Rocket Knight is an up-to-date return to an old Konami franchise that started out long ago on the Sega Genesis. The new game (the fourth in the series) hits XBLA, PS3 and PC today. To celebrate this launch, we stole a few minutes with Tomm Hulett, the producer on Rocket Knight, to talk about the game, the dev process, and what awaits us in our jaunt down memory lane.
WD: What was the inspiration to bring back Rocket Knight? The last time that we saw this Konami Sparkster, it was 1994!
TH: I’m a huge fan of all Konami’s old franchises, and I started pitching for a Rocket Knight revival as soon as I got hired. After success with Contra 4, and other publisher’s retro remakes, the stage was set for Sparkster to return in style!
WD: Will the gameplay be identical to the original, and what new tricks has our opossum hero learned to add onto that old magic?
TH: Unlike Contra 4, we did not try to match the gameplay feel of the original game. All three of the Rocket Knight games felt entirely different when you played them. Instead of choosing one to copy, we set out to create the definitive “feel” of Sparkster and we focused what felt right for the character, his moves, and what the player should accomplish. Most of our tweaks were to achieve one simple goal: Sparkster should be using his rocket pack all the time. The game is called ROCKET Knight, after all! Instead of a dangerous, overpowerful “experts only” device, the rocket pack should be integrated into everything Sparkster does—so that experts have room to do crazy tricks with it, but newcomers aren’t intimidated or afraid of it.
WD: The flight levels shown in the trailer show off a rather impressive 2.5D path. Will all levels be chock full of that graphical detail and active backgrounds? Care to share any examples?
TH: One of the benefits of going “2.5 D” is the cool camera effects we can do to communicate depth. While the trailer shows some extreme, show-boaty examples, this is subtly happening throughout the game. When we want to convey the size and scope of a huge towering boss, for example, the camera will be angled up a bit from the player’s view – making Sparkster appear smaller and the boss appear much larger.
WD: Does Rocket Knight have any hidden unlockables in it, perhaps a few top-secret achievements or avatar clothing unlockables?
TH: There are certainly unlockables to be unlocked, but my lips are sealed!
WD: Will we get to revisit old familiar Rocket Knight environs, or is everything about this XBLA release a brand new experience?
TH: The first world of the game takes place in Zephyrus, Sparkster’s homeland. So fans of the original game specifically will recognize the familiar, pastoral fields from the first stage of RKA. After that, however, Sparkster sets off for the Wolf Kingdom and beyond, so there will be a lot of new places for fans to discover. (The last time our hero faced the Wolves, fans may recall, was in Eginasem – a kingdom of opossum opeople just like Zephyrus. Rocket Knight will be the first time Sparkster has tracked the Wolves back to their own kingdom.)
WD: Can we expect DLC in the future for Rocket Knight?
TH: There is no DLC expected for Rocket Knight at this time.
WD: Sounds like we have quite the feature here – sprawling landscapes and diverse gamestyles, flavoured with a few unlockables and secrets to keep us coming back for more! Thanks for your time, Tomm Hulett / Konami!
Download a free demo of the game here.