Pocky & Rocky is back and, well, it is a slightly different take on a game people might be familiar with. It is all about playing with a familiar formula and adding to it. However, while this is definitely the run-and-gun game people remember, there are also some elements that feel like they’re holding the overall experience back.
Pocky & Rocky Reshrined involves shrine maiden Pocky and Rocky the tanuki dealing with Black Mantle and his yokai minions. The duo are responsible for figuring out how to save the day over the course of eight stages. Though really, the plot is awkward and feels unnecessary. It can also come across as a bit stilted, due to the storytelling decisions and localization. But given the nature of the series and this installment, you don’t really need to pay attention to the backstory. It all serves as an excuse to keep fighting through various levels.
Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is a run-and-gun game. You’ll control one of the two lead characters, though it is also possible to be Ame-no-Uzume, Hotaru Gozen, and Ikazuchi during the adventure. You can freely move your character around the screen. As you progress and defeat certain enemies and boxes, you’ll also power-up your projectiles. An additional move allows you to send certain sorts of enemy shots back at them. Survival becomes a delicate balance of knowing when to use certain sorts of attacks, collecting power-ups when you can, and recognizing the sorts of patterns various foes use when they attack.
Story implementation aside, there are a number of design decisions that are quite questionable. The first being that Pocky & Rocky Reshrined’s multiplayer isn’t immediately unlocked. If you want to play with someone else, you have to unlock Free Mode. Which means you have to beat the single-player Story Mode or get 10,000 coins in Story Mode. That’s incredibly frustrating. Especially since, in the original SNES game, you could immediately hop in alone or with someone else.
The other one is that the easiest difficulty option is locked. Which is fine. I had no trouble getting through Pocky & Rocky Reshrined on Normal. But it seems like it would have been wiser to have Extra Easy immediately available for newcomers. Instead, someone has to earn 3,000 coins to open up that option. It would have made more sense, in my opinion, to put the Hard difficulty option behind that 3,000 coin wall.
Pocky & Rocky Reshrined also maintains the same sort of control scheme as the original. Which makes sense, given it is essentially an enhanced remake. But there’s been a lot of progress in the run-and-gun realm since. This means you’ll shoot in whichever direction you’re aiming. I found it frustrating, since it meant needing to constantly move and readjust to ensure my aim would be true or I’d properly reflect certain shots. It isn’t a game-breaker, to be certain. But when you get accustomed to more modern control schemes, it means relearning how to play.
Still, while some gameplay elements could use some tweaking, the atmosphere is great. Pocky & Rocky Reshrined looks incredible. The spritework is fantastic. It also has a fantastic soundtrack. It calls back to the chiptune original to create a wonderful sense of ambiance. I’d say its music is perhaps my favorite part.
As far as a revival goes, Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is fine. It offers an opportunity for a new audience to experience the run-and-gun game. It looks fantastic. It also does a good job of paying tribute to the original SNES game while slightly expanding on the adventure. But it also doesn’t feel especially considerate of the player. It would have been more convenient to make the additional difficulty level and free mode immediately available. Still, it’s entertaining enough.
Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is available for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. There are also Collector’s and Limited Edition versions of it available through Gamesrocket.