Note: This review is based on the Japanese release — the game launches in North America and Europe on 24th June 2022.
Pocky & Rocky, a Super Nintendo top-down run-and-gun, was developer Natsume’s gold standard, fondly remembered for its taut arcade action, adventurous stage design, and beautiful visuals. Where Tengo Project’s Wild Guns Reloaded and Ninja Warriors Once Again were deliciously pumped-up remasters, Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is a re-envisioning so markedly different from the original that it’s essentially an entirely new game. Completely redrawn from the ground up, it’s nothing short of magical from the flute note ditty that dials-in the opening title screen to the first stretch of road and beyond. Fallen leaves are displaced as you skid across them, floating back down to settle on the cobbles; weather effects desaturate the world with sepia flashes; the special effects, particularly surrounding boss entrances, are dazzling.
The Super Nintendo game’s distinct Japanese theme, travelling old Japan as a Shinto shrine maiden and a tanuki raccoon dog, was one of its most endearing aspects. This wasn’t lost on Tengo Project’s art team, who endeavoured — and succeeded with aplomb — to cram every inch of its freshly rendered maps with charming attention to detail. Water reflections, babbling streams, sun-bathed paddy fields and fiery village backdrops are all beautifully crafted, while the run-amok cast of Japanese mythological enemies positively bleed personality. These visual ingredients, brought to life with superb animation, are almost Metal Slug-esque in graphical precision. And, in-case you were wondering, a scan line option with a range of densities is available, as is the ability to switch between languages.
Reshrined’s switch-and-bait is that, when you head into the first stage, it appears a straight remake. Then, as you find yourself roaming up little pathways and stone steps, around bends and up against cartloads of enemies, that notion starts to fade. Stage two, although thematically the same, shifts further still, its layout and enemies fundamentally different. You battle roaming fire snakes with your repel attack, and balding, misshapen giants camped behind terracotta walls. When you eventually make it to the once-familiar octopus boss engagement — now a nightmare-on-raft with incredible visual bombast — it’s clear that this is a whole new ball game.
Mechanically, it remains mostly the same. You have a rapid-fire projectile attack, a repel defence manoeuvre that protects from incoming fire, a quick belly-slide to avoid danger, and limited smart bombs that aren’t replenished after a death. The repel attack now does a lot more work, and is better at taking out enemies by pinging their projectiles back at them. You still accrue an additional life-meter heart after each stage, and there are useful secrets scattered all over, regularly off the beaten path, within enclaves and forest glades, and quite often in the guise of stray chickens.
What is new, is that you’re forced to play one of five characters on different stages, each with adjusted weapon attributes, and one of whom is only available on your second completion of Story Mode. On the third stage, newcomer Ame-no-Uzume grants new skills, allowing you to produce an orb that auto-directs your projectiles when fired upon, and a temporary shield that requires a brief charge period. These additional properties arrive just in time for a string of never-seen-before stages (complimented by all-new musical arrangements). Here, haunted paddy fields littered with straw-thatch huts, pond demons and aggravating spirits, lead on to deep caverns and Egyptian-style tombs — all of which demand the use of your newly acquired skills. While there are callbacks to the original’s airship stage and torchlit castle, the structuring is altogether transformed.
As we’ve played the Super Nintendo game right up to present day — and with some conviction, we might add — we’re well-positioned to draw direct comparisons. The most immediate difference is that Reshrined plays a marginally slower game. Like the original, it’s not designed to be torn through: it’s a dense and strategic conflict that requires moments of digging in to clear the field lest it all get too much. At the same time, the original is that bit arcade-snappier, its layout offering greater room for impromptu slide negotiations, and the ability to take out most on-screen enemies fairly quickly once you have a strategy in play.
With both being superb examples of the genre, it’s difficult to say which is the more entertaining, although there’s something to be said for the 1992 game’s simplicity and brisker pace. Reshrined operates differently, weighing in at around an hour (including cutscenes) end-to-end, versus the Super Nintendo outing’s 50 minutes on a clean run. The way the stages are formed — especially the new ones, which, while superb, are arguably not quite as creatively inspired as the ones that inform the game’s opening 20 minutes — is to have obstacles that require you to camp and clear before moving on. Some enemies, such as the fire snakes or the worm-like stone hands, either slow things down or even require temporary retreat; while the airship stage — which was a forced-scrolling affair in the Super Nintendo game — is here segmented by gates that can only be opened by taking out turrets. You can still find the odd gap to slide out of in a clinch, but generally, Reshrined is more a war of attrition.
Getting powered up quickly is still critical, only now it’s much easier thanks to abundant weapon drops, and the game lightly directing you toward which is best used for each stage. Additionally, when you take a hit, weapon icons are knocked out of you, allowing you to grab them back unless they end up splashing into a nearby pond.
In terms of difficulty, it’s a lot easier than its predecessor, but newcomers may still find it fairly challenging. While the aesthetic is cute enough to take a bite out of, it can, at times, be punishing, requiring strict reflex and near-constant switching of both offensive and defensive techniques. That said, the difficulty curve does seem to meander. The first stage is a gauntlet that really shows you the ropes, while other, later areas occasionally dip in complexity, like the oddly easy stage three boss. And, while stage four’s winding caverns aren’t overly intense, its mammoth winged-cow guardian — brutally tearing across the screen and intermittently freezing you with its stomp — really puts your pattern negotiation skills to the test.
On the flip-side, while a one-credit clear is a still a reasonable test, continue restart points are very comfortable, allowing almost anyone to eventually push through the whole thing. Once you accrue 3000 coins swept up from destroyed enemies, you unlock an Easy Mode, offering infinite lives.
Despite us making numerous comparisons to the Super Nintendo game, Pocky & Rocky: Reshrined is, for the vast majority, a completely new entry in the series. And that’s worth celebrating for several reasons. Tengo Project, well aware of the original’s pedigree, was smart enough to only use it as inspiration, rather than attempt to follow its lead beat-for-beat. Within this modern framework, the developer has constructed a thrilling tapestry of light, colour, and action-packed junctures for hardcore gamers to get their teeth into. Is it better than Natsume’s venerable 1992 outing? No, but it’s about on par, albeit for slightly different reasons. Pocky & Rocky: Reshrined is a blessing, a gorgeous-looking, delightfully artful new interpretation of a much-loved classic, and a noteworthy example of what can be achieved, creatively, with the 2D medium. If you’re even mildly into the application of old-school gaming disciplines, it should be snapped up without a second thought.
Looking forward to this! Liked the comparisons with the old game.
I can't wait to receive my imported copy of the game...
Got an import copy on the way
Waiting for my physical copy. Happy days! Just need some sort of Geomon game now
How is the frame rate? I've become extremely hesitant to buy games like this on Switch lately due to being burned by games with poor performance. Wife Quest was an unplayable mess.
Can't wait to get mine. Looks great. Thanks for the review.
the price is much too steep for what it is, so I'm looking forward to a digital sale on this one.
the game itself looks great!
It sounds well done, but then the original is fun, challenging and enchanting.
Really excellent review. Looking forward to jumping in on this one.
@AndyC_MK111 I would be thrilled if we got Pocky and Rocky 2 as well.
The SNES one is the second occurrence of the serie. The first one was in Arcade, PC Engine and Famicom (among others).
First kirby, and now this. Slow down nintendo. By the by, the way this looks and plays, from the sound of it, I wouldn't mind a "legend of the mystical ninja" game.
Can’t freakin wait for my physical copy to get here! (Which version did I order again…?) 🤔
This isn’t really my preferred genre, but holy cow what a visually beautiful game!
Can’t wait for this, it looks amazing. All three Switch games from this developer are love letters to the golden age.
This looks cool. I never owned the SNES version, but I remember playing it at a video games shop as a kid and having a blast.
Guarenteed to be on sale within 6months so will wait for that juicy deal lol
Cannot wait for this!
Ok, I didn't expect that. But who knows, sometimes NL rates games way too high and sometimes great games too low.
@AndyC_MK111 yeah its a reasonable price but I'm in no rush. Will be under a tenner for physical and digital within a year so happy to wait
Wow, surprising indeed!
Has always liked the P&R games, will be getting my hands on this for sure.
ok but how much for menu animation?
PBG: "We're playing Pocky and R-"
Tengo Project is the absolute KING of 2D remaster/remakes, they nailed it outta the park with every release so far.
Ninja Saviors doesn’t get enough clout, imo it’s easily on par with SOR4, it’s a great, replayable, amazin-looking, way deeper than it seems, beat ‘em up!
Wild Guns Reloaded is absolutely stunning (minus the mandatory sharing of lives’ pool in mp! That sucks!).
This is going be a very looooong and hard wait -_- but I just can’t justify 45€ (either digital or physical, that’s what is going to cost me when all is said and done… I wish I had a japanese credit card to grab it straight from the eShop). Especially because I can get the western version for a good 17€ less than that.
Will get the Japanese release, have heard the Western release will be censored
Definitely picking this up in June, not sure why it came out two months after the Japanese one but hype nonetheless. Now hopefully we get Pocky and Rocky 2 Reshrined, and Pocky and Rocky + Becky Reshrined.
@PhhhCough Ganbare! Goemon!
I played the SNES game as a kid and couldn't for the life of me remember what it was until this was announced. I'll definitely be picking it up for old time's sake.
The screenshots alone make me want to play it.
But... is Becky there too?
@Pod Fortunately not. She would just spoil everything.
@MARl0 Oddly did not seem to get a mention the review. I got this on Jap eShop. While on the main performance is okay there is some noticeable “slow down” when the screen is filled with your projectiles and numerous enemies moving around. To be fair the original on SNES also had slow down. I would be hopeful things can be improved via patches. It by no means a disaster and they occur briefly when if happens.
@solidox If it runs at 60fps most of the time, I'm completely fine with that. Occasional drops aren't a big deal to me.
@solidox I honestly didn’t notice any slow down, even when the screen is busier. It’s just a slightly slower game, overall, than the original.
There are no frame rate issues here, not to worry. If so, I would have mentioned them.
Btw, this review was a pleasure to read, one of the best I’ve ever seen on NL. Competent in discerning the technicalities (btw thanks for confirming the scanlines filter’s 4 degrees of intensity) and in discussing the art, gameplay mechanics, the intent of Tengo Project, what made the original magical and how this one compares, touched on difficulty and longevity, it had it all. It touched on everything I wanted to know, as a man in his forties who’s enamored with the series and with Tengo’s “remakesters”. You didn’t mention the framerate, and maybe you could’ve given it a few words, but I’m pretty sure it means that it’s locked 60 most of the times. Great job @Tom-Massey
Welp, I guess this and Sonic Origins be my June games...
Am I to understand that we are required to play as a raccoon in order to complete this game?
Sounds awesome. I am glad I already preordered. A bit sad though that they didn’t include the SNES games on the cartridge. I hope they rerelease those. They are rare games now and already rather expensive. Would be great if they would do fans a favor.
@DashKappei You’re very welcome, thank you for the kind words. There are actually 9 degrees of scanline intensity options! And I commented on frame rate in the comment just above yours. If there were frame rate issues, I would definitely mention them (see my recent Ganryu 2 review for clarification).
Why does the boxart look like it was made on DeviantArt dot com. Oo it's a remake so it has to have a clever reword in it. And Pocky rocky has... Shirines!! Reshrine. Then uhhh I'm brain dead. How can I make this creative. Uhh. What else do I immediately see Infront of me when I look at Pocky rocky. Uhhh her master sword is a Japan baton thingy. Yeah. I'll just make that sticking out of the first letter of the title. I won't even make it look good or aesthetic with angles or anything. Just make it a ***** crooked out of place flag hanging out of the subtitle. The subtitle that wasn't even ***** needed in the first place. So ***** extra. Unasked for. Not even rewarding. Terrible graphic design. No one asked.
Had this on my radar for quite some time. Glad that it turned out to be good. Unsurprisingly so. The remasters of "Wild Guns" and "Ninja Warriors" were great and this seems even more ambitious. I especially appreciate how they nailed the pixel-art, bringing it to a modern standard, while keeping the 16bit-flair of the originals completely intact.
I hope more remakes/remasters of old Natsume games are yet to come, like "S.C.A.T.". Played that via NSO NES and was very pleased. Still a great and somewhat unique Shoot'em up, I like to recommend.
@Tobiaku : Thank you for raising that issue. I was tempted to grab the Western release (mainly for the English packaging), but if I do, I'll grab the Japanese release instead.
so, it would have been a ten, had there been a practice mode?
I'm so happy you guys reviewed it (btw Picky & Rocky 2 was amazing)
It's like that in real life too, mate.
Anyone know if the Japanese version can be changed to the English language?
The Western release is going to be slightly censored with some of the artwork featuring ladies with less skin showing.
@BaronMunchausen Yes, it has English. I'm playing it right now.
@-wc- No, it would have been a 9. Pros and Cons have nothing to do with score, and never have.
I appreciate it. May have to get a card from play Asia since this game looks great.
so, what is good and bad about the game has no bearing on what the score is? i dont believe you. respectfully.
PS - great review btw, you got me pumped for this game again! 👍
@-wc- Of course, and that content is within the review. Reading the review is all you need to understand the score. Pros and Cons are a simple summary and have no direct relation to the final score at all. Ganryu 2 has 3 pros and 3 cons - it still got 4/10.
I don't doubt this is a fine game and all, but it does reinforce my observation that retro titles and indes see a clear and distinct bias over AAA games on this site.
With this getting a 9, and Zombie Army 4, the most immaculate Switch port of the last 5 years (and perhaps the best zombie game ever made) getting an 8, rightfully or wrongfully, it does lend itself to confirming my beliefs that even the best AAA games will get outscored by almost any indie or retro game here.
I know, different reviewers and all, but it's not just this once. It's a consistent trend I've noticed for a long time.
In my personal opinion, I think most indies and retro titles typically score 1 point higher on average than they should, and realistic AAA games score 1 point lower on average than they should. I'm not sure if it just comes down to a difference of reviewers assigned for different types of games, or if it's a more general disinterest in more mainstream, modern 3rd party titles. Obviously I don't think it's malicious or intentional, but, the observation is what it is nonetheless.
well, when you put it that way! 👍 I see what you are saying now, sorry for the tude my dude.
So, zero cons then. Got it. 👍
@MARl0 You actually expected Wife Quest to be competently developed and not suck? Oof.
@ArcticEcho When they gave it a positive review and didn't mention a thing about its performance issues, yes I did expect it to be good. It's not rocket science.
@JaxonH It’s a very interesting observation, although several factors are involved. I cover a lot of retro/retro-styled/retro-indie type games here, and they assign them to me because they’re my field of expertise. They wouldn’t necessarily give me a game like Triangle Strategy, for example, because someone else is better equipped to handle that.
And then, we need to judge everything within its own specific bracket. How does a game like Eschatos or Andro Dunos II line up against other games within their genres, how does Pocky & Rocky: Reshrined relate to existing games within its series, etc. In some cases, we consider the entire library (for example, how were Tengo Project’s previous two titles received, and is this better/worse or as good as?).
As mentioned elsewhere in this comment section, Ganryu 2 - an indie retro action game - was recently only awarded a 4, so it’s not a case of everything old-school receiving unequivocal praise.
Finally, on a personal note, I dislike scoring generally, precisely because of its ambiguity and perceived inconsistencies - but people still like the system enough for it to be maintained.
Oh I prefer it too. By far. There's no way to avoid variation between different reviewers, because no two people think the same. And there's always someone who won't agree with a review score, no matter what it is. I also know not every older or indie game scores highly.
But I do think games like Zombie Army 4 (just using as a recent example since it the review just dropped and I've been playing a lot) are far more fun and entertaining, and are better made games, than a lot of the more simple or older titles that score higher. And offer great co-op fun, both locally and online. I played with my brother today, as well as some Splatoon 2 and Switch Sports, and we had a blast. I can't imagine many older or retro games providing anywhere near as much fun. And maybe that's a bias I have toward more modern games. I don't think so- I feel like I play pretty much everything, and judge it all equally. It's just that older games and retro titles don't impress me nearly as much, and typically aren't as fun (some exceptions exist, but I'm speaking generally).
I don't think that's anyone's "fault", it's just a result of an imperfect system where variation among different reviewers exists. Unless the same reviewer did every single game, that variation is unavoidable. And for whatever reason, the specific individuals who review more modern 3rd party games seem a lot harder to impress. Or, maybe it's a result of, as you said, judging within its genre so a 9 in genre A may not be anywhere near as good as an 8 in genre B, because genre B has a larger number of better games as competition. But if that's the case, it makes comparing games to buy hard to decipher because there's no continuity of scores between genres. I always assume there's continuity. So if a game receives a 9 I expect it to be better than a game scored an 8, even if marginally.
But ya, didn't mean to criticize or anything, just speaking my mind, and I couldn't help but notice that.
@JaxonH We will have to agree to disagree on the assumption that retro type games aren’t as fun as modern AAA titles. It just needs to be understood that they come from an era with a totally different set of disciplines, that make them no less valid as superb games. People who approach difficult retro games with the idea of hitting continue for an hour will reap little to no enjoyment from the experience, and find them quite repetitive. Those who approach them with a view to master them, to varying degrees: either a one credit clear or even a one life clear, OR, as tends to be the most enduring, shoot for the highest possible score, will find genuine elation in the experience and achievement.
Personally, I’m fine with old-school and current - but a lot of current gen output doesn’t have a skill requirement that I can appreciate. Games that look cinematic but rely on a single button press to do every acrobatic trick in the book tend to feel underwhelming for me.
Different strokes, of course.
I grew up in the 80s and 90s- Mega Man 2 and 3 were my all time faves. Sonic 3 & Knuckles, F-Zero X, etc. But nowadays those types of games don't hold my interest very long.
I agree with modern games relying on single buttons. I can't stand that cinematic stuff either. But there's a lot of modern games with very skill dependent, fun gameplay. Games like Monster Hunter Rise, Splatoon 2, Sniper Elite 4, Metroid Dread, Triangle Strategy, Ori Will of the Wisps, DKC Tropical Freeze, etc. And games with aiming mechanics, if they have gyro (such as Zombie Army 4) it's so incredibly engaging, and you're always improving your aim and response time as you get better.
The high difficulty, die over and over type games just frustrate me now. I grew up on Mega Man, but nowadays don't have much patience for it. I still play MM3 every few years, and the old Metroid games still hold up, as does Super Mario World, and the SNES/GBA Fire Emblem games, but those aside there isn't really much that holds my interest. And even those don't really provide the same level of thrill as the aforementioned examples of modern games.
Basically, I love older games, I just think games have improved so much over the last few decades. They're so much more fun and enthralling and complex now with better difficulty curves that are challenging but not frustrating. So while I loved all those older games growing up, times have changed, games have gotten better, and the raised bar makes it hard for me to go back.
@JaxonH Each to their own mate. I can’t possibly agree with you on it, because I adore them. But either way, play what you enjoy!
If you want to prepare properly then give the Snes Pocky and Rocky games a look, you also have the two other games produced and remastered by Tengo Project which are Wild Guns Reloaded and Ninja Warriors once again (Ninja Saviors).
The three main developers are the same who made the originals.
Play it and you will understand why the high score, this game is not a random indie quirky or experimental game, it is a legendary action/adventure title, a near perfect Snes game brought up TO perfection here due to the arduous works, fixes and visual improvements meticulously done by the original devs.
It is a type of game that has virtually endless replay value thanks to how entertaining the game play mechanics are.
@completo88 You may not be one who cares to be asked, but what do you think, did they only remaster this in HD, or do you think they had the foresight to future proof it by making the assets in 4K? (I assume this release is in 1080p/60fps, even on PS5/Series X.)
Probably looks good enough on a 4K TV, but… I always prefer my games to match or exceed the native resolution of my TV. (I chose a 1080p TV specifically because I intended to do lots of Switch gaming on it. No regrets.)
The remastering of sprites and backgrounds were comprised of 100% all new assets, they're meant to resemble the classic ones but they are all made from scratch, but here's the thing most pixel art is often drawn at lower resolutions as to fit on a 480p screen. Because pixel art in itself is an art style meant to shine on lower resolutions, So when designing a this type of game they need to fit it both on new and old TV's, as many people prefer to play these games on an old school CRT TV, which automatically ads the scanlines and dithering creating an impression of higher detail which makes pixel art games look even better.
And with this said it sadly also means that most pixel art games tend not look the best when blown out on a giant 55 or 60 inch 4k LCD screen, luckily the Switch own portable screen is an absolute banger for pixel art games,
Many people have a separate TV to play pixel art games, i have 20 inch standard resolution TV set up for playing old-school 2D games.
Then there are 2D games like Streets of Rage 4 which are not pixel art but instead are hand drawn these are more meant for higher resolutions as 720p 1080p, 4k screens and such.
Not sure why Nintendo Life didn't mention this in their review. You need to UNLOCK multiplayer to play it, which involves beating the whole game in singleplayer first.
Interested in the art style and gameplay. But from the reviews I’ve read it seems like it’s only 2-3 hours long in total to complete the story. I never played the original - is there other modes and replay value?
@Nintendo4Sonic what specifically is making you question this? lol
I had no idea this existed. I need this in my life!
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