Growing up in the 1990’s was pretty fantastic. Most clothing was neon colored, everyone wore Zubaz pants, and every single thing you could think of was XTREME. Even all of the animal mascots for video games had XTREME attitude.
This week in Character RETROspect, I’ll be talking about Sparkster, the main protagonist/possum from the Rocket Knight series. Who doesn’t love a badass marsupial who wields a sword and dons a jetpack?!
Chapter 10: Possum Kingdom
My Phalangeridae is Better Than Your Didelphimorphia
I’m going to start off by stating that Sparkster is clearly modeled after the possum native to Australia (from the Phalangeridae family) and not the American opossum (from the Didelphimorphia family). So, before anyone leaves a comment telling me that I left out the “o” in possum, that’s why. Plus, I am going to totally disregard the fact that the game states in the instruction manual that it is a one “opossum” game.
The Australian possum is also a lot easier on the eyes than the American opossum — note the images below.
The Kingdom of Zebulos
The first game in the series, Rocket Knight Adventures, was developed and produced in 1993 by Konami. The backstory in the instruction manual for the game tells us about the kingdom of Zebulos. The first king of Zebulos, El Zebulos, fought a band of invaders who sailed in a powerful ship called the “Pig Star.” The courage and conviction of El Zebulos provided the leadership necessary to overcome these invaders, and the Pig Star was placed under a magical seal to keep it out of the wrong hands. The key to the magical seal has been closely guarderd by the Zebulan royal family throughout the generations. Since the Pig Star had the power to destroy just about everything, the kingdom seemed to be in a constant state of war. Thus the Rocket Knights were formed — an elite fighting force of armored warriors who use rocket packs and swords to defend their kingdom from all enemy forces.
The Devotindos Empire Attacks
The leader of the Rocket Knights is Sparkster, a brave warrior who took over the leadership role after the Rocket Knight master, Mifune Sanjulo, was defeated by the corrupt Rocket Knight, Axle Gear. Sparkster fought Axle and subsequently banished him from the kingdom.
The kingdom soon came under attack from the nearby Devotindos Empire, an empire consisting of pigs… with ROBOT MACHINERY. Overwhelmed by the power of the Devotindos Empire, the kingdom of Zebulos was on the brink of destruction, but Sparkster had a suspicion that Axle Gear was somehow involved with the pig empire’s attack. Sparkster’s suspicions led him to Castle Zebulan, where he becomes witness to the kidnapping of Princess Sherry by Axle.
In his efforts to save the princess, Sparkster travels through a variety of locations, including treading deep into Devotindos territory. Ultimately, Sparkster faces off against Devilgus Devotindos, the emperor of the pigs, and finds out that he is actually a robot. Before his destruction, however, Devilgus uploads his memory to the Pig Star in an attempt to destroy Sparkster. Devilgus’ attempts are in vain though, as the Pig Star eventually explodes. Sparkster manages to escape the battle and heads back home to the kingdom of Zebulos. Pleased that the princess is safe, Sparkster leaves the kingdom behind as he rockets off into the horizon.
The “True” Sequel
This is where the storyline of the Rocket Knight series gets a tad convoluted. After the release of Rocket Knight Adventures, two games were simultaneously developed and released. The first was the “true” sequel to Rocket Knight Adventures, Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2. In this sequel, Sparkster thrusts (get it?) into action against a new evil threat, the Gedol Empire, led by the lizard king himself, King Gedol. Axle Gear is sent in to kidnap the cousin of Princess Sherry, Princess Cherry, and Sparkster begins another adventure to once again save the kingdom of Zebulos.
The “Not So True” Sequel
Released shortly after Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures on the Sega Genesis, the Super Nintendo got its very own Rocket Knight game, simply titled Sparkster. The name of Zebulos is changed to “Eginasem,” and this kingdom is also under attack, but by a band of wolves instead of pigs/lizards. Sparkster saves the kidnapped Princess Flora, and the kingdom of Eginasem from the menancing Generalissimo Lioness.
While the SNES version is not the direct sequel, it is still a solid game. Having played all three 16-bit games, it seemed like Konami put a touch more time and effort into the SNES version of Sparkster.
The New Kid on the Block
After a 15 year hiatus, Sparkster came rocketing back to the video game world in the form of Rocket Knight, an XBLA, PSN, and Steam downloadable game that was set after the events of Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2. This would make Rocket Knight the third “true” game in the series, and it is literally set 15 years after the events of the last game because Sparkster simply “didn’t have any new adventures.”
The story of the Rocket Knight states that when Sparkster returned home after RKA2, he found that his former pig enemies from the Devotindos empire had taken up residence in his kingdom. When the kingdom comes under attack of a new enemy, Sparkster is surprised that his former enemies have taken up arms with the possums to rid the kingdom of this new evil. Axle is also back in this game, and is a Rocket Knight once more.
Time to Rocket Outta Here
And that is pretty much it concerning the Rocket Knight series, seeing as how Sparkster has only made cameo appearances in other various Konami games throughout the years. It’s kind of nice that this series has gained a sort of cult following among the retro gaming community, especially in the last few years, since this series will always have a special place in my heart.