There are plenty of top-down shooters on the Super Nintendo, such as Super Smash TV, Firepower 2000, Space Megaforce, etc. However, there are few Super NES games that are as cute or light-hearted as Pocky and Rocky. Pocky and Rocky is a sequel to the arcade game, “Kiki Kaikai”, which is an arcade game that was never officially available outside of Japan. Released for the Super Famicom in Japan on 1992, and the following year in the rest of the world, Pocky and Rocky plays a bit similar to other top-down shooters, but has a few twists of its own. For starters, it’s a “cute em’ up,” a side genre of shmups that have cartoony looking characters and protagonists; another twist is that a lot of enemies themselves are taken from Japanese folklore and mythology.
Let’s see, a cute em’ up that takes place in ancient Japan and has a lot of enemies taken from Japanese mythology. Well, you certainly don’t see games like that every day that’s for sure :p. Except maybe Heavenly Guardian, which so happens to be a spiritual successor of sorts to Pocky and Rocky.
The story of Pocky and Rocky is pretty basic. Pocky (or Sayo-chan in the Japanese version) is tending to a Shinto shrine one night. However, Rocky (or Manuke in the Japanese version) comes over and warns her that a group of yōkai, known as the “Nopino Goblins”, is going crazy for unknown reasons. Both of them set off on a journey to discover the source of the incident. The story also has a very lighthearted tone to it.
The graphics for Pocky and Rocky are very good. The character sprites are all very detailed, colorful, and have a lot of animation (some of it humorous). The stages are also varied, detailed, and colorful. In one stage for example, you start off in a bamboo forest for the first part of the stage. Later, after fighting your way past a lot of enemies as well as a mini-boss, you come across a raft which after getting on, sets off into the river where you fight groups of kappa before eventually coming across the boss. The stages also have some pretty good weather effects such as rain in part of the first stage and the drifting fog in the third stage. The only major flaw of the game’s graphics is that the game lags quite a bit when there’s a lot of stuff on screen, especially in later parts of the game.
The music for this game is average for the most part, but there are some pretty good tunes in the game such as the music in stage two as well as the music in stage four. Most of the other music though is ho-hum. Not bad, but not really that great either. The sound effects however, do a good job of enriching the game.
The gameplay is pretty similar to Super Smash TV and Total Carnage in that you can freely move around and shoot in eight directions. The controls are very responsive. The control pad (obviously) moves your character in the direction you choose, the A and Y buttons fires your weapon, the B button has you swing your melee weapon around which is useful for deflecting projectiles and weak enemies, the X button has you slide in the direction you are facing which is useful for dodging attacks, and the L and R buttons has you use a bomb which hurts everything on-screen which is useful if the action gets too hectic. The controls listed are the default settings and can be changed to the player’s convenience. You can either play as Pocky (Sayo-chan) who is a shrine maiden, or Rocky (Manuke), a tanuki. Both characters have unique abilities. Rocky has the ability of turning into an invincible stone statue for a short time by holding down the B button while Pocky can do a spin attack with the same button input. There are two types of orbs in this game; the purple orb allows you to fire projectiles at a wider range while the orange orb gives you the ability to shoot fireballs. The game can get pretty difficult later on, even on the easiest difficulty setting, so it’s recommended that you play with another person to maximize your chances of finishing the game. Fortunately, the game does have unlimited continues, which gives people a fair chance of finishing the game.
Overall, Pocky and Rocky is a very good top-down shooter with vivid graphics and average music. It also gets pretty tough later on. However, this game has LOTS of charm in it. If you are looking for cute top-down shooter with Japanese mythology thrown into the mix, Pocky and Rocky will no doubt be right up your alley.
Sources used: Pocky and Rocky manual
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