Pocky and Rocky Reshrined (Switch, PS4)

One of the Super Nintendo’s many hidden gems was Pocky and Rocky.  It was a two player co—operative 2-D shooter with a unique theme.  The game had a Japanese myths and folklore motif.  Player one was Pocky, a Japanese shrine maiden who threw cards, and player two was Rocky, a leaf throwing tanuki.  It’s actually a sequel to a Japan only arcade game from Taito called Kiki Kaikai, and has spawned a couple of sequels and many cameos over the years.  And now they’re back in a whole new game!  Pocky and Rocky Reshrined is available on Switch and PS4, but reviewed on Switch here.

You’ll travel to eight 2-D stages and defeat all manner of Japanese goblins and monsters.  Hold down the fire button to continuously toss projectiles.  Another button lets you use a short range attack that can also swat away bullets.  You can also dash out of the way quickly with another button, and you can do a limited screen clearing attack as well.  By holding down some buttons or pressing them repeatedly, you can perform other moves, too.  In the single player story mode, you start out as Pocky the shrine maiden and then Rocky the tanuki, but after that you’ll play as a bunch of new characters, too.  Including a super cool goddess or a demon samurai and more.  Along the way you can shoot open boxes that have power-ups or healing items inside.

At first the game feels like just a reboot or remake, since the first two stages are nearly exactly like the original SNES game.  But since this is on more powerful hardware, enemies throw more things at you and there are a few surprises here and there.  But once you get to the third level and start playing as new characters, everything after that is different.  One complaint I have about a lot of games is that they are just too hard.  This game is also very hard, but it’s the good kind of hard where you get a little further each time.  Checkpoints and unlimited continues help, too.  The best part of this game has to be the 2-D sprite based graphics.  Sometimes I just want to stop and admire them while playing, like all the scattered leaves on the pavement of the first stage temple.

Unfortunately, the game has some problems that knock it down a few pegs.  And it mainly has to do with how you unlock things.  When you start, you can only do the single player mode on normal or hard difficulty.  In order to unlock the two player option, you must beat the story mode or get 10,000 coins from defeated enemies.  And in order to unlock the easy mode, you have to get 3,000 coins, which I haven’t even done yet.  I can kind of understand why they did this, so you can play through story mode and get introduced to all the characters and moves.  But the original Pocky and Rocky game had the two player mode from the outset and is what the game is mostly known for.  So having to unlock basic features like that here is very annoying.

Kid Factor:

Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is rated E-10 with an ESRB descriptor of Fantasy Violence.  Enemies just disappear in a puff of smoke when defeated, and players can have cartoony animations like getting flattened or turning into an angel.  Reading skill is helpful for the text, and younger gamers may find it too difficult.

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