Pocky & Rocky: Reshrined – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Tengo Project and published by Natsume (under license from Taito), with physical publishing handled by ININ Games, Pocky & Rocky: Reshrined is an expanded soft remake of the classic SNES shooter of the same name. As the Shrine Maiden Pocky and her friend Rocky, take on the monsters and spirits that have gone out of control and restore peace to the land. This title is available both physically and digitally on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4/5, with links to the game at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Pocky & Rocky: Reshrined that was used for this piece. The provision of this Software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be skipping the story segment as I feel it needs to be experienced first-hand, going directly into the gameplay section. I will be mostly referring to this title as Reshrined to keep things simple, with my discussion of the game focusing on the story mode to prevent spoiling some things.

Gameplay – Pocky & Rocky: Reshrined is a scrolling shooter offering 8 way directional movement and shooting action, with the camera moving in either a horizontal or vertical path. When launching the game, the player can only select the single player story mode with a normal and hard difficulty to select. An additional two player mode can be unlocked by either clearing the game or earning coins in game, as well as an easy story difficulty that can be unlocked with coins.

During the course of the game, the player can move with relative freedom around the screen, moving the camera in a top-down perspective as they go. While moving around the stages, the player will be attacked from all directions by the monsters and hazards that fill the different locations. There are also alternate paths, power ups and secrets to find in the game. To make it through the stages, the player must battle the monsters that attack using a variety of skills in their arsenal.  

Here are the basic moves that the player has access to in the game (I will be only talking about the simple move set Pocky uses to prevent spoiling surprises);

  • Talisman – Pocky can throw paper Talismans at enemies in the direction that she is facing, they can be strengthened by collecting power balls. There are three types of power that can be used, with the standard blue, Fire red and Wind green which alter the look and behavior of the attacks. If enough damage is taken, the power level of the Talismans will be lowered.
  • Gohei – Pocky can use her Gohei purification rod to deflect attacks, push enemies back and even send projectiles back at the enemy. The rod must be facing the same direction as the attack to be effective, as it can only be used from the front of Pocky.
  • Special Attack – unleash a special attack that deals tremendous damage to the enemies on screen, with limited uses for this special skill. These attacks can be refilled by collecting items during stages.
  • Slide – Pocky can slide across the floor to dodge attacks, get past enemies and evade projectiles that are sent her way. This is most useful during boss battles and busy battles, but it can be risky.

Throughout the stages while battling enemies, items can be found either dropped by monsters of hidden in baskets that need to be shot. When broken open, the baskets can contain power balls to strengthen attacks, amulets that provide shielding, additional special attacks and even a lion-dog that provides invincibility. There are also health items that can heal damage, with tea that will heal a little damage and Dango dumplings that heal a lot.

When enemies are defeated, they will drop sometimes drop coins which the player can collect. These coins can be used for a lottery by a spirit that can be hiding in plain sight. When the lottery is activated, a reel in the corner of the screen will roll, with the potential for max power to be granted, a shield or even an extra life. These lottery spirits will only appear if the player has enough coins, making the collection of coins a very important element of the game.  

During the course of the game, there will be mid bosses and blockade bosses which the player must defeat to continue. There are also challenging end stage bosses for each stage, with the player having to do battle with a powerful enemy in an arena. These boss battles are very tough, with the large enemies potentially filling the entire screen with attacks to try and kill the player. The bosses can do a lot of damage, which can wipe out a players health quickly, along with hazards to make battles tougher.

When the boss has been defeated the stage is cleared, when this happens the player will gain bonuses for remaining health and more. The game will also provide extra health upgrades during the game, increasing the total damage that can be taken. Between stages, the story will play out in in cutscenes with some animations included, pushing the narrative forward as well as dialogue from characters before important battles.

As the story progresses, new playable characters will appear and special abilities will be unlocked, mixing up the flow of the game. The additional character changes and new abilities will be dictated by the story, with the lead character changing over time to keep the experience fresh. It can take a moment to get used to each of the different gameplay mechanics, with the challenging enemy patterns and difficult hazards from the start of the game.

To compensate the difficulty curve that is in this release, players have unlimited continues which is useful as the player can easily get overwhelmed. When the player loses all their lives, they are given a game over and if they choose to continue, the player is sent to a preset point. These checkpoints can be at the beginning of the stage, at a midway point or even at the boss itself. When the stage restarts there are usually power-ups that can be found to get the player back into the action.

Once the player has either cleared the story mode, or accumulated enough coins, Free Mode will be available. In this mode, two players are able to take on the adventure together, being able to select their character from the playable roster and work together through the stages. There are also leaderboards for all players to post scores, which offers a challenge for players in story mode and the individual characters in free play.

Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving onto the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.

Controls – the control method for this release is easy to pick up. The character movement is handled by the D-pad and thumbstick, with all action inputs mapped to the face buttons of the controller. All button inputs and movements are reactive, with zero issues when it comes to delay or lag when playing the game. The experience is comfortable when playing the game in either handheld or docked mode, working very well with controllers that use a solid D-pad.

Difficulty – Reshrined has a very high difficulty curve, with enemies that swarm the player quickly and have the potential to quickly deplete a full health bar. This is most present when first starting the game, as the first stage eases the player into the action, but quickly ramps up in difficulty without providing any hints on how to play. However, there is a good checkpoint system, with an extra unlockable easy difficulty that can be unlocked, but the best way to progress is practice.

Presentation – this release has a beautiful retro styled aesthetic, taking the original graphical style used in previous games and updating them. There is also new and expanded sprite work throughout, with outstanding level designs, enemy sprites and huge screen filling bosses. The cutscenes for the plot look amazing, with large and detailed sprite based portraits. The sound for Reshrined knocks the experience up a notch, taking original compositions and reworking them into something fresh, while also creating unique tracks for new stages.

Final Thoughts – having played the original Pocky & Rocky all the way back on the SNES, I was excited when I saw the announcement for this title and I was not disappointed. The challenging difficulty, brutal boss battles and signature charm of the original games was all there, while still feeling fresh and new. This isn’t a full-on remake, nor is it a whole new experience, since there is a mixture of old and new with this package. I would call it a soft remake as it expands on the original while maintaining its spirit.

This is an easy game to recommend to anyone, since it is such a fun and challenging shooter. It may be hard and that can definitely put some players off, but it doesn’t have a permanent failure state as there is no limit to continues. The story mode is also a major positive for this game as keeps the experience fresh, with new characters being introduced and new abilities to use. All of the elements of the game come together in a wonderful package of both nostalgia and new experiences.

In the end, I give Pocky & Rocky: Reshrined a final score of 5/5. This is an excellent scrolling shooter and an even better reintroduction of a classic franchise, there may be new sprite work, locations and characters, but the spirit of the original title is still there. If you want to check this game out for yourself, links to the digital and physical versions will be below.

Link to Nintendo Switch digital version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation 4 digital version (HERE)

Link to ININ Website for Physical version (HERE)

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