Video Game: Rocket Knight Adventures
In about 0.1 seconds, this pig and his mech
will be very unhappy.
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 much much more
. 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
This series provides examples of:
- Advancing Wall of Doom: Three in Rocket Knight Adventures - one of which is part of a boss battle.
- Airborne Aircraft Carrier: At least one per game.
- Always Someone Better: Sparkster is this to Axel Gear.
- American Kirby Is Hardcore: More subtle example. US covers actually used Japan originated promotional artwork, but edited Sparkster's anime smile into an angry scowl. Interestingly the European covers used an identical box art as the US, but edited it to reuse the original cheerful Sparkster art.
- Anime Hair: Sparkster has some under his helmet.
- Art Evolution: Sparkster, and to a lesser extent the other characters and the surrounding environment, have a distinctly different look in each game that goes beyond simple graphical upgrades.
- Attack Its Weak Point: Almost all bosses use some form of this trope.
- Awesome Mc Cool Name: Axel Gear.
- 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.
- Black Knight: Axel Gear is a marginal example.
- Butt Monkey: Captain Fleagle from the first game.
- Call to Agriculture: Apparently what Sparkster was doing in those 15 years before the 2010 game. Even got himself a family.
- The Cameo: Sparkster appeared as a cameo in several Konami games, such as Snatcher, Contra, Mitsumete Knight, Ganbare Goemon 2, and New International Track And Field. Most oddly of all, a human version of Sparkster appears in Konami's Jikkyou Powerful Pro Wrestling '96 : MAX VOLTAGE, where he bears a passing resemblance to Hulk Hogan.
- Chain Reaction Destruction: Bosses and minibosses are prone to that and being non-mechanical won't save them for that.
- Cheeky Mouth: If you go frame by frame in Sparkster, you notice the cheeky mouth teleport across the Ambidextrous Sprite in the turning animation.
- 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 armored ones attacking him with swords earlier on. In the second, there are lizards on fire who do the very same thing.
- 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.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard:
- 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 block, 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 tends to last longer than yours, and he can hover as much as he likes.
- Convection Shmonvection: The lava areas. Specifically the first of these featuring lava with a reflective surface.
- Dark Is Evil: Axel Gear's armor is dark and he is definitely evil.
- Determinator: After Sparkster destroys most of its body, the final boss of the first game follows him off the exploding Pig Star and keeps fighting him as they re-enter Elhorn's atmosphere.
- Diagonal Cut: The coup de grace is delivered to RKA 2's Big Bad in this manner.
- 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.
- In the US and European versions, if you play on the lowest difficulty, you will skip the final boss fight and get a message that this is not the true ending. The final boss fight happens on every difficulty in the Japanese version.
- The Dragon: Axel Gear, to whoever the current Big Bad is.
- Driven by Envy: Sparkster's promotion to leader of the Rocket Knights is what fuels Axel Gear's jealousy.
- The Empire: The enemies in each game are part of one.
- Enemy Mine: Sparkster and Axel Gear and the pigs vs. the wolves in Rocket Knight.
- Eternal Engine: Due to the fondness of the series for ridiculously huge war vehicles and mechanical fortresses, a large proportion of its levels are some sort of variation on this.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Princess Sherry in the first game definitely counts for this, as do Cherry and Flora.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: In RKA 2, the fully-powered version of the directional rocket attack involves this, as well as the non-directional one.
- Evil Counterpart: Axel Gear, to Sparkster.
- Eye Beams: Used by some bosses.
- Fanfare: One of the levels has this as the background music.
- Fat Bastard: The emperor in the first game. General Sweinhart too, once he does a Face-Heel Turn.
- Flash of Pain.
- Flying Brick: Sparkster, to the point where he actually flies in some sequences.
- Follow the Leader: The series was obviously Konami's answer to the Sonic the Hedgehog series, complete with high speed action elements and a cute little Mascot with Attitude. The series setting and content is more than distinct enough to keep Sparkster from being a mere ripoff of Sonic, fortunately. Unfortunately, this was the series own undoing, as people often lumped it in with other dime a dozen Sonic ripoffs, which kept the series from becoming anything beyond a sleeper hit in sales.
- Follow The Gems
- "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.
- Glacier Waif: Sparkster and Axel Gear.
- Gold-Colored Superiority: In Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2, if the player collects all seven Holy Swords, Sparkster will become Gold Sparkster, and the true ending will be shown after the Big Bad, King Gedol is defeated. Gold Sparkster charges his jet pack faster and his attacks do more damage, but unlike Super Sonic, he can still take damage.
- 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. Although, King Gedol's lizard lackeys do wear purple armor as well.
- 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.
- Gotta Catch Them All: RKA 2 has seven golden swords the player can collect. Finding all of them unlocks Gold Sparkster and the complete ending.
- Green Hill Zone: The first stage is a grassy plain with no environmental hazards.
- Hailfire Peaks: In a particularly impressive example, the second level in RKA 2 manages to combine Shifting Sand Land, Lethal Lava Land, Temple of Doom, and Eternal Engine.
- 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
- Heel-Face Turn: Axel Gear and the Devotindos in Rocket Knight. Not.
- The Hero: Sparkster, of course.
- Heroic Mime: Played with in that no character has any lines. Characters may be shown apparently conversing, but we can only infer what they're talking about by what happens immediately afterward.
- Horse of a Different Color: There are more than a few exotic steeds in the series. Triceratops or mechanical ostrich, for example (the Triceratops creature is seen in RKA 2 with a carriage mounted on its back).
- Human Cannonball: Not being enough launching yourself with a jetpack in the seventh level of Sparkster (SNES) you are shot into space with a cannon.
- In the original Rocket Knight Adventures, the king shoots Sparkster into the pig battleship in this fashion after Stage 3.
- Humongous Mecha: Sparkster and Axel Gear have a giant robot fight in the first and second games.
- Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: The difficulty levels include names like "Children" and "Crazy 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.
- Jerkass: Axle Gear, no doubt about it.
- Jet Pack: Look at the title.
- Jump Jet Pack: This is Sparkster's jet pack's primary function. Only in a select number of levels does it grant real flight.
- The Kingdom: Zebulos. Renamed to Zephyrus in Rocket Knight.
- Large and In Charge: The emperor in the first game, although this is actually subverted as he is nothing but a robot created by the Pig Star's computer, which is the REAL enemy.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Gold Sparkster and the Pig Star, at the very least.
- Magic Knight: Sparkster and Axel Gear, to a certain degree.
- Magma Man: In the pyramid stage, when Sparkster enters the pyramid, there are pits of lava. From one of them, a fire elemental emerges, and Sparkster must therefore defeat it before proceeding any further.
- Mascot with Attitude: Sparkster. He was much more down-to-earth than others of his time.
- Mass Hypnosis: All There in the Manual; this is how the Big Bad gets his troops.
- Mecha-Mooks: Hardly uncommon, but interspersed with regular flesh-and-blood Mooks.
- Military Mashup Machine: All over the place, including such oddities as space submarines whose front portions can turn into giant mechs. One notable vehicle is the flying ship on Stage 3 of RKA 2.
- Mini-Mecha: There are several varieties of enemies that pilot these.
- Mirror Boss: Axel Gear, the only recurring enemy in the series.
- The Napoleon: Captain Fleagle from the first game, who even dresses like the Trope Namer.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Anthropomorphic opossums who wear medieval knights' armor with jetpacks!
- Ominous Pipe Organ: Axel Gear is seen playing one at the end of the aforementioned Band Land the sixth level of Sparkster for SNES.
- One-Hit-Point Wonder: Unlock the Crazy Hard of RKA 1 (or just select "Hard" difficulty in the US version) and you'll become this. Not only will one hit from ANYTHING kill you dead, but you only receive one life and no continues. Your only hope of getting any more than one life lies in collecting the 1UP icons, and passing certain score thresholds.
- 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.
- Plant Person: In the first stage, a miniboss appears in the form of a tree elemental.
- Post Final Boss: After you defeat the Pig Star, you evacuate the starbase in an escape pod, while the starbase explodes. The Pig Star's core isn't done with you yet, and keeps attacking you straight into the planet's atmosphere. You have to dodge it until it finally burns up on re-entry.
- Posthumous Character: Mifune Sanjulo, Sparkster and Axel Gear's former teacher who was killed by Axel Gear before the first game began.
- A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: When Sparkster is chosen by their master instead of Axle Gear to lead the others, Axel Gear retaliates by killing his master.
- Razor Wind/Sword Beam: Sparkster and Axel's swords can do this, except, for some reason, in RKA 2.
- 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.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Most of the enemies in RKA 2.
- The Rival: Axel Gear.
- 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.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Princess Sherry, who powers up Sparkster's rocket pack so he can chase after the Pig Star in the first game.
- 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.
- Save the Princess
- Screams Like a Little Girl: Sparkster himself.
- 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.
- Space Does Not Work That Way: The series has been guilty of this from time to time, specifically in the first game with an Asteroid Thicket of absurd density as background.
- 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...
- Spell My Name with an "S":
- 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".
- Spike Balls of Doom: Sometimes bosses and minibosses carry them.
- Sprite/Polygon Mix: Rocket Knight.
- Steam Punk: Sort of. The setting combines Steam Punk elements with more traditional fantasy and sci-fi elements.
- 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.
- Ten-Second Flashlight: Can get pretty irritating in levels with a lot of enemies or traps.
- Terrible Trio: At least one per 16-bit game.
- Rocket Knight Adventures (Genesis): Emperor Devligus Devotindos, Captain Fleagle, Axel Gear
- Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2 (Genesis): King Gedol, Paeli, Axel Gear
- Sparkster (SNES): Generalissimo Lioness, Colonel Wolfheim, Axel Gear
- 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.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: Happens very, very frequently, with Shoot Em Up and (rudimentary) Fighting Game segments breaking up the platforming.
- 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.
- Villain Exit Stage Left: In a rather odd example, Axel Gear always lives to fight another day, while the Big Bad always dies.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Zebulos' enemies tend to be ugly, or at least to belong to species with morally ambiguous or downright negative stereotypes.