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Released in 1993, Pocky and Rocky is an SNES top-down shoot 'em up from Natsume. You play as either Pocky or Rocky and make your way through cute Japanese-themed stages, including a horrible raft ride and oppressive lag. There's also a two-player mode, wherein you can collide with each other to rebound through rooms and generally be awesome. The game was well-received and is still considered a hidden gem.

PockyRocky   PockyRocky

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With Co-Op: 0:22:09 by Kyle 'Mr. K' Halversen, Patrick 'PJ' DiCesare

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Mr. K's comments

Game Mechanics
Double Dash - This is a game breaking mechanic. When Pocky and Rocky slide into each other they both go flying. They move at sliding speed and they are almost invulnerable. While the angles they fly at may seem random we found a way to control it. If Pocky and Rocky collide at a 135 degree angle and Pocky slides last then both characters will move together in the direction opposite of where Pocky is facing. While a few of the slides are forgiving most are pixel perfect. Each time you do this move each player loses one heart of life. You can't do this move unless both partners have at least one and a half hearts of health.

Bombs - Bombs are the other game breaking mechanic. Bombs do 200 damage every frame. Taking into account the 4 frame invincibility window of bosses , I've gotten a single bomb from Rocky to do 1800 damage. For reference most bosses have 2048 health. Pocky and Rocky's bombs do the same amount of damage per frame but the way that Rocky's bomb spreads out allows bosses to be kept in its range longer making Rocky the ideal candidate to use bombs.

You can pick up a bomb in stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. You can also collect bombs from sages. There are 7 different sages that are triggered randomly based on the frame that you advance the cutscene at the beginning of the stage. That's really hard to do intentionally and so we'll just say there is a 3 in 7 chance of getting a sage at each opportunity. We trigger the sage in stages 1, 2, 4, and 5. Getting the sage in stage 3 is a big detour that is not worth it. There is no sage in stage 6. This run got sages in stages 1 and 5. This is acceptable, but not ideal.

Pressing the B button makes you do a wag animation. Pocky swings her magic wand and Rocky wags his magical tanooki tail. Wagging deflects most of the game's enemy projectiles and does an unimpressive 4 damage to things. There is a bit of a delay between pressing B and when the wag comes out so timing is important. This makes the game a balance between attack and defense. Pocky and Rocky each have B button charge attacks. Pocky will spin rapidly and can brush away projectiles in all directions. Rocky will turn into a tanooki statue and become invincible and immobile (think Mario 3). The charge mechanic is used once in stage 3 by Pocky.

The shield can take two hits of damage of any kind (except getting crushed or falling) and it prevents you from getting pushed back when you get hit.

Any attack from a weapon does 16 damage regardless of which one it is or its upgrades.

There is your default weapon and then there are two upgrades
Level 1 Fire - This is exactly the same damage as the cards/leaves
Level 2 Fire - This has a slight scatter effect that can hit nearby enemies
Level 3 Fire - (we call it double fire) Twice the range of level 2 fire before it hits. When it hits something it splits off until it leaves the screen or hits a wall. While ideal for single player fire can cause a lot of lag depending on how much of it is on the screen. The split off can be useful in places like stage 5. The split off does the same damage

Level 1 Spread - Slightly improved range
Level 2 Spread - Even better range
Level 3 Spread - Approximately the same range as level 2 spread, but with better speed. Even when fully upgraded spread does not lag the game as much as fire

Character select Screen - Not bad but would've been better

Stage 1
The objective for this stage is to not die and get the bomb. The first patch of the skeletons is the most difficult and random part in this stage. It is the primary reason why there are not more double dashes. We have one double dash in this stage through the little maze and it goes well. It is easy to take damage on the bridge as well due to the high volume of enemies. Stage 1 is a disproportionately difficult stage. The boss fight goes well. We stagger ourselves so that our attacks will hit at different times. This is because of the 4 frame boss invulnerability window. In the way of AI manipulation, we want the boss to not do the rolling attack which he doesn't. The boss will tend to do this if you are in front of him. For the rapid acorn fire attack Pocky blocks and Rocky rocks him.

Stage 2
We hit the first double dash without incident. We stop to kill the first harpies. Harpies are the most problematic enemy in the game. They can fly around wherever they want (even through walls) and when they fly high they are invulnerable. They take several hits to kill and they like to get close and throw projectiles. We later discovered that it's possible (though extremely difficult) to double dash and ignore the harpie with excellent luck and execution. We did not have enough time to include this strategy in an attempt. We technically missed the second double dash, but this is one of those rare situations where missed double dash still works. We were able to get past the obstacles on the way to the first cyclops without stopping. There's not a lot to say about the cyclops fight. There's a lot of lag there and there's not much we can do about it. PJ pauses for a bit as we go through the forest to let me get further ahead without having to stop and kill the sprouts. The harpies on the way to the bamboo boss were very cooperative. Speaking of the bamboo boss, having Pocky destroy it while Rocky does nothing is actually the best strategy. We take advantage of the fire disperse effect. The fire hits the little spawns in front of the boss, but the dispersal goes through and hits the boss directly. Also, in case you are wondering you can't bomb this boss as the boss will jump after getting hit by the bomb and not take full damage. There is one more double dash at the end of the fight. We were a little off on the third double dash. This is one of the most difficult ones to line up, but it still turned out okay. There's not a lot to say on the raft section. We didn't get a bomb here. The boss is just too easy with spread. This boss is cycle based and using a bomb does not speed it up.

Stage 3.
We hit the first dash here rather quickly. We hit the first double dash and then tiptoe through the graveyard. Pocky's B charge attack helps us get through the last group of bats on the way to the first boss fight. The skeleton got his reward. The quick kill here requires precise timing and PJ delivers. The next section goes reasonably well. The genie takes a beating thanks to PJ's wiggletron tactics. The cliff section is a tough spot in the run. I hate the cliffs so much. The cliffs move in cycles so you have to reach a certain point before the next cycle to avoid losing time. When you get to the section of the cliffs where you have to collect the bomb things become very difficult. I manage to collect a bomb with PJ's help without us missing a cycle. PJ has to open the present for me to get the bomb and I have to plow through the skulls to avoid missing a cycle. The shield here prevents knockback. Lag management here is so tough. We could've done a little better with the bats but this area is so crazy that I'm rather satisfied with it. PJ shows his strength and gets another quick kill on the boss. I actually lent him my controller.

Stage 4
We begin the stage with the most glorious double dash in the game. There are no more angles that allow for a double dash until the last bridge and so we charge through and tank damage. No bomb from the sage unfortunately. Our second and final double dash was quite interesting. PJ manages to flick away a bat and connect the double dash at the last possible opportunity. You can still trigger a double dash if you slide into your team mate if your partner hasn't gotten up yet. The rest of the stage is pretty much just auto scrolling. For the boss fight, I tried a risky mechanic and that's getting in close while the boss targets Pocky. Usually we wait until the boss does the swooping move. While we can save time using this strategy we don't lose a significant amount of time with it.

Stage 5
This is the hardest stage in the game. We hit the first three double dashes dead on. PJ starts taking damage on purpose to take out to severely damage the enemies near the door. We had to abort the fifth double dash attempt and try again, but we didn't miss it. The spiked ball section is just painful. You can't double dash through it and we made do with what we had. PJ bumps into me by accident but I had just enough health to do a double dash. The boss fight was absolutely perfect. We both used bombs and it destroyed the boss instantly. If you do not bomb the vampire boss immediately he will fly around the screen randomly and he takes a long time to kill. For the second phase of the fight, unless you have double fire, the bats this spawns will surround him and eat up most of the damage you do.

Stage 6
This stage is dash city. We can dash with no obstructions. The first two dashes on the boss work great. I bump into PJ by accident but it doesn't cost much time. The armor mid boss has an unusual hitbox and doesn't takes slightly less bomb damage than other bosses. I have a bomb to spare so I use it and armor falls quickly. I use a special strategy on the Black Mantle fight. Black Mantle has 4096 health - double what regular bosses have and he's ordinarily not vulnerable until at least one statue is destroyed. If you bomb at the right time you can damage Black Mantle and destroy the statues at the same time. This skips the statue attack cycle and saves a lot of time. We dispatch Back Mantle fairly quickly with three bombs.

Overall I'm happy that we didn't make any major mistakes on the double dashes and got all of the boss quick kills in this run so I can settle with it for now.

PJ's comments

I'd like to give a big thanks to the whole SDA crew for everything they do for all of us! Another big thanks to SDA for putting on AGDQ every year, which not only made this run possible, but also is the best week of the year for me, every year. And last but not least, the biggest thanks to Mr. K for agreeing to co-op this run with me and doing a majority of the planning for the run! Definitely exceeded expectations. 10/10 partner.

Mr. K did an exceptionally good job of highlighting the strong points and improvable parts of this run, so I suppose I will give some more backstory to this run for those interested.

A long time ago, I was playing Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts with the dagger. I always liked the torch and found out that it might be faster to use than the dagger. I started routing the game with torch and got through the first 5 levels with very promising results. Stages 6 and 7 were a huge problem for me though, so I was close to giving up. Mr. K stepped in though, as a proud supporter of fire, and told me that if I run SGnG with torch, he would co-op any game with me. I couldn't turn down this opportunity, so I finished routing SGnG and told Mr. K his destiny.

Pocky & Rocky is a game I have some experience with because I did a score run a few years ago for TG. I loved the game but never went further with it. I had a few other options picked out, but Mr. K and I both grew very fond of this game. Things started getting real serious though when we found out about the double dash. There was a video of this trick posted in an abandoned TASvideos thread, but there was no explanation on how it was done. We spent a long time figuring out how to control the direction and aim the dash. When we finally learned how to work it, I spent awhile looking for a load of places to dash and came up with some really crazy angles that barely worked. Mr. K routed basically the entire game: powerup route, boss strats, bomb route, sage route, etc. I found the dashes. That's it. Haha. In the end it worked out really well though; I let Mr. K use Rocky because the game was forced on him and Rocky is cuter. Rocky has the stronger bomb, and Mr. K is the stronger planner, so it just happened to work out really well. I was left with Pocky who basically sucks, but she gets to control the dash which kind of suits my planning and interests better. Very convenient.

That being said, we somehow got this game added to the AGDQ2012 schedule without Mike even knowing what it was. We had to practice in secret the entire time, and over Netplay since Mr. K and I are like 3500 miles apart. He touched on the challenges with that: mainly, the input lag and lack of in-game lag. We finally adjusted to the input lag just fine, but our entire route was based on how it was playing in ZSNES. When we showed up to AGDQ, it behaved COMPLETELY differently on console and I had a lot of trouble setting up the dashes *without* the lag. I was early on all of them so they never worked. We had to reroute the entire game on site, with very limited time and resources, and then do attempts after the game was revealed after its time slot in AGDQ. Very non-ideal situation in which to do a speed run. However, we did finish a few runs, of which this was the best.

Mr. K went into the level-by-level notes and we both talked about it in the audio commentary so I won't bore you with it again. The run is pretty solid considering our situation, but we definitely want to improve upon it sometime. We came up with a lot of new strats during attempts and during rerouting that we just didn't have time to finalize. This is still a good run though, and a very good start for Pocky & Rocky. I really hope that all of you enjoy watching this run as much as we enjoyed this whole process. I'm looking forward to improving this run, but enjoy this until then!

With Rocky, Normal Difficulty: 0:21:29 by 'Akisto'

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Author's comments:

Game Mechanics

Dashing - Dashing is faster than walking even though you have a slight recovery time at the end of a dash. However if you get hit during a dash there is no recovery time. In stage 5 you can technically dash over the spikeballs during 1 frame without getting hit.

Bombs - Bombs are broken in this game and if positioned correctly can do up to 2000 Damage, most bosses have 2048 hp so you can quickly finnish most bosses with these. Rocky's bombs are superior to Pocky's as they spread rather than going in a cross making Rocky's bombs way easier to allow us to do more damage.

You can pick up bombs in Stage 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6. There are 'hidden' objects that you can destroy in all stages but 6 that spawns a age. Sages have a 3/7 to drop a bomb with the exception of stage 2 that has a 1/7.
there is a 1/7 to get a sage that drops a riding dog while dropping a bomb as well. The sages are generally no RNG, depending on what frame you end the cutscenes before each stage will give you what sage, so I am trying to manipulate the sages to spawn by using visual cues in the cutscenes.

Wagging - Pressing B button makes you do a wag animation. You can deflect most projectiles in the game and if you are standing close enough to hit the enemy it deals 4 damage per hit. Reflecting projectiles on enemies does 32-64 damage(depending on what kind of projectile it is). Holding B causes you to turn into a statue for a brief moment that makes you invulnerable to damage which is useless in this speedrun.

Finishing a stage without dying gives you +1 maxhealth for the next stage.

Shield - Gives you a sort of sonic looking shield that lets you take 2 hits of any kind, it also prevents you from knockback when you take a hit.

Sandwhich - Gives you full health.

Teacup - Gives you some health.

Any attack does 16 damage regardless of upgrade, however fire can hit huge sprites twice. All enemies have a 4 frame invulnerability window making more projectiles hit not count. You can reset your attack animation to shot faster by pressing any direction on the dpad.

Level 1 - 1 Leaf
Level 2 - 2 Leafs
Level 3 - 2 Big leafs
Level 4 - 3 Big leafs

Level 1 - 1 Tiny fire
Level 2 - 1 Big fire, with minor splash
Level 3 - 2 Combined Fires, with big splash.

Stage 1
I upgrade myself to get fire on this stage as it will help on the first boss and in stage 2 and 3. The beginning of this stage is pretty hard with the skeletons going at full speed without taking a hit.
The boss seems somewhat luckbased, he can do 3 kinds of things. If youre behind a bit behind him he'll turn into a ball and dash downwards(Bad). If youre next to him on the sides he will never become a ball. He will then do 2 diffrent things, Throw some nuts(?) on you all over the screen(bad) or he will stop moving for a few seconds to spit out nuts. If you reflect those nuts back at him it deals huge amount of damage.
When the boss is dead you can wag his basket for a 1-up sage that is the only 1-up sage available in the game to my knowledge.

Stage 2
Beginning is pretty straight forward dash and more dashing. Until we reach the annoying birds, because what would a game be without annoying birds? Their movement is heavily luckbased as to when we reach the bombdrop from the "chest" the 2 birds are really annoying because the boss doesn't spawn until you kill both of them, and if you kill them as soon as they spawn without moving the screen a bit they'll instantly respawn. The annoying part is that they tend to go off-screen making you unable to hit them. Just before the boss I also pick up a shield that box is actually RNG. It can contain a Tea-cup or a Shield. Shield saves you a bit of time to dboosting after the boss.

Not much to say after the boss it's a autoscrolling scene that is coming up and then the real boss. The octopus boss is straight forward. He submerges after he has been dealt a total of 100 damage.

Stage 3
Straight forward beginning. I trigger the 3rd sage which to my luck is a bomb sage however to some unluck he flies offscreen and drops the bomb out of bounds..
When I reach the Lich boss I position myself in a specific way to manipulate what kind of attacks he is going to do. He has 3 diffrent ones, Freeze(best), fire(good) and throwing knives(bad) as I avoid getting throwing knives.
Once you beat him you enter a house with some kind of gauntlet where monsters spawn until you destroy a Joker at the very end and you enter a room with another miniboss that we quickly destroy with a bomb.

Then it's back to another autoscroller. We need a shield to be able to pick up the bomb and do a cycle skip, it is extremly hard to pick up the bomb and still do a cycle skip without getting knockbacked into the pit.
At the end Lich is back, I However miss the instant bomb kill on him.

Stage 4
Dashing like crazy, until I spawn the sage to my surprise it's a Dog+bomb sage, running the Dog makes you Invulnerable to damage so you can just jump past everything at the very end there is a gauntlet that leads to another autoscroller.
The end boss is really tricky to bomb due to his movement.

Stage 5
This is all about dodgeing and dboosting, getting past room 1 without dying while still going at a good speed is close to impossible due to the RNG movements of monsters.
Room 2 is heavily affected by RNG at the spikeball area sometimes you can get 0 balls at the row youre moving sometimes they just keep spawning even if you might manage to dash over a ball another one might be coming to squish you. I end up getting a bomb sage here, sadly no dog. The Dracula boss is by far the most annoying one and is needed to bomb otherwise he takes ages to kill as he tends to run offscreen.
Stage 6

Beginning is all about dashing and avoiding projectiles and bumping into enemies. The Miniboss can easily be killed by just standing inside of him or behind. I keep pressing my to increase my speed of shooting to kill him off really quick.

Mantra has twice the HP of the bosses requireing atleast 2 bombs on top of that you can't damage him until you destroy his statues. So we quickly use our bombs and destroy him, note I delay the bombs in a way to make them do as much damage as I possibly can.

I'd like the timing for this game to be changed from "control of character" to the start after selecting character as we do actually start manipulating the game in the cut scene to the first stage.

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