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Video Game / Pocky & Rocky
aka: Kiki Kai Kai

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Pocky & Rocky (Japanese: 奇々怪界, Kiki Kaikai, "Strange and Mysterious World") is a series of run-and-gun video games originally created by Taito. The game started with Kiki Kaikai for arcade, but the first game that received official international release was the SNES installment Pocky & Rocky, whose name has stuck since.

The series features various adventures of a young Miko named Pocky (Sayo-Chan in Japan), who usually has to save the Seven Lucky Gods and the boat they were in. Joined by her fellow tanuki Rocky (Manuke), she must fight everything in her way, most of which consist of various odd Youkai. Due to its feudal Japan setting, Pocky doesn't use usual projectiles like typical run-and-gun protagonists and is instead equipped with rapid-fire Ofuda and a Gohei.

The series consists of the following games:

  • Kiki Kaikai (Arcade, 1986)
    • The first installment in the series, this game was only released in Japan. It was re-released in Taito Legends 2 (all versions).
  • Kiki Kaikai: Dotouhen (Famicom Disk System, 1987)
  • Pocky & Rocky (SNES, 1992)
    • First game released in the west and first Co-op game of the series. This game was developed and published by Natsume.
  • Pocky & Rocky 2 (SNES, 1994)
    • This game features changeable sidekicks instead of two equal characters. Also developed and published by Natsume.
  • Pocky & Rocky with Becky (GBA, 2001)
    • Despite similarly titled name, this installment goes back to the roots by re-introducing the systems of the first game. Developed by Altron, but still published by Natsume in the US. Miki is renamed to Becky to keep the naming scheme.
  • Pocky & Rocky Reshrined (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Steam, 2022)
    • A direct sequel to the SNES Pocky & Rocky, produced by Tengo Project, the same team in Natsume that developed the SNES games.

The series also have a Spiritual Successor with Heavenly Guardian, which is the result of the developers losing the license after Taito was bought out by Square Enix.

Pocky/Sayo-Chan herself appears in many other Taito games. She appears as a boss in the NES port of Rainbow Islands, as the designated Miko for any of the Taito-made Jinsei Game ports, a whole Pocky & Rocky-themed level set with a Pocky-form Rocky included in Bubble Symphony, as a selectable character in Pop N Pop and Space Invaders '95 and as a DLC character for Elevator Action Deluxe.

Pocky was also an inspiration for various characters in medias, notably Sayo Yuuki from Castle of Shikigami and Reimu Hakurei from Touhou Project. The latter was closer in appearance in the early games of her series created by ZUN, who worked for Taito before becoming indie later (he derived his name from Taito's in-house music team Zuntata) and was a fan of Darius Gaiden.

Pocky & Rocky provides examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: In Reshrined, Ikazuchi and Hotaru Gozen are prominently featured on the game's box art and trailer, but the Story Mode only has one of them appear in Stage 5 and switches between them on each playthrough, leaving the other to never even be mentioned.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: Averted with the original Pocky & Rocky (though the box design was almost completely different from the in-game design). Sure enough, however, by 1994 the Western box art for Pocky & Rocky 2 has the characters looking less cute and much angrier.
  • Asian Fox Spirit: One of the original bosses in the arcade game, he uses his tails to smack away Pocky's shots and summons little foxes to chase her. He reappears in the second SNES game (localized as "Foxy") as a masked human, though he returns to his original form when close to defeat.
  • Badass Adorable: Pocky/Sayo-Chan is an absolutely adorable and good-natured little girl who bravely goes up against all sorts of Youkai-related threats and has a strong sense of justice.
  • Big Good: Reshrined has Ame-no-Uzume, who saves Pocky after she's felled by Black Mantle and enables her to continue on with her quest.
  • Bowdlerise: Ame-no-Uzume's artwork covers more of her bust with her robe in international console versions of Reshrined, although her gameplay sprite remains as is. The Steam version uses her original Japanese design in all regions, however.
  • Clothing Damage: Pocky's health meter in Pocky & Rocky 2. Her clothes are tattered (but not to Fanservice levels) when she has one hit left, and she can collect armor and bunny ears for one extra hit each. If you're familiar with the health system of the first Ghosts 'n Goblins game made by Capcom, then you should know the full story.
  • Cultural Translation:
    • The youkai were renamed "Nopino Goblins" in the intro for Pocky & Rocky, while the Western Yokai Army is referred to collectively as "Gorgonzola Goblins".
    • In Pocky & Rocky 2, all of the names were changed to Western ones. References to Japanese folklore are changed (Momotarou became "Captain Peach", for example), Pocky's Ofuda and Gohei are called "magic cards" and a "magic wand", and the kanji on said cards are replaced with hearts (though the giant kanji in Bomber Bob's throw attack was left intact). It's still a relatively minor example, as the hearts were the only visual change and everything still looks and feels very Japanese.
  • Cute 'em Up: The game looks like an anime where everyone is super deformed.
  • Difficulty by Region: The Japanese version of Pocky & Rocky with Becky had One-Hit-Point Wonder characters and no save system. Its North American version gave two hit points to the characters and added a password system.
  • Digital Bikini: In the international console versions of Reshrined, Ame no Uzume's outfit was edited to cover up her originally quite prominent cleavage (though her gameplay sprite seems to remain as is). Her cutscene portrait in the international console versions also covers her chest with her robe more than her Japanese one. The Steam version uses her original Japanese design in all regions.
  • The Dragon: Impy is the lead enforcer of Dynagon in Pocky & Rocky 2, and the one who kidnaps Princess Luna for him at the start of the game.
  • Dub Name Change: Everyone in the SNES games. Sayo-Chan becomes Pocky. Manuke becomes Rocky. The youkai become the Nopino Goblins. This was kept in later games like Reshrined, where while the three new playable characters, Ikazuchi, Ame no Uzume, and Hotaru Gozen, keep their Japanese names, Sayo-Chan and Manuke are still called Pocky and Rocky in the English version by virtue of the Grandfather Clause.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Rocky/Manuke, the last boss of the original game, allies with Pocky after getting attacked by some bigger demons than him in Pocky & Rocky. He genuinely becomes Pocky's friend after this game.
  • Flechette Storm: The fifth boss, a mountain hag named Sanba (localized as "Canimal" in Pocky & Rocky 2), uses this attack. She fires knives in volleys of three or five across the screen.
  • Fusion Dance:
    • The Magic in Pocky & Rocky 2 seems to be a Power Booster type, except for Scarecrow and Ottobot, whom Pocky just rides.
    • In Reshrined, when Pocky is killed by Black Mantle and sent to the afterlife, Ame-no-Uzume teaches her how to possess others. Uzume offers her body to help Pocky escape the Underworld, and Pocky later assists Ikazuchi or Hotaru Gozen in the same way to fight through Black Mantle's airship fleet.
  • Go for the Eye: The first-level arcade boss, a bean creature named Zuzu, can have its eyes shot out with Sayo-Chan's ofuda.
  • Improbable Weapon User: The fifth boss is a prayer bead monk turned to evil; he actually uses his prayer beads like a whip and can hit you from the other side of the screen.
  • Karakasa: The recurring umbrella enemies named Umby (Kasabee in Japan), playing off the Eyelid Pull Taunt.
  • Kid Hero: Despite being a really young and small child, Pocky/Sayo-Chan is also a courageous and heroic child who does not hesistate to protect the innocent and her home from any evil Youkai forces that'd dare threathen it. Reshrined further cements and confirms this status by showing that she is much smaller in size than Ame No Umzen and Hotaru Gozen, who inversely are much taller than her and Rocky/Manuke, in the character selection screen and that Ame No Umzen cleary refers to Pocky/Sayo-Chan as a "child" in her introductory scene.
  • Love Goddess: In Pocky & Rocky Reshrined, the Shinto goddess Ame-no-Uzume is a new playable character. She launches magical swords as her main attack.
  • Mascot Mook: The Puka Pukas, which are cute ghost wisps.
  • Meta Twist: Reshrined seems like a remake of the first SNES game, up until the end of the second stage when Black Mantle appears earlier on and kills Pocky. It's then revealed he used Time Travel to undo his first defeat, and the game diverges significantly from then on.
  • Miko: Pocky is a standard example. Dotouhen introduced another one, Becky.
  • Nintendo Hard: The games have the typical high difficulty of the genre, but especially the original arcade: One-hit deaths, kicking you back instead of continuing right where you left off if you lose a life (most vexing when you die on a boss battle), and erratic AI patterns who often have projectiles of their own. Even worse, the first boss of the game is actually harder than the next few bosses.
  • Nostalgia Level: Reshrined contains levels that are Call Backs to the first Pocky & Rocky game for the SNES. The first two levels of Reshrined are practically remakes of the first two levels from the SNES game, and the rest of the game contains sections almost straight out of the SNES game.
  • The One Guy: In Pocky & Rocky: Reshrined, Rocky is the only male of the five playable characters.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Played straight in the first game, which is why it's so difficult. Also the Japanese version of Pocky & Rocky with Becky, but not the North American version (see Difficulty by Region above).
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Impy fights Pocky multiple times in Pocky & Rocky 2 after developing a rivalry with her and becoming determined to be the one who defeats her.
  • Orochi: The final boss of Pocky & Rocky with Becky seems to be one, unleashing his eight heads in waves (one head, two, four, then one more) before you defeat them all and it transforms into a more ghost-like snake wreathed in flames.
  • Palette Swap: Becky/Miki is essentially a green version of Pocky/Sayo-Chan.
  • Paper Talisman: Pocky uses them as ranged weapons.
  • Power-Up Letdown: In at least the TurboGrafx-16 version of Kiki Kaikai, the blue power-ups increase your range — but they also give the bosses more health to compensate.
  • Raiju: Ikazuchi, one of the three new playable characters in Reshrined, is a weasel-like creature who has weather based powers and primarily fights using lightning-based projectiles. Her character blurb in the game's character trailer even outright calls her a Raiju (or Thunder Beast in English).
  • Recurring Boss: Zuzu, the bean-throwing youkai, is the first boss of almost every game in the series; Pocky & Rocky with Becky is the only game where he doesn't appear. In the second SNES game, Zuzu appears in the training stage as a target to practice throwing your partner at.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Takuan/Bomber Bob and Shinobi/Little Ninja in the second SNES game. Nothing is said as to who they are or how they know Pocky, but they and Rocky are the initial group of partners.
  • Samurai: Hotaru Gozen in Pocky & Rocky Reshrined. She comes decked out in full armor and wields a sword, bow, and naginata.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Black Mantle in Reshrined and by extension the first SNES game. Her real name is Anna, a priestess from the far West who became possessed by the evil demon Gastaroth after he destroyed her village and drove her into rage and despair.
  • Spread Shot:
    • In Pocky & Rocky, collecting blue power-ups gives you an Initial Burst.
    • In Pocky & Rocky 2, Sayo-Chan/Pocky's first power-up gives you a Spray Burst.
    • In Pocky & Rocky with Becky, Initial Burst is Becky's power.
  • Tanuki: Rocky, of course. There is also a much meaner armored tanuki who serves as a miniboss in Pocky & Rocky 2.
  • Tengu:
    • The third level arcade boss is one. It's of the mountain monk variety, complete with leaves in its hands. Its main attack is blowing fire from its snout but if Pocky tries to circle around the creature, it uses its leaves to blast Pocky with air. Smaller tengu appear in the first SNES games as enemies, often circling Pocky before throwing wind gusts at her.
    • In the second SNES game, Tengy is a friendly tengu who will join Pocky in rescuing Princess Luna and appears to be based on those seen in the previous game. He can fly over pits and throw leaf fans that will somewhat home in on enemies.
    • The first boss of Pocky & Rocky with Becky is "Crow Tengu". He wields a staff instead of leaf fans.
  • Time Stands Still: The blue orbs in the arcade game freeze all enemies when used.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Black Mantle from Pocky & Rocky, Orochi from Pocky & Rocky with Becky, and Gastaroth from Reshrined are considerably more sinister and intimidating than the other villains in the franchise who either have goofy moments or some sympathetic traits.
  • Wicked Weasel: Averted in Pocky & Rocky Reshrined. Ikazuchi, an itachi with power over lightning and ice, is one of the new playable characters.
  • Youkai: By the metric ton. The first game alone covers numerous youkais like Asian Fox Spirit, Karakasa, and Tanuki.
  • Zigzag Paper Tassel: Pocky uses an ōnusa as a weapon. She also makes a point of waving it over the shrine before she leaves at the start of the game.

Alternative Title(s): Kiki Kai Kai