Pocky & Rocky Reshrined (Nintendo Switch)- Review

Thanks to Natsume Inc for the review code

Title: Pocky & Rocky Reshrined
System: Nintendo Switch
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 06/28/2022


Story

In this remix of the SNES Pocky and Rocky titles, you take control of the shrine maiden Pocky as she sets out on a quest to defeat the evil Black Mantle, meeting up with friends new and old to get the mission accomplished and save the land from evil!

Presentation

A lot of aspects from this game are roughly based off the first Pocky and Rocky title on the SNES, but with some new elements thrown into the mix, along with a few concepts from all over the Kiki Kaikai series in general. The presentation, obviously, has received a huge boost to account for this, with gorgeous new sprites and amazing detail all across the board, and the basic soundtrack of the original getting kicked to the max with a tremendous remixed score. Definitely tons of love put into things here, just like they were with Wild Guns Reloaded.

Likewise, the new stuff in this game is excellent. Several new characters how up, all with new spritework that fit in with the world tremendously well, and each have tons of animation. A few stages that weren’t in the original game have been added here too, and they all fit together perfectly, leading to the overall package becoming a delightful mix of new and old. Really, there isn’t much more to add here, just looking at this gorgeous game should be enough to clue you in.

Gameplay

Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is a pseudo-remake of the first SNES title, starting off familiar before getting rather creative, tasking you with defeating enemies by firing your character’s main weapon or deflecting their projectiles, in this shump-esque action title. Each character has their own kind of fighting power, from Pocky’s scrolls, Rocky’s leaves, Ame’s Mirrors, Hotaru’s melee combat, and so on, leading to the cast as a whole being a fun variety.

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From the onset you don’t have any other options besides jumping straight into the Story Mode, which is the bulk of the game here and is a single-player focused experience. Here you have multiple difficulty options to choose from, (the easiest setting is locked behind obtaining tons of in-game coins, oddly enough, meaning you’ll basically have to get near the end of the game to unlock it) and unlike the SNES original, it is not two player Co-Op.

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In fact, you actually can cut to the chase and do what I tried to do by unlocking the co-op “Free Mode” immediately with a cheat input, which allows for co-op play and choosing from any of the playable characters, (jumping the line this way however makes you stuck with just Pocky and Rocky, as you’re meant to unlock the rest in the Story Mode) but I absolutely do not recommend playing through the game like this, especially with a Co-Op partner who isn’t versed with this kind of title.

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Unfortunately following in the footsteps of other Tengo Project games, Reshrined is really hard in both single player and multiplayer, and while the Single Player is done in a well designed, super satisfying way (with the option to make it even easier, even!), the multiplayer option doesn’t even give you that easier option, meaning you’ll basically have to play through the game with two players at your best skill levels. Oh, and unlike the Story Mode, you can’t save your progress and come back to it later, but you still get the infinite continues Story provides.

In a sense I do understand it, especially since the mode is meant to be unlocked by beating the main game and getting the hang of it, and when playing free mode as a solo score-attack/1CC attempt, it’s amazing and cuts to the chase! (all cutscenes are cut out of the multiplayer mode so it’s just quick stage by stage action) Yet considering how this is also the same developer that added a super easy mode to Wild Guns Reloaded’s single player, yet didn’t make that available in the multiplayer mode that arguably needed it more for accessibility, (and forced groups of four to go through on the hardest difficulty no matter what) it does irk me quite a lot that my plans to try and make this a co-op game I could casually play through with my bestie had to be tossed away due to this.

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Obviously, all the above doesn’t mean the game’s an impossible, cheap experience, for Reshrined is thankfully a tonĀ of fun! Just more aimed for the single player spectrum, and on that end it does an outstanding job. The story mode follows a remixed plot from the aforementioned SNES original, with plenty of new twists and turns that makes the whole package feel more like an original work, including the addition of several playable characters, and the gimmick here is that each stage throws you into a different one depending on the situation at hand. Each character has their own sets of abilities, and during the course of the game you even obtain upgrades such as the ability to perform a special move while mashing the fire button, or by holding the deflection button, which vary per character.

This aspect is what makes Free Mode shine in solo play as well, since playing through the entirety of the game or aiming to get a high score with unusual characters like Ame definitely gives the stages she doesn’t normally appear in a different spin. As noted above, all story scenes are completely skipped here, just making the game a connected romp from one level to the next, but you cannot save. Thus, I definitely advise against doing what I did and hoping to rush into it right away for the multiplayer, since while the extra characters can make that mode a lot easier, (especially with all the stuff you’re meant to unlock solo) the lack of the easier option really doesn’t make it much fun for adding a second player into the chaos, and it’s moreso a mode that’s more fun for scoring.

The levels here are really damn good as well, getting more and more surprising as I made my way deeper into the game. The Story Mode especially shows this, since while all the foes are meant to be beaten with anyone, playing stages that force specific characters really do lead to their levels feeling especially tailor-made for them, which leads to some great fun, especially with helpful powerups such as extra firepower, a barrier shield, or even a lucky NPC who can give you a maxed out arsenal for a brief period of time.

Despite my earlier frustrations with the game being tough, I ultimately found it generally fair and worth playing through solo, and the infinite continues and checkpoints do lead to progress being something that’s still very satisfying to achieve after getting stuck on a particular section or boss for far too long, and when it comes to online rankings, I’m all for it, as this game is just a fun scorechaser to try and 1CC, despite the initial impossibility of it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Pocky and Rocky Reshrined is an absolute blast when everything works right, and as a solo experience it’s definitely the best of the Tengo Project titles by far, with satisfying gameplay and tons of fun character variety. However, as a co-op experience like the SNES original, Free Mode is incredibly underwhelming and the difficulty options on display don’t do much to make it an accessible experience for any newcomers you might invite to your home. The sheer fact the easier difficulty mode is an unlockable and is not available in co-op is enough to make my head spin, and sadly, it leads to this co-op experience being incredibly lackluster and something I openly discourage you from playing the game for.

Still, as a solo experience, and as an overall package? Reshrined still manages to be incredibly fun, and while I’ll never get why Natsume-Atari insists on making the multiplayer experiences as inaccessible as possible, the core gameplay loop is still outstanding enough that I can at least recommend this for a solo playthrough or two, and especially for the sake of those online leaderboards. Once this game finally clicks, it’s a whole lot of fun, and I am relieved that I managed to get it to finally click once I spent a good amount of time on it solo.

I give Pocky and Rocky Reshrined a 7 out of 10.

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