The Pocky & Rocky series first began way back in 1986 as an arcade game titled Kiki Kaikai developed by Japanese developer Taito. The game was then adapted for home consoles by Natsume and renamed to Pocky & Rocky. The first game was ported to the MSX2, Famicom Disk System, and PC Engine exclusively in Japan. That is until 2003 where there was a mobile port.
In early 1990s, Taito licensed the franchise to Natsume who went on to develop Pocky & Rocky (1992) and Pocky & Rocky 2 (1994) for the Super NES whereas Altron shipped Pocky & Rocky with Becky for Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance in 2001. At one point, there was a new Pocky & Rocky title in development for PS2, however Taito pulled the license from then developer Starfish SD. Which brings up to 2022 where Pocky & Rocky Reshrined first releases for PS4 and Nintendo Switch, followed by a 2023 release for Microsoft’s consoles.
Pocky & Rocky Reshrined tells the story of both titular characters, Pocky & Rocky, a young Shinto shrine maiden, and her tanuki, as they called upon once again to team up in order to stop the evil Black Mantle and his army of cronies from their attacks.
Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is an action game that plays like a shoot’em up, or shmup if you will, where the action is from the top down perspective and you have to kill and survive endless onslaught of enemies. Both Pocky and Rocky have two distinct attacks; a melee and projectile. They also have the ability to dash and use a limited screen clearing special attack.
Projectiles, as in any shmup, can be upgraded by various pick ups. You can also pick different types of projectiles. For example, Pocky starts up with shurikens, but she can also pick up a fireball. Picking up a fireball will replace the shuriken and vice versa. Picking up additional fireball or shuriken pickups increases the attack. You can also pick up a protection bubble that gives players temporary invincibility.
If you get hit, you do drop the increase power, but you have about a second or two to quickly pick it back up so you can continue on your way. On the other hand, your melee weapon has a nice benefit of hitting back enemy projectiles in their direction. It was also be used when enemies are up close, but it has a very short range so it can be problematic. You can also unlock Free Mode which allows you to play co-op with a friend.
The game has a great 16-bit colorful aesthetic. Each of the game’s eight levels has a distinct styling. Additionally, while the game acts as a sequel, it features revamped levels from the original Pocky & Rocky game. The soundtrack is a cutesy Japanese inspired chiptune affair. It’s quite enjoyable and somehow both feels complete opposite and complement to the crazy on-screen action.
The first questionable decision here is gatekeeping the easy difficulty behind amassing a set amount of coins. Usually, it’s the other way around; you need to complete easier/normal difficulty settings in order to unlock harder ones. This is a great way to put off gamers. Games shouldn’t feel like a chore; it should be fun and offer flexibility. Characters also feel stiff to move; which is problematic when enemies and their projectiles move at about twice the speed of the protagonists. And you also have a timer. So you cannot dilly dally. And at one point my timer somehow went from 170 seconds to 20 instantenously.
As much as I was looking forward to play Pocky & Rocky Reshrined, I ended up a bit disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun, but it’s as brutal as any shmup. Additionally, the spike of difficulty is quite abrupt. First level can be done after a few tries, but the second level amps things up to the next level. Sluggish/slow character movement also leads to unnecessary hits and deaths. This is the perfect game to play Easy at first to get a grasp of the feeling, but you need to unlock it. Those looking for a challenge or fans of shmups will have a ball with this. If you’re looking for a chill gaming experience, this ain’t it chief.
- Different style of shmup
- Free co-op mode…
- …which has to be unlocked
- Level timer forcing players to play too fast and make mistakes
- Easy mode has to be unlocked
- Stiff character movement