So, Konami finally played into the new stereotype it has set up for itself and made a Metal Gear Solid pachinko machine. There is no justice in the world. Maybe Big Boss was right after all.
Still, you all know me as one who loves to live in the past, and I would much rather remember the happier days with Konami than focus on a future in which it will not be part of our lives. After all, I can’t remain eternally vengeful towards any company that delivered the Suikoden games unto me, let alone Castlevania, Goemon, Gradius, Metal Gear, Contra, and even smaller gems like this wonderful SEGA Genesis classic.
If you were alive in the 90s, you probably remember the success of Sonic the Hedgehog gave birth to a healthy supply of animal mascots with ‘tude. The infamous Bubsy is often pointed to as the largest offender of this fad taking things one step too far, but trust me when I say he was hardly the worst of the bunch. If you go digging, chances are you’ll stumble across obscure mascots that are far more insufferable than that turd ball.
Developers who “got it” though understood that it wasn’t always ‘tude that made characters endearing. Mario is not “cool” in the least, and look how popular he is! There are other personalities out there that make a face memorable, and strangely enough, some of the most refreshing mascots came to us on the SEGA Genesis. Remember, this was a console marketed towards the ‘tudiest of the ‘tude stricken audience, so what business did charming characters with genuine personality have on such a machine?
Well, in Japan, the SEGA Genesis, or Mega Drive as it was called, was not marketed as such, leaving Japanese developers to go about making new faces that were more than a one note finger wag against the establishment. Sonic the Hedgehog development team Team Sonic cranked out Ristar, who exists today as one of the most lovable faces in video games.
And then there was this classic from Konami. Our Guess the Game selection for today stars Sparkster, a possum armed with a sword and a jetpack, and he is just the most darn tootin’ cutie around. He looks so happy to be fighting for justice, but don’t let that fool you. In a pinch, he knows when to get serious. Of course, the 90s North American audience couldn’t possibly buy into a character who smiles, so he was given the “Kirby treatment” on his stateside packaging.
Sparkster’s game itself is a great one too. Konami loaded it with brilliant level design that perfectly takes advantage of his nimble moves. Dangling by his tail, charging at enemy pigs, slicing up entire cars. The variety is where our Guess the Game selection gets its true magic though, especially in the boss fights. One of them even allows Sparkster to jump into a giant Rock ’em Sock ’em robot and duke it out with a similarly sized titan.
So much fun. So brilliant. So sadly only in the past for us.
This game sparked two sequels at the time, the Genesis sequel slapping a “2” on the end of the title and the Super Nintendo sticking to the name Sparkster for its new audience. Neither are held in as high of regard as the original. Another revival for the franchise was attempted on Xbox Live back in 2010, but this too fell short of expectations. The original is such a beloved classic, and it might have set the bar a little too high in becoming one.
It’s just a fabulous little game that encapsulates everything that was so magical about the 16-bit generation. So… what is it? What’s the title?