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These underrated 16-bit classics just got new life on Nintendo Switch

Rocket Knight flies around in Re-Sparked's opening cinematic.

There is no shortage of all-time greats to choose from when seeking out a new 16-bit platformer to play. SNES and Sega Genesis classics like Super Mario World, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Mega Man X are probably the first things to come to mind. During that same era, Contra and Castlevania developer Konami released a series of platformers that rivaled those greats but didn’t get as much recognition as they deserved. Now, these titles are getting a new lease on life thanks to a collection that launched earlier this month on PC, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch.

I’m talking about Rocket Knight Adventures, a 1993 release on the Sega Genesis, as well as its follow-ups on Genesis and SNES, separate titles both named Sparkster. These 2D platformers put players in control of an opossum named Sparkster, who wears a suit of armor with a rocket strapped to its back. These games aren’t as widely remembered as many of their peers but are well worth the time of any platformer fan, so they are definitely worth checking out now through Limited Run Games and Konami’s Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked, which came out right in the middle of Summer Game Fest this year.

A boss fight in Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked.

The Rocket Knight games don’t reinvent the platformer but stand out as some of the best from their era because of how creative they are. The basics of these games are the same as most 2D platformers, but because players have a rocket strapped to their back, it’s possible to charge it up and burst forward in any direction. This means that they cazn deftly switch between more precise platforming moments and bursts of excitement that temporarily rival that of Sonic as players charge their rocket and start bouncing between the walls of a stage. Using a control stick rather than a D-pad makes it a bit easier to aim at angles, too.

That’s a fun central gameplay conceit that makes these Konami games enjoyable, but what elevates them to forgotten classic status is how polished and cinematic they feel. Within just the first level, I went from fighting enemies in a village to falling off a bridge with a tank. I fought in river rapids and flew through the air with a powered-up jetpack before fighting a giant sea serpent boss. That’s just the first half of the first level, too. It then transitions to a fight up a castle tower under siege, culminating in another epic boss fight. All of this happens fairly seamlessly and gives Rocket Knight Adventures the more enthralling feel of a modern action game, even though it’s a 2D platformer that came out over 30 years ago.

Its sequels, which are both named Sparkster, build on Rocket Knight Adventures but control even smoother. I’m not sure why Rocket Knight didn’t catch on in the same way as Mario or Sonic did; maybe Sparkster’s design just isn’t as memorable or wasn’t marketed as heavily toward kids as those two. But I fully believe that Rocket Knight Adventures and its follow-ups are as good, if not a bit better, than most of the 16-bit era platformers we still hold in high regard today. These are must-play games, but I don’t think a lot of people have experienced them. That’s where Konami and Limited Run Games’ new collection comes in.

Running on a bird in Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked.

Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked is a game compilation built using Limited Run Games’ proprietary Carbon Engine. All three classics included here all emulated smoothly, and it’s now possible to rewind gameplay or save at any time. Visually, players can turn on a CRT TV visual filter and choose between having a wide variety of border art (or none at all) surrounding the games. On top of that, each game now has a boss rush mode available from the collection’s main menu, and there’s a music player and development document museum for players interested in every element of these games.

It’s not as intricate as Digital Eclipse’s playable documentaries like The Making of Karateka, but the three games included and the content surrounding them are more than worth the price tag for those who love retro games. My favorite remakes, remasters, and re-releases are for games that most people probably don’t know about but should. Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked is a prime example of the kind of video game collection we need a lot more of.

Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch.

Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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