Review – Pocky & Rocky Reshrined

Time for a little history lesson from the legendary Japanese developer/publisher Taito. Besides games like Space Invaders and Arkanoid, the company was also known for a little arcade shooter released in the 80s called Kiki Kaikai. A few years later, Taito licensed the brand to Natsume (the Harvest Moon peeps), which then developed and released a sequel to said arcade game, which was known in the West as Pocky & Rocky. A scrolling shooter where you can control a Shinto shrine maiden and/or a tanuki, the game was a mild success, enough to garner a few sequels, only to eventually fade into obscurity alongside Natsume themselves. With the company slowly trying to regain momentum in this day and age, they are now back with a remaster/reboot/remake/re-something of sorts of the franchise, Pocky & Rocky Reshrined.

Pocky & Rocky Reshrined Combat

They attack you from all directions. You can only attack from four.

I have no idea how to properly define what Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is. It’s not a remake per se, since it sort of looks identical to the SNES original, also retaining the same cute MIDI soundtrack. It also plays just like the SNES classic, retaining some unbelievably unfair mechanics I’ll discuss later. On the other hand, it does feature new cutscenes, and it runs on Unity, meaning that it’s not just a mere upscaling of an old ROM. Weirdly enough, a lot of care has been put in order to make the game look exactly like it did back in the early 90s, which is an odd decision, to say the least.

What we have here is a gorgeous rendition of SNES visuals and sound. The brand new cutscenes add very little to the package, being overly long and, honestly, quite boring, but I can’t deny some artistic effort has been put into them. Sadly, my issue with Pocky & Rocky Reshrined lies elsewhere. With the risk of having my retro gamer licensed revoked by the most hardcore of zealots, I don’t think its gameplay holds up that well when compared to other shooters of the era, for its overall game design goes against some of the principles of the genre as a whole.

Pocky & Rocky Reshrined Bosses

Boss battles are less insufferable than the actual level preceding them, since you only have to deal with one enemy in front of you.

It boils down to the shooting mechanics, damage output, and movement. Enemies can freely move (and respawn) through the stage, attacking you from all directions, but you can only aim and shoot from the four main cardinal directions. You are forced to align yourself to properly kill a foe, all while having to deal with other ones coming at you. You have very limited health, and you lose your power-ups whenever you get touched by a foe.

Keeping your stronger attacks is easier said than done. I am all for challenging bullet hell shooters (give me Ikaruga any day of the day), but those games nail movement in a way I have to worry very little about aligning myself with a foe’s hit box. In Pocky & Rocky Reshrined, the game’s free roaming but limited movement system adds an unfair layer of busy work to what should have been a more straightforward experience.


Buddy, I have no idea how LEAVES will be able to kill these demons…

That’s not to say Pocky & Rocky Reshrined isn’t enjoyable. If you’re a fan of retro shooters, there’s a lot to like in here. If you’re a fan of the 16-bit era of gaming, you’ll love these slightly revamped graphics. The game is cute as all hell, I can’t deny that. Sadly, there’s a fine line between challenging and frustrating and Pocky & Rocky Reshrined loves to mentally torture me by jumping between these two states, all due to some questionable (and dated) gameplay mechanics.


Graphics: 7.5

Even though it doesn’t look that different from the SNES versions of Pocky & Rocky, it still holds up. Everyone, from the protagonist to bosses, looks too adorable onscreen.

Gameplay: 7.0

I have qualms with this game’s hit detection and aiming mechanics, as well as some questionable difficulty decisions. With that said, it still feels pretty unique in the realm of bullet hell shooters.

Sound: 7.0

It’s MIDI, it’s not exactly memorable, but it was pretty good for its time.

Fun Factor: 6.5

There’s a fine line between challenging and frustrating. Pocky & Rocky Reshrined loves to tease me by jumping between these two states, all due to some questionable mechanics. But damn if it isn’t adorable.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is available now on PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Pocky & Rocky Reshrined was provided by the publisher. Boxed version published by ININ Games.