Developer & Publisher: Natsume
Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Reviewed For: Nintendo Switch
Also Available On: PlayStation 4
Most won’t be too familiar with Pocky & Rocky, the run and gun shooting series by Natsume. It’s a fairly niche name that only saw two NES releases alongside a single Game Boy Color entry. While the games were eventually brought back via Virtual Console, this wasn’t nearly enough to make Pocky & Rocky a household name. All of this makes it quite surprising that Pocky & Rocky has been revived in the West with Pocky & Rocky Reshrined.
Fans of the shoot ‘em up genre will rejoice at this revival, because this is actually one of the best shooters on the Nintendo Switch. Pocky & Rocky Reshrined brings back the titular characters as they find themselves needing to wrangle the oni that are assaulting their shine. Through top-down running and shooting, players will clear stages and confront a variety of enemies as they navigate through the challenging story mode.
Players can run around and shoot in any direction, and the free movement makes Pocky & Rocky Reshrined feel good to play. The bright aesthetics and brilliant level design is enough to make this a must play. It’s a difficult experience that isn’t too long. Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is less than five hours long, but the difficulty will have players, especially newcomers, spending a fair amount of time studying stages as they dodge hordes of enemies and their projectiles. While Pocky & Rocky Reshrined isn’t a full-on bullet hell game, the challenge does lie in fast thinking and an understanding of enemy patterns. At the same time, the game successfully balances accessibility, as it doesn’t feel too hardcore. It just takes some effort to clear.
As expected, players will be able to pick up a variety of power ups through Pocky & Rocky Reshrined’s eight stages. Different power ups affect the shooting stream in various ways. Players can also slide to dodge projectiles, and even defect them with good timing. If the experience is too much, there is an unlockable easy mode that makes the experience a little palatable for beginners. The fact that this has to be unlocked by coins is baffling though. The free play mode is also locked behind the story mode, meaning that players can’t enjoy co-op until they complete the game. It’s a disappointing mechanic that prevented my partner and I from enjoying Pocky & Rocky Reshrined out of the box.
Once players get past the locked features, it’s easy to recognize how special Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is. The visuals are astounding and showcase the possibilities of pixel art. The tunes are catchy and maintain the upbeat presentation well. The characters and sprites are full of detail, with excellent animations that have personality. Games that imitate the 16-bit era rarely do it this well.
Of course, the hardcore crowd will enjoy the leaderboards as they chase down high scores. The online leaderboards offer tons of content for the right kind of player, giving Pocky & Rocky Reshrined the replayability it needs to thrive. The replayability is also emphasized by the games’ 5 unique characters that each feel different to play with. It would be nice if there were some new mechanics added to the Pocky & Rocky formula, but the gameplay isn’t broken, so there is no need to fix it this time around.
Limited ININ physical editions of Pocky & Rocky Reshrined are also available on Gamesrocket
Pocky & Rocky Reshrined
It might not be enough to win over those who aren't fans of the genre, but Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is a triumphant return for the franchise that has some of the best run and gun gameplay on the Switch.