster as the armoured ones attacking him with swords earlier on.
Comedic Underwear Exposure: Enemies are stripped to their underwear when defeated in Rocket Knight Adventures, Sparkster, and sometimes in Rocket Knight.
Comic Book Adaptation: In Sonic the Comic. Its storyline was set after the games, after Sparkster has left Elhorn for a long time and then returned to find the Princess is brainwashed and the country occupied by new reptilian invaders. This adaptation had a few grimdark elements, one of the opening panels of the conquered nation being two former knights involved in a bloody street fight for a crowd.
In RKA 2, Axel Gear's mech can do one thing that Sparkster's can't: fire a projectile from its chest. But it's easy to guard, and his mech is temporarily immobile after using it, pretty much guaranteeing you a free hit.
In the same game, when you get to face Axel in a head-to-head fight, he creates a pincer barrier which will start closing until it gets you, Axel's attack tend to last longer than yours, and he can hover as much as he likes.
Difficulty By Region: RKA has the same difficulties in all regions, but with different names: Japan and Europe have Normal (Japan)/Easy (Europe), Hard, Very Hard, and Crazy Hard, while the US has Children, Easy, Normal, and Hard. Notably, Very Hard and Crazy Hard require codes to unlock, but all four difficulties are freely selectable in the US version.
"Freaky Friday" Flip: In RKA 2, one of King Gedol's attacks is a spell where he can swap bodies with Sparkster, and the player can briefly control Sparkster in Gedol's body.
Funny Animal: Sparkster and most of the other people of Zebulos are anthropomorphic opossums, and the invading armies over the three games include such fauna as pigs, lizards, snakes, wolves, and lions.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: The giant robot bosses of the fifth stage of RKA 2 have chest-mounted turrets that look amazingly like huge, pendulous breasts. That fire out of their nipples.
Good Animals, Evil Animals: The Possums (with the exception of Axel Gear) are the heroes, and the animal villains depend on the game. In RKA, the villains are Pigs, in RKA 2, the villains are Lizards, and in Sparkster, the villains are Wolves.
Good Colors, Evil Colors: Sparkster's armor is "good" blue, while Axel Gear's is "evil" purple (red in Rocket Knight). Also, there's an awful lot of green on the baddies' uniforms and vehicles.
Goofy Print Underwear: Most non-robotic Mooks are reduced to this when you "kill" them in RKA: Their armor falls off and reveals their underwear in a manner strongly reminiscent of Ghosts 'n Goblins, and they run or fall off the screen with an embarrassed look on their face. Does not apply to the lizards in RKA 2, brought back (though with briefs) for the wolves in Sparkster, and applies to the pigs but not the wolves in Rocket Knight.
Harder Than Hard: The Japanese and European versions of RKA and all versions of Sparkster contain difficulties called "Very Hard" and "Crazy Hard". As noted in Difficulty By Region above, the US version of RKA made the equivalents Normal and Hard
Instant Awesome, Just Add Mecha: The enemies have a massive and varied arsenal of animal-like vehicles and autonomous machines. Also, each game features at least one boss fight where Sparkster and Axel Gear pilot giant mechs and engage in a giant-sized boxing match. RKA 2 goes further: it has an entire level that consists of driving a mech through the baddies' capital city and annihilating everything in your path.
Parental Abandonment: All There in the Manual; Sherry and Cherry's mother died from unknown causes years before RKA. Sparkster meanwhile is a war orphan who was raised by the Rocket Knight, Mifune Sanjulo... until Mifune was murdered by Axel Gear ten years before the first game.
Posthumous Character: Mifune Sanjulo, Sparkster and Axle Gear's former teacher who was killed by Axle Gear before the first game began.
Red Eyes, Take Warning: The emperor in the first game. Even more so during his Robotic Reveal and during the sequence where you have to fight multiple clones of the prototype emperor robot.
Rearrange the Song: The first level themes from the first game and its sequel see multiple rearrangements over the course of the series, and most of the music in the SNES game is rearranged versions of tracks from the sequel. Then rearranged again in the Rocket Knight. Orchestral style
Rival Turned Evil: It was their master's choice to make Sparkster the new leader that led to Axel Gear's path of evil.
Robotic Reveal: After you fight him normally and "kill" him, Emperor Devligus Devotindos in the first game is revealed to be not only a Terminator-like robot, but one of many such robots stocked aboard the Pig Star.
Rule of Cool: Sparkster and the other Rocket Knights are heavily armored, sword-wielding opossums with the ability to fly about with rocket packs and fire waves of energy from their swords, not to mention occasionally piloting Humongous Mecha, flying through walls of bricks or solid steel, flying through space without a spaceship...yeah. Arguably shades into Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot territory.
The side-scrolling shooter (or in one part of the Mega Drive sequel, puncher) segments contain minibosses strongly reminiscent of Gradius's bosses, to the point of having a series of shields blocking a vulnerable "core" (usually the vehicle's pilot). More speculatively, it's possible that the mech fights are intended as a Shout-Out to Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots. Another boss is a shout out to the boss of the waterfall in the original Contra.
In the Golden Sparkster ending from the Climax Studios' game, Bill Rizer shoots at Sparkster, proclaiming revenge. This acts as a continuation of the Contra: Shattered Soldier ending with the Sparkster cameo.
Shrink Ray: One of the bosses in the Genesis sequel can use this on Sparkster, rendering him harmless for several seconds.
Sparkster Can Breathe In Space: Can't even be handwaved because the pig troopers and Axel Gear wear spacesuits when fought in space. For all it's worth, Sparkster did have some kind of spell cast on him by the princess...
The name of the world the series takes place in is supposed to be named for the titular country in Samuel Butler's Erewhon, but because of the way the Japanese version of this got initially rendered into English the name became "Elhorn". This appears to be treated with equal validity to "Erewhon" by fans and references, even today.
In the Japanese version of the games, the kingdom Sparkster lives in is called "Zephyrus" but was mistranslated as "Zebulos" in the English version and remained unchanged for years. For the new Rocket Knight game, Konami has dropped "Zebulos" for the English version in favor of the original "Zephyrus".
Similarly, in the English manuals and source materials for the first game, the princess was named "Shelly" not "Sherry".
Emperor Devlicus is possibly an Engrish variation of "Diabolicus".
Super Mode: Gold Sparkster in RKA 2. His attacks do more damage and his rocket charges faster.
Tennis Boss: The first time you face Captain Fleagle in the fourth level of the first game, he tosses explosives at you. You can't reach him with your normal attacks, so you have to hit the bombs back at him to damage him.
Title Confusion: At the time of its release, the first game was often mistakenly just called "Sparkster" by fans, which led to considerable confusion when the next two games had "Sparkster" as a subtitle and their actual title, respectively.
The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The last normal level of each game is on an enemy space station (slightly modified in RKA 2, where it appears to be an Ominous Floating Castle in space), and the first game and the SNES game take this further by setting the final boss fight in re-entry and on a giant missile, respectively. Rocket Knight has the final level in a corrupted version of Zephyrus where the pigs have taken over and the general rules with a giant golden robot of himself. Oh Crap.