Our Verdict: 8/10
Pocky & Rocky, a SNES top-down run-and-gun, is remembered warmly for its tight arcade gameplay, daring stage design, and gorgeous graphics. Whereas Tengo Project’s Wild Guns Reloaded and Ninja Warriors Once Again were delectably pumped-up remasters, Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is a reimagining so far removed from the original that it’s basically a new game.
It’s nothing short of spectacular. From the flute note melody that dials in the opening title screen through the first length of road and beyond. It’s completely redesigned from the ground up. Fallen leaves are dislodged as you slide through them, drifting back down to land on the cobbles. Weather effects desaturate the scene with sepia flashes. And the special effects, particularly those preceding boss entrances, are spectacular.
One of the game’s most attractive parts was its peculiar Japanese theme. Which involved traveling old Japan as a Shinto shrine woman and a tanuki raccoon dog. This was not lost on art team. Who attempted and succeeded admirably in cramming delightful attention to detail into every inch of its freshly drawn maps.
Water reflections, babbling streams, sun-bathed rice fields, and fiery village backgrounds are all gorgeously created. While the over-the-top ensemble of Japanese legendary foes literally ooze personality. These visual elements, which are brought to life with amazing animation, are almost Metal Slug-like in their graphical perfection. In case you were wondering, there is a scan line option with a variety of densities as well as the opportunity to switch between languages.
A New World
The switch-and-bait in Reshrined is that when you enter the first stage, it looks to be a direct remake. That concept begins to disappear when you find yourself wandering up small passageways and stone stairs, around curves, and up against cartloads of attackers. Stage two, while thematically similar, goes even farther, with a completely different structure and opponents. You use your repel attack to repel roving fire snakes and balding, deformed giants stationed behind clay walls. When you finally reach the once-familiar octopus boss encounter — now a nightmare-on-raft with tremendous graphic bombast — it’s evident that this is a very different game.
Mechanically, it is much unchanged. You have a rapid-fire projectile assault, a repel defense manoeuvre that shields you from oncoming fire, a fast belly-slide to evade danger, and limited smart bombs that don’t refill after death. The repel strike is now much more effective in taking down foes by pinging their missiles back at them. You still gain a life-meter heart after each level, and there are important secrets strewn throughout, frequently off the usual road, among enclaves and woodland glades, and rather frequently in the form of wayward chickens.
It’s a lot simpler than its predecessor in terms of complexity, although newbies may still find it difficult. While the visual is appealing, it may be painful at times, necessitating perfect reactivity and near-constant switching of attacking and defensive approaches. However, the difficulty curve appears to meander. The first level is a gauntlet that truly teaches you the ropes, but subsequent regions periodically dip in complexity, such as the strangely easy stage three monster. While the twisting caves of level four aren’t very challenging, its huge winged-cow guardian — viciously ripping across the screen and periodically freezing you with its stomp — truly puts your pattern negotiation abilities to the test.
Pocky & Rocky: Reshrined is a stunningly beautiful, deliciously artistic fresh take of a beloved classic. And a notable example of what can be accomplished creatively with the 2D medium. If you’re even somewhat interested in the classic old-school games, you should get it right now.