I had the pleasure of learning the existence of – and playing – Pocky and Rocky for the first time yesterday. And boy, was it a lot of fun. I can’t believe such a great co-op game existed, lost by time in the SNES catalog.
Pocky and Rocky is a SNES game made by Natsume of Harvest Moon/Rune Factory. And given that…there is little to account for this! The gameplay gives you an overhead view of your character (Either Pocky, the shrine maiden, or Rocky, the tanooki) and is fast, frenetic, and quite unforgiving in later chapters. Much as you might expect, your duties are to expel traditional Japanese demons and defeat the demon overlord Black Mantle, who is a floating cape-ass evil dude. Why? Not sure! The story is mainly told through text-less (Unless there was something wrong with the version of the game I was playing) cutscenes with still images. It’s very chibi-ified, cute, and very harmless.
Most of the combat is done by holding the Y button, which will repeatedly make you throw whatever shit you’ve got in your arsenal. If you’re Pocky, this is a spiritual warding charm, and if you’re Rocky, it’s a leaf. Because he’s a tanooki, I don’t know man! The B Button will allow you to do a close quarter multi-hit attack that will deflect enemy projectiles (and deal damage to those close to you). You can push the X button to do a sliding dash that is useful for quick dodging – but it really can’t be spammed. There is a bit of required recovery after the slide is performed. It should be noted (and hilariously so) that if you slide into your ally you will cause them to ricochet off the wall every-which way; the whole time they will be invincible and deal damage. Melissa and I found out that if you do this in any area where the quarters are confined and there are lots of cliffs that it is a very bad idea. You will kill each other frequently.
The game sticks with a very 90’s manga art style – and I love that. Being a game from the 90’s this is entirely unsurprising, but how refreshing it is to see designs that are straight out of the hayday.
Something that is also worth mentioning is that the music in this game is actually pretty good; some well composed themes are hidden amongst the more traditional “Japanese-style” BGM’s that match the game’s theme very well. My particular favorite is the mountain level (the song is titled “Battle in the Sky”), which I believe is the fourth as well as the “Enchanted Forest”, which is the second level.
As you approach the end of the game, you’ll notice once you hit the third or fourth level the game gets precipitously difficult; it WILL kick your ass. Very, very badly. A particularly insideous segment lies in the chasm level as you approach the final level when the earth is repeatedly breaking apart and putting you in confined spaces with LOTS of room to fall off and die. Remember how I said to not dash in these areas? This is the absolute worst place to dash in the game. Don’t do it.
As mentioned previously, albeit briefly, this game is a blast with co-op. In fact I’d recommend playing it no other way. While the interaction between the two of you is at a minimum the strategy and cooperation you must have to be successful is imperative, especially in later levels.
All in all, an extremely fun game that I can’t believe I’ve never played. I’d give it a solid 8 out of 10. Looking forward to playing Pocky and Rocky 2!