A recent article I read in Business 2.0 stated that the gaming business
is now second only to Hollywood movies in terms of market size. Is that
revenue? Profit? Audience? Regardless, that's quite a step from the
humble days of coin-op arcades and kids hording over the Game Boy. Now
that game and film have to be promoted in tandem by publishers,
developers are not waiting for around for the next big movie. Rather,
they must have struck on the novel idea to promote games based on older
movies that were box office hits.
Rocky is one such hit. It's really an American trademark that single
handedly lifted Sylvester Stallone to stardom. In contrast, there's
nothing particularly glamorous about this game on the Game Boy Advance.
Let's start with what's available. Rocky features quick bouts and
exhibition modes in a variety of locales with a number of generic boxers
of varying skills. The developers have also thrown in the movie boxers
(there were many Rocky antagonists of course) to spice up the lot and
they too have attributes. Even Rocky has attributes too. He's not
Mohammed Ali, after all, and there is a 'campaign' or career mode that
lets you train Rocky into the formidable boxer that he becomes on the
silver screen. After winning fights, you can put Rocky in a gym and
complete mini-game like tasks to advance his attributes.
All this would really matter if Rocky needed the training in the first
place. As it stands, Rocky is fairly capable of taking down all of his
opponents namely because the enemy AI runs at the same level for
everyone. Without even mastering any of the combos, you're able to
easily take down to take down all of his opponents. A few simple ducks
and a persistent punch won't win you any glamorous knockouts but it will
wear the opponent down to the ground after a few rounds. (Multiply that
number for a few more rounds for the more difficult opponents.) This
simply doesn't bode well for the career mode.
The fights are hampered even more by the loose controls. It's tough to
execute combos and at first, I thought it was due to my poor eye-hand
coordination skills but a robot android would have problems pulling
consistent combos with Rocky in the current setup.
However, even that doesn't constitute as the most irritating thing. The
real infamia about Rocky is its presentation. Admittedly, you don't
expect much when it comes to a Game Boy Advance version of a game that
was simultaneously released on its three bigger console cousins. But
someone must have made the design decision to make this a side-scrolling
boxing title. How does it work? One fighter stands on one side and the
other fighter stands on the other side. You move left and right until,
well, you just keep moving. There's no way to pin your opponent into a
corner or lead him anywhere in the ring. You're just two guys going toe
to toe, permanently fixed at a few feet apart. The boxing mechanics
aren't terribly developed but it at least has a few combos and skills
that do matter (they just don't matter so much for your opponents). But
this layout really hampers the game's believability. You can only duck
two ways: towards the screen or away from the screen. And that's about
as tactical as this game can get. In light of Rocky for the big three
consoles and titles like Knockout Kings, it's disheartening to see the
art of boxing reduced to such a trivial exercise.
A classic 2D conventional view would have worked much better here. I
understand the developers were probably aiming to get away from creating
stock games and rehashes for the Game Boy Advance. My editor slyly let
slip that he thinks the Game Boy Advance is a glorified SNES emulator.
That may be true and creativity is nice but Rocky's approach is a gamble
that falls flat and, moreover, it isn't helped by the weak fighting
component, poor AI and irrelevant character progression.
Rocky, however, has found fame again. A recent DVD release of the
movies and even a running gag commercial with Best Buy has made the
franchise and its inimitable soundtrack a la mode this holiday season.
Love Train from The Gap also comes to mind but we'll leave that one
alone. No amount of popularity or nostalgia, however, will convince me
to recommend this title to anyone but the most diehard Rocky collector
fan. Because even for that collector fan, this game will eventually
meet its ultimate destiny: sitting on a shelf collecting dust.