Thanks for the comments and encouragement everyone, it is really appreciated. Offers to help also gratefully received and are duly noted for if/when the time comes!
There is no parallax or any scrolling at all so no worries or concerns there. Technically it's relatively simple (or it should be). Obviously I want to make it look and sound nice as well as being a fun game to play but it won't be breaking any boundaries.
Hardware sprites... I haven't used any! Never really occured to me to be honest. In what way could I use them in the background do you think? Must admit I can't really think of anything at the minute.