Pocky and Rocky Reshrined: Digital Foundry Technology Overview

Retro-style game remakes are hard to make – apart from the fact that old games can be played on modern hardware, you also need to understand the intent of the original developers to keep spirit this game is alive, especially if you want to make a decent remake, not a regular remaster.

Perhaps that is what makes Pocky and Rocky Reshrined, the 2D scrolling action game for Switch and PS4 so attractive: it was created by the same core staff that made the SNES version of Pocky and Rocky 30 years ago. As such, it goes way beyond the typical retro remake, keeping the action and aesthetics of the original title while greatly expanding its length and width. Reshrined is also a great example of a technical-level Unity game – more or less.

The journey from Super NES to modern platforms has been long for the developers of Tengo Project, which began in 1986 with an arcade game known as Kiki Kaikai. Created by Taito, Kiki Kaikai is an aerial shooter and shooter rooted in Japanese mythology. Its main game design is reminiscent of Capcom’s Commando of a year ago, but its unique themes and twist on the formula make for something truly magical. After it was released in showrooms, it was supposed to receive multiple ports, but it remained exclusively in Japan – until 1992, when a sequel focusing on the home console was produced for the Nintendo Super NES. It follows the same basic design as the arcade original, but includes many more scenario variants and a creative level design, pushing the concept further. It’s also the first entry to be released in the West under the title Pocky and Rocky – but unlike the arcade game, this one wasn’t made by Taito at all. It was simply released under license and developed by Natsume’s in-house Japanese development team.

Watch Pocky and Rocky Reshrined’s review as a video.

During this era, Natsume quietly produced some of the best action games ever. This includes games such as the groundbreaking Shatterhand, Shadow of the Ninja for NES, the two Pocky and Rocky games, The Ninja Warriors Again and Wild Guns – with the same three key members behind the Tengo Project involved in most of these releases. In the modern era, the team’s first game as Tengo Project came out in 2008 with the Xbox Live exclusive Arcade Omega Five, a horizontal shooter with an amazing soundtrack. About a decade later, the team created two new versions of their previous creations, with Wild Guns Reloaded in 2016 and The Ninja Warriors Once Again in 2019. Tengo Project became a master of revisiting the games they had previously worked on, perfecting the formula with new features, improved presentation and not only. While the concept is simple, the execution is excellent with the best pixel art, music, and game design in this style.

I’m happy to report that the Pocky and Rocky remake stands out in the same way – and could also be the band’s most ambitious re-creation. Like the original, Reshrined is actually a run and gun shooter that can be played from above. You start the game as priestess Pocky, defeating enemies along the way. The initial available mode is a story mode that asks you to take control of each of the different characters with story sequences that divide the stages. Once completed, however, you can go into the Freemode where you can select any unlocked character and play the two-player mode without any full-screen scenes.

pocky and rocky gameplay and comparisons

Pocky and Rocky features beautiful stages and boss encounters.

What makes this an ambitious remake? Well, it starts out by recreating the original Super NES with much improved pixel art in higher resolution. Without the constraints of memory and storage, the team is able to push through the visuals, absolutely packing them into detail and life.

Additionally, the various sections of the stages of the game have been dramatically changed, with different landscapes, changed patterns of enemies, and new phases of boss fights. And after the first stage in the game’s story mode, things start to change even more – instead of continuing the game as Pocky, you will take control of her tanuki companion Rocky and you will explore very different levels. There are times where the paths of the original and Reshrined intersect, but most of the game is a brand new series of stages. Eventually, you’ll reconnect with some of the Super NES scene concepts, but the level design itself will be radically changed. As a result, it feels more like a new game borrowing some elements rather than a typical remake. This is really a great thing.

And just like Ninja Warriors and Wild Guns before, Pocky and Rocky has a hidden depth that makes it an exciting game to play and repeat. Initially you’ll find that shooting while dodging missiles is the name of the game, but you quickly get overwhelmed – making even the first stage difficult to complete. Here comes a nuance – you’ll soon discover that your melee attack not only defeats enemies, but also destroys and reflects enemy projectiles. This becomes a crucial early-stage strategy, further enhanced by adding a dash with invincibility and bomb frames. Later in the game, you will gain other skills as well – all of which stack to create a game that really rewards skill in playing. Along with the fast, responsive controls and perfect presentation, getting through the game is very rewarding.

comparisons pocky and rocky reshrined

When comparing the SNES and Switch titles, there are huge technical differences but a familiar aesthetic.

From a DF perspective, aside from the game itself, I find the way Tengo’s games are developed completely fascinating. The three key members of Project Tengo have been continuing the games they produced under the Natsume brand for decades, and it’s so rare that the development of old school games survives to the present day. It’s fair to say these guys are still making games like they were back in 1991. Of course, this style of development has never really disappeared with the advancement of indie games, but it’s great to see these legends continue to perfect their craft for 30 years later.

Of course, Tengo has made full use of modern tools to develop its games – just like its previous two versions, Pocky and Rocky were made in Unity. In this sense, I believe their work is a true showcase of what’s possible with 2D pixel art in a modern engine – they manage to avoid almost every trap that so many other Unity games have fallen into, delivering what feels incredibly authentic and authentic. refined from top to bottom.

This includes simple things such as making sure the artwork is snugly adhering to the pixel grid structure and none of the visual effects seem out of place, and taking advantage of the extra capabilities to push the interactivity forward – you’ll notice the leaves on the path right from the start. that flutter when you jump over them.

Interestingly, the game menu includes options for scaling and scan lines for those interested. The scanline option even introduces a slight color separation at a higher value, simulating the appearance of red, green, and blue phosphors. Personally, I found this filter effective in portable mode, but wasn’t really needed when playing on TV. The default scaling fills the screen and the aspect ratio looks correct but is a bit wider than the graphics itself – so if you look closely you may notice a slight flickering as you scroll, but I feel this harsh nearest neighbor scaling is the best option and definitely better than, say, linear blur.

pocky and rocky gameplay and comparisons

pocky and rocky gameplay and comparisons

pocky and rocky gameplay and comparisons

There is a surprising depth behind the nice exterior.

At the moment, the game is currently available on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 – it was recently released in Japan, which is the version I imported, but it will be coming to the West in June this year, both in digital and physical form.

So which version do you choose? I mentioned earlier that the game makes great use of Unity, bypassing a lot of common issues, but on the Nintendo Switch it’s not entirely flawless. Basically, the game does have some slowdown during gameplay – it always targets at 60fps, but can’t keep it all the time. After finishing the game on the Switch, I will say that it is not as tedious and frequent as I expected, but it is worth noting. I didn’t have a PS4 version available, but I checked the recording of a game running and it seems to fix these issues. So if you are looking for the best performance, I recommend the PS4. However, it’s worth taking into account that both versions run smoother than the original SNES, which has a fair amount of slowdown all the time! Fortunately, these little dips are the only real technical hiccup – loading is minimal, controls are responsive, and everything looks fantastic. This is especially a treat when paired with the OLED Switch.

This is my take on the Pocky and Rocky series and Project Tengo as a whole. If you can’t tell, I love the series – and Tengo Project is one of my favorite developers right now for their amazing work bringing games like this back to modern platforms. The amount of passion and skill poured into each game never ceases to impress. If you like 2D action games like this, I honestly can’t recommend them enough – Pocky and Rocky Reshrined is a unique game. If you’re new to this series take the time to adjust to the controls and design and it will eventually click.

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