Pocky & Rocky
Natsume may not be a big player in the video game industry. Hell, if it weren't for the Harvest Moon series, the company probably would have gone under years ago. But aside from releasing games about growing vegetables, Natsume isn't all that bad. In 1993, they released a pretty decent game called Pocky & Rocky. The game follows a girl and a raccoon as they battle evil forces in an aerial-view 2D world. I'm sure you all know that history has a great legacy of rodents named Rocky: the titular star of this game, Rocket J. Squirrel, and Dwayne Johnson just to name a few. Oh dear, I'm sorry. It was wrong of me to say that; a raccoon is a mammal, and not a rodent. I apologize. There is no historical significance to the name Pocky, however. Pocky is a fad candy that is ridiculously huge in Japan. So much so that it has spawned "What Flavor of Pocky Are You?" surveys. I don't think I need to tell you how much surveys suck, but I guess I just did, so... yeah. Needless to say, I was quite surprised to discover just how popular this pocky stuff was. I was under the impression that Hirajuku girls only ate bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. This is getting awkward, so let's move on to the game. In Pocky & Rocky, your controller does stuff, so let me hit you with that shit.
D-pad: If you don't know what the D-pad does in an aerial view game, you probably don't know what a D-pad is either. Go away.
Select: It doesn't do anything. It never does anything.
Start: Again, if you don't know what start does, you should have gone away by now.
Y: Hold to fire a rapid succession of projectiles. Pocky throws cards, Rocky throws leaves, but they're essentially the same.
X: Dive. It's really useful for getting out of the way quickly, and there's not much recovery time needed before you can dive again. I forgot about this ability for the first few minutes I played, so needless to say, I got my ass handed to me more than once.
A: Fire a single projectile. You will never use A.
B: Swing your stick or tail. This ability has very limited range, but unlike Scrooge McDuck's cane swinging move from Duck Tales (NES), this ability is actually useful, and damn well necessary if you hope to beat the game. Not only does it kill enemies, but it also destroys virtually all projectiles fired at you, and it has roughly a 180 degree radius.
L and R: Set bad guys up the bomb. It's a conventional clutch bomb. You know how it works.
There are also some things that you can pick up that give you various degrees of power. These are traditionally known as power-ups.
Blue Orb. This is a power-up for your cards. First you get a two card spray, then bigger cards, then three big cards.
Red Orb. This turns your cards into fireballs. They only fire straight, but are more powerful, and at max power, they explode on impact.
Rice Balls. This, and other foods, restore different levels of health.
Tag. The tag gives you a shield that will absorb two hits before disappearing.
Bombs. This little green orbs is the bomb.
Extra Life. Little red orbs give you a 1-UP.
Le Tigre. You jump on the back of a tiger-like thing, and ride around invincible.
Got all that? Good. Let's move on to the game.
So the story goes that the Nopino goblins went on a rampage once, but Pocky kicked a whole lot of goblin ass and they settled down. Then one day, while Pocky was minding her own business eating some ramen noodles, Rocky busts in saying that the goblins are up to their old shenanigans. Pocky asks why, but all Rocky knows is that he was s taking a nap when he was woken up by goblins trying to sodomize him. Before the duo can leave though, a Nopino's Witness shows up at the door with a prophecy of pain.
The first level is the Enchanted Shrine. The first enemies you see are a line of fireballs that fly around like they're lost Galaga drones. If you manage to kill all of them, you get a power-up. Garunga! Continuing on you'll find ghosts, poltergeists and mutant umbrellas. I don't know why you fight mutant umbrellas, but I know better than to try and figure it out. When you get to the top of the screen, it starts to rain. Now, you've already fought ghosts, so a spontaneous rainstorm can't be good, and it isn't. As you proceed to the right, zombies crawl out of the ground and try to bone you. Luckily you can deflect their attacks by whacking the bone with your stick. This strategy also works well against men who are overly touchy-feely. As you continue along, you'll see a frog sitting on a lily pad. Blast the hell out of it and a genie pops out, dropping three power-ups. I tried this at home once, going down to a nearby marsh with a potato gun. I must have blasted a dozen frogs, but to no avail. Then PETA showed up. They didn't shit out genies either, but they were more fun to shoot at with the potato gun. Once you reach the end of your eastward journey, the rain stops and you fight a pissed-off gumdrop. Another northerly trek leads you to the first boss.
At this point I'd like to point out a continuity error. This ugly fucker is the guy that showed up at the end of the intro, yet for some reason, you have to go through an entire level before you get to fight him. I guess he must have run away after kicking Pocky's door in. Seems like these Nopino goblins are not only crazy, but they're assholes as well. The first boss has three attacks. First, he reaches into his basket and throws seeds at you. They don't move particularly fast, but can be tricky to dodge. His next attack involves him spitting a stream of seeds at you. This attack is more difficult to dodge, as it lasts for a long time. The final attack is awesome! He rolls up into a ball and tries to crush you. This has got to be the most original attack ever. I mean, I've never seen anything like it. Not in Duck Tales, or Whomp 'Em, or Mega Man X. After you pound the crap out of this guy, his basket floats around the top of the screen. Set off a bomb, and the basket will bounce around the screen really fast. Then a cat will appear and give you a 1-up. There may or may not be a sexual innuendo in that sentence, but I'm not really sure.
After you beat the first boss he reveals that he and the other Nopino goblins were out doing magic mushrooms in the woods. Then this guy wearing a black mantle came along and busted up their party by zapping them all with some sort of mind control ray. So it's off to the Enchanted Woods for our heroes. The woods is significantly longer than the first level, possibly because you have to fight four mini-bosses along the way. The first part of the level has you running through the forest dodging erratic monkeys. Then you fight a giant fire-spewing cyclops. After that you run through more forest trying not to get sodomized by little pointy plants that follow you underground and try to pop up underneath you. If you manage to protect your rectum, you'll come face to face with the second miniboss who proclaims, "If you want to know where Black Mantle is, you'll have to beat me." So either this guy was listening in on your conversation from before, or the evil boss is named after his clothing. Call me a purist, but when did it become acceptable to be lazy when picking a name for villains? I mean Mother Brain, Megatron and Darth Vader are cool evil names. Black Mantle, Dr. Claw, and the Man in the Big Yellow Hat are not. This miniboss easily falls victim to the JSTFS strategy, or Just Stand There and Fucking Shoot. Moving on, the level goes through some rocky terrain bringing you to another fire-breathing cyclops. After you kill this guy, you jump on a raft and float downriver a ways before you get bombarded with a ludicrous number of enemies at the same time. There are turtles that pop up out of the water and spit phlegm at you. There's also crabs that fall out of bubbles and charge at you. Along with those, turtles jump onto the raft and try to drag you into the water. And on top of all that, there's a turtle on a raft throwing bombs at you! If you manage to survive this lunacy, you get to fight the second level boss.
This boss has a fairly simplistic attack pattern, but it isn't all that easy. Being that you're on a raft, diving can be counter productive. It may suck to drown, but drowning with a face full of splinters is just embarrassing. The dragon-looking tentacles rise out of the water and shoot fireballs at you if you don't hit them a couple times first. The head pops out at one side of the raft and moves across with his watergun attack. It's kinda like that hallway scene from the first Resident Evil movie, except this is a blue stream of water instead of a red laser, and when the boss gets near death, he doesn't turn the line into a cross-thatch and puree your ass. As you do more damage, the attacks come faster and more frequently. Eventually though, he just keels over and dies. Pocky and Rocky then have a chat with the guy who was winging ACME bombs at you, and we find out that Black Mantle was talking to a strange goblin in the cemetery at the bottom of the river. Cemeteries. Damn it, I hate cemeteries.
Can Pocky and Rocky save the Nopino goblins?
Will I get over my fear of zombie-infested burial grounds?
Will Pocky ever become a popular snack in the western hemisphere?
The world may never know... or will it?