Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pocky & Rocky (SNES) Review

Developed and published by Natsume (of Harvest Moon fame) in June of 1993, Pocky & Rocky is a largely undiscovered shmup in the SNES library. A scrolling shooter—both vertically and horizontally—played from an overhead perspective is obviously something that has been done numerous times before, however, Pocky & Rocky possesses a handful of charming qualities that set it apart from other games in the genre.

As previously stated, P&R is a scrolling shooter although, unlike typical shooters, the screen scrolls only as your character(s) (a young girl by the name of Pocky and a raccoon dog named Rocky...Beatles anyone?) move throughout the level. Another key difference is the fact that you are a person (or raccoon dog) on foot rather than some crazy gunship flying through space at mach speeds. This slight variation in gameplay from the norm gives P&R a very fresh feel as you, and possibly a friend (which is HIGHLY recommended by the way—this game is HARD) romp through the game's six levels.

The controls are very tight and responsive...if you die, nine times out of ten, it's your fault. You've got your basic attacks which include throwing projectiles (in this case, cards and leaves—which can be upgraded by picking up power-ups) at the hordes of enemies and waving a shield-like weapon (some type of wand or a raccoon dog tail, depending on your character selection) to parry away most of the "bullets" that the enemies will send your way. You also have a slide which allows you to quickly dive from one side of the screen to the other in order to avoid dodge attacks, primarily used during boss battles. You also begin each level with one bomb that essentially wipes out all of the on-screen baddies in one fell swoop, which definitely comes in handy on numerous occasions.

If you've ever played The Legend of the Mystical Ninja for the SNES, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. The sprites are smoothly animated and very colorful, as are a majority of the backgrounds. The game does suffer from a little bit of slowdown, but it's nothing that takes away from the overall experience, as this is common territory for games of this era. The soundtrack, while it gets the job done, isn't really anything to write home about. There's not a bad tune in the bunch, but the typical Japanese soundtrack lacks any stand out tracks, ensuring that you won't be humming any of the melodies to yourself the next day.

I'll be honest; after level three, I started breezing right through the tedious cut scenes that did nothing more than slow down the pace of the game. It's a shmup...the story is not important. Luckily, a simple push of the start button will skip the cutscene in it's entirety, allowing you to get back into the game in no time. If you'd like to follow along with the story of the Nopino Goblins, feel free, but don't say that I didn't warn you.

If you don't like games where you have to play through levels multiple times before you are able to conquer them, then I strongly encourage you to steer clear of this game. However, if you're looking for a good challenge that isn't going to have you scouring through ebay listings looking for replacement SNES controllers, look no further than Pocky & Rocky. It's a great game with a lot of character that supplies the sometimes-stagnant shmup genre with something that's just a little bit outside of the box.

Overall Score: 7.1/10 (A worthy addition to your SNES collection, but not necessarily a must have.)


Here's a video showing you the game's intro and the entire 1st level courtesy of PickHutHG (a youtube user).

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