Blast from the Past: Sparkster Returns After 15 Years of Silence!

Wow…just…wow. When I first read this news story, I smiled. Not a lot of announcements have that big of an effect of me. I’m prone to breaking down when it comes to nostalgia, however.

Sparkster, the opossum mascot of Konami’s Rocket Knight Adventures series, is coming back with a new game. Like most retro revivals, this will be downloadable-only through Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and Steam.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with Sparkster via his last game for the SNES in ’94. I feel bad for missing out on his Genesis titles, but that SNES game took lots of hours from my life back then. The rocket-pack mechanics were extremely unique and the audiovisuals captivated me. It certainly wasn’t your typical 2D side-scroller. 2D spritework was some of the best on 16-bit consoles. And the music…talk about epic. I can still hum the melody of the first level to this very day.

I never got to finish the game though, for it was brutal. I recently learned that the team responsible for Contra were the brains behind this series, hence the difficulty and excellent sprites.

Thanks to the likes of Mega Man 9, today’s download market welcomes games like this, no matter how obscure. It’s relieving to know that Climax Studios is behind this revival. Obviously, the developer has close ties with Konami thanks to one remake they’ve been working on: Silent Hill Origins. From the looks of things, Climax has a lot of talent since this remake proves to be faithful. Konami producer Tom Hulett saw the potential, and therefore associated his initial pitch with this developer.

We’re already seeing a lot of creativity pouring into this sequel…I’m loving the real-time continuity with the storyline, a chip off Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts’ back-story. 15 years of not having games means 15 years of not having any adventures. Pigs, who were the enemies in previous games, have casually taken up residence in the kingdom of opossums, irritating our hero. Thus, Sparkster broke the biggest mascot law of all by not marrying the princess, choosing to lay down his sword and live with his parents during this time period…far away from the kingdom he saved. A war ensues in the kingdom all of a sudden, but not between the pigs and opossums. An army of wolves has invaded the land, making the pigs and opossums work together against this common enemy. And wouldn’t you know it, Axel Gear, Sparkster’s rival from the previous games, acts as the kingdom’s Rocket Knight in his stead. Anyone wouldn’t back down from all this ruckus…and so our hero springs into action once more after years of peace and quiet.

Epic stuff for a 16-bit retro game, eh? Note that this isn’t the first time the wolves appear in the series. Climax is trying to combine the continuities of the Genesis and SNES versions of the last games. In the Genesis series, it’s widely known that the pigs are the main enemies. But the SNES Sparkster is sort of set up in an alternate universe where wolves appear as the main enemies.

Speaking of combination, gameplay will also have elements from both the SNES and Genesis versions…in addition to a wider and more panned-out display. The biggest difference in this sequel will be the nature of progression. As I mentioned before, the 16 bit games are insanely difficult…and it’s not just because of the life-dependency and lack of passwords. The progression is truly Contra-like at times (except that you have a health bar), with lots of enemies and bullets flying at you from every direction. Of course, if the aforementioned features are maintained in the sequel, you’ll basically scare off newcomers. On the other hand, hardcore fans won’t like it if the game is dumbed-down. Therefore, Climax is devising two different modes to bring in the best of both worlds; a hardcore “arcade mode” with everything mentioned before present, and a “free play” mode with the ability to save your progress and choose between levels via overworld map. Achievements and Trophies are present in both modes, thus encouraging everyone to at least try out the true-to-form arcade gameplay once in awhile.

Look forward to more details as we get closer to its 2010 release. I can’t wait!

Source: 1UP.com exclusive reveal, hardcore gaming 101: Sparkster

4 thoughts on “Blast from the Past: Sparkster Returns After 15 Years of Silence!”

  1. Some people aren’t digging the new graphics. We all prefer sprites over 3D any day…but I’m going to judge this game when I see it in motion. The team seems very dedicated in keeping Sparkster’s “persona” intact with some good animation work.

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