This was the first Pocky & Rocky I had ever played - apparently the original is also on SNES, and there’s a GBA one called Pocky & Rocky With Becky. Odd that I don’t hear much about these games, but this one at least is really fun.
The setting, artwork, and colors are really captivating, it’s very easy to get into the whole Pocky & Rocky world.
There are some pretty fun mechanics in this game such as knowing when to use the wand vs throwing projectiles, when to pick up items because you need them vs using an ally to pick them up for more score points (every 10k score points grants an extra life)
The health and lives system were very inscrutable to me at first, even after having read the manual. I think I had a hard time seeing when I got hit, not having a “health bar” threw me off. The whole system does actually work well though, once you understand what’s happening.
I don’t think I have ever seen a game with a steeper difficulty ramp. The vast majority of the game is a fun little cute-‘em-up. I was even able to finish some of the much later levels without using a continue. The final boss, however, was an absolute nightmare. The level is a nightmare, everything you have to do to get to the final boss (including a mid-boss) is annoying, and you have to do it from the beginning of the level every time you lose. Eventually I figured out a system, but the last 5% of the game probably took me more time than the earlier 95%. It was such a slog.