Pocky and Rocky with Becky
  • Genre:
    • Shoot 'Em Up
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy Advance
  • Developer:
    • Altron
  • Publishers:
    • JP Altron
    • US Natsume
  • Released:
    • JP 10/05/2001
    • US 10/18/2002
Score: 65%

This review was published on 08/17/2017.

Pocky and Rocky with Becky is a video game developed by Altron for the Game Boy Advance. It was originally published by Altron in Japan on October 5, 2001, and Natsume in North America on October 18, 2002. This is the third game in the Pocky and Rocky series, though it's actually the fourth game in the Kiki Kaikai series. The Pocky and Rocky series is known in Japan as Kiki Kaikai, but the very first game never got released outside of the country. The original Kiki Kaikai was a coin operated arcade game created by Taito Corporation in 1986. The second and third Kiki Kaikai games, known outside of Japan as Pocky and Rocky and Pocky and Rocky 2, came out on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in the mid 1990s. While the original Kiki Kaikai isn't too great, the first two Pocky and Rocky games are superb. Sadly, Pocky and Rocky with Becky is closer to the quality of the original arcade game than its vastly superior sequels.

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As indicated by the title, this game features Pocky, Rocky, and Becky. Pocky and Becky are priestesses of the Shinto faith, whereas Rocky is a furry raccoon-like creature. Like the others, this game is set in a fantasy version of feudal Japan where mythological creatures roam the countryside. According to the opening cinematic, there was once an evil ghost. He did many nasty things; so nasty that they can't be discussed here. Due to that, a goddess had to magically seal him away. However, a hundred years later, which is when this game takes place, the evil ghost escaped. Since the goddess is no longer around, it now falls upon Pocky, Rocky, and Becky to save the day. The Japanese version has a slightly different take on this scenario, but it's a similar deal. Oh, and while none of the English text in the intro mentions this, the ghost is actually a huge hydra. Nobody likes hydras, so killing them is okay, especially since this one is technically already dead.

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Like all the other games in the series, this is known as a multidirectional shooter. That means everything is viewed from an overhead perspective and your character is able to smoothly walk and shoot in eight directions. Walking is done with the d-pad, while the A button is for shooting in the direction you're currently facing. Oddly enough, you can't hold the button to rapidly shoot bullets like you could in the last two titles. This makes things rather annoying, as you'll be tapping the A button for most of the game. Be prepared for finger fatigue. The B button uses your melee attack, which does the same thing it did in the other games by damaging enemies and deflecting most types of projectiles. You can also press the L or R buttons to use a limited quantity of bombs that damage most enemies on the screen, but this can't be used against bosses. As with all the other games, you can't strafe. Aside from that and the lack of a rapid fire button, the controls are fine.

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Unlike the first Kiki Kaikai, you're prompted to pick one of the three titular characters before starting the game. Visually, Pocky and Becky look like palette swapped versions of each other, plus they both throw magical cards. Rocky actually looks different from a visual standpoint, however, and he throws leaves instead of cards. All characters share the same basic capabilities, including the majority of power-ups. Most power-ups bestow the same benefits to all characters, like increasing the range and speed of their shots, or changing their projectiles into penetrative fireballs. However, the purple power-ups give each character an exclusive ability. For example, Pocky's cards explode upon colliding with enemies, Becky throws her cards in a spread pattern, and Rocky shoots homing leaves. Rocky's exclusive ability is by far the best, though it does do less damage than the other characters. All power-ups are lost if you die. Speaking of, you die in one hit in the Japanese version, but the North American release allows you to take two hits. Anyway, these mechanics are better than what the first Kiki Kaikai had, but pale in comparison to what's in the other Pocky and Rocky games.

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Bringing back an old mechanic from the first Kiki Kaikai, this game doesn't allow you to reach the boss at the end of each stage unless you get the key first. The key is usually easy to find, as most stages are completely linear. However, there is a forest maze stage later on where this does become a problem. Aimlessly wandering around a monotonous maze for ages is the last thing that should happen in an action game. At any rate, the first few stages are almost exact replicas of the ones from the original arcade game. That may lead you to believe that this is a remake, but the later stages are different, such as the aforementioned maze stage. All of the bosses are different, too. None of them are anything to write home about, though. This game has a much slower pacing than all the others, resulting in a far less exciting experience. On the bright side, there are now infinite continues and passwords for resuming progress. The passwords are kind of annoying to write down and enter, though.

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Coming off of the last two Pocky and Rocky games, this one is a huge disappointment. It throws away all of the radical improvements those games made, and goes back to the basics introduced in the first Kiki Kaikai. Further, the early portions of the game are almost identical to the arcade original. The original Kiki Kaikai isn't awful, but it's far from exemplary. The few new elements this game brings to the table still have nothing on what the previous Pocky and Rocky games had. All of this reeks of minimal effort. It's not a bad game, but Pocky and Rocky with Becky isn't worth playing over any of its predecessors.

Word Count: 1,016

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