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Lord Spencer avatar 5:02 PM on 05.04.2014  (server time)
SNES REVIEWS: Pocky and Rocky 2

For those reading one of my SNES review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:

"While the SNES was a constant presence in my childhood, I never had a large collection of games for it. In fact, many of the games I played I still don't know the names of. It wasn't until I say the uproar over Breath of Fire 6 that I knew I played Breath of Fire 1 in the SNES.

After reading the excellent top 100 SNES games list by IGN:

I decided to go back and play those 100 games and review them. Well, as I looked closer at the list, I realized that there are many genres that did not age well from the SNES (racing, sports) and many other genres that I am simply not good at (shmups, arcade shooters) and others that I need other players to play against for an accurate representation (fighters). Also, I played many of the more well known games such as Final Fantasy and Super Metroid."

We finished with the legacy reviews, so we are beginning with the reviews after my hiatus. Please feel free to give me advise on my reviews, as I always look for improvement.

Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the IGN list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.

Without further ado, here is:

73- Pocky and Rocky 2:

Year: 1994.
Genre: Top-Down Adventure.
Publisher: Natsume.
Developer: Natsume.

First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.

Pocky and Rocky 2 is a decidedly against the mold game. In era where box art and character design alike wanted to convey a violent "adult" world, P&R2 embraces its cartoony visuals and cute aesthetic. It is however a mistake to think of this as a kid's only game; the difficulty while manageable still offers a fair challenge.

Similar in some ways to the Legends of the Mystical Ninja, P&R2 offers the players an adventure through traditional Japanese locals, while at the same time showcasing some offbeat humor. It is for such a reason that I struggle to describe the game as a top-down shooter, and instead call it a top-down adventure.

"By the order of our master we are kidnapping you princess"

Luna, the princess of the moon (which makes her the moon in itself) is kidnapped from the onset, giving the heroine Pocky and her friends the excuse to go romping through Japan looking for her. Not a terribly original story, but we are not expecting Tolstoy level story telling in the first place.

However, the secondary story of Pocky's adventure through Japan in pursuit of the princess is well told through the game. Every locale is distinct in style, and enemies and bosses are full off character. In the beginning of the game, you are assigned this important task by the seven sages (who revives you whenever you lose a life. Why this colorful cast of obviously powerful sages didn't go themselves and save the princess is of course answered by video game logic; so that we can play the game.

In contrast to the personality of game we play, the game we read (as in conversations and cut scenes) is unfortunately devoid of the game's whimsical style. The scene's between level's are shown in Asian style scrolls, but the translated dialogue is terribly dry, and for some reason the only bad track in the game plays in those scenes. It feels mostly a lost opportunity of offering some more humorous insight into the game's world.

Game's Style: +3
Story and Dialogue: -2

"I am Pocky"

While I don not like to call P&R2 a top-down shooter, it can most certainly be qualified as one. For the most part, Pocky throws around magical cards (as bullets) to attack her enemies while dodging their assaults. Not being a forced scroller, the game allows you to take the levels at your own pace, and also shoot cards in the principle eight directions.

Of course, when swamped with enemies, and given the zoomed in perspective of the game, it is difficult to dodge all their attacks and projectiles. Thankfully, Pocky can destroy projectiles with a handy swipe move, and is also aided by a partner that can absorb some damage as well.

The partners are a unique part of the game that I am going to talk about a bit later. They can basically act as bullet sponges, while offering the chance of launching them at your enemies for a devastating "bomb" attack.

With most levels having multiple pathways, and each level offering some unique gameplay opportunities, P&R2 is a game I would like to play more than once. Its always fun, mostly challenging, and most importantly fair. You are having trouble in one part, grind for coins to buy some equipment and lives. Also, you always get a password to go back to each level if you just want to stroll around.

Gameplay: +5
Variety: +2

"I am also handsome and you won't regret bringing me along"

A big part of P&R2's gameplay hinges on your partners. Surprisingly, you can find a variety of allies to aid you each with their own skills and uses. One of the most important skills in the game is throwing your partners at an enemy as if they were a rocket to inflict major damage. It is invaluable against bosses, and a must to win the game.

With about eight partners, you would think the game changes if even a little depending on the partner you use. Unfortunately, outside of one partner that breaks boulders, another that picks locks, and a third who mostly serves as an endgame cheat code, they are nearly identical.

One ability Pocky has is to merge with her partner and play as them for a while. It promises the use of that partner's skills and special projectiles but weirdly miscarries. In fact, merging for anything other than opening a chest or smashing a boulder is hugely disadvantageous, begging to question why the ability is there in the first place.

An answer can be in the fact partners are mostly meant to be played by player number 2. Indeed, when another player takes control of our partners, they are transformed from rotating bullet sponges and a glorified projectile into a great addition to the game. The 2nd player actually gets to use the partner's abilities and can still be thrown at bosses for intensely useful "rocket attack".

While playing the game in co-op is optimal, the game still manages to be great given its solid mechanics for single players even with the unfortunately undercooked singe player partner mechanic.

Partners: -2
(Co-op: +3)

"The ingredients of this stew would be you, hahahahaha"

Boss fights are the culmination of all your work throughout a level, and they can elevate a game into lofty heights, or let it fall into a flat note. A corridor shooter could suddenly be great when faced with compelling bosses, and the best imaginative adventure could feel forgettable for the lack of interesting foes.

Carrying its impressive gameplay and aesthetic, P&R2's bosses are top notch evil foes. From the first boss that threatens to turn you into stew, to the final foe who kidnaps the princess, you are treated to quality fights against quality opposition.

While each boss fight does tend to drag on, the battles remain tense and entertaining due to a combination of solid attack and avoid patterns, and the ever changing style of the bosses themselves. At one moment they are attacking you with a prayer beads chain, at another they are launching these beads like bombs at you.

The highlight of the boss fights is a rival match against an enemy your own size. With great music to complement the fight, and a tense attack pattern from your rival, this battle is one to remember. It is unfortunate that your rival's lines are as dry as the rest of the script.

It must be said however, that late in the game a cheaper boss rears his head and provides some stiff challenge. This particular boss irked me not only because he was cheap, but also because he was recycled as well. Thankfully, discovering his pattern nullifies him in a way that it does not to any other boss.

Brilliant Bosses: +4
Rival Fight: +2
Cheap Boss:-1

"A beautiful moon in the sky"

It can be easily said that the in-game graphics of Pocky's titular adventure to be one of the best in the SNES. Wisely using a style that is at once expressive and lovable, the artists create a wonderful and varied set of stages. With some outstanding stills in the game, I am still disappointed at the terrible between stages cut-scenes.

The best of the game's art is however is not in its backgrounds, but in its sprite design. The robotic toddler army (I think they are toddlers) look suitably out of place in a fighting zone, while the sudden Ninja ambushes are made much more surprising by the Ninja's animations. With Pocky effortlessly throwing dozens of cars in screen while avoiding barrages of enemy attacks, the game still retains its colorful and signature look.

In contrast, is the menacing design of the bosses, which conveys their threat convincingly. Of course, having the boss music being suitably tense, the player never ignores these fearsome foes. Taking place in Japan, the music naturally aims to sound like traditional Japanese songs.

While the soundtrack succeeds in giving a third dimension to the game, with a good soundtrack that complements the setting of the game. It does not however manage to reach a level of consistent greatness. It soon becomes a forgettable but solid effort.

Graphical Design: +4

In Conclusion:

I only knew Natsume through their Harvest Moon series, and we can see the influence of that series's art style on P&R2. From playing this game, I am happy to have experienced the gem that was considered Natsume's second arm.

While the franchise is dead now. This is a game that is worth playing for anyone looking for a solid SNES game to play, fans of Geomon being the first invited.

Final: 42/50 (+3 for Co-op)


1- Buy lots of keys.
2- Little Ninja opens chest w/o keys.
3- Bomber guy breaks boulders.
4- Study the bosses patterns.

"Next Game"

After this, I am actually going to play what is probably the only EA game in the IGN list. It is going to #71 Jungle Strike, the predecessor to all the modern bro shooters of this day. Actually, it is a helicopter shoot em up with strategy elements.

Stay Tuned

For Previous SNES game Reviews:

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