System: Game Boy Advance
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Released: November 2002
Genre: Sports (Boxing)
Capabilities: GBA Multi-Pak Link Cable
Review Written: December 7, 2002
When I first heard about Rocky coming out on all major platforms I was stunned. Being the hardcore Rocky fanatic that I am (and a proud owner of the DVD box set I might add), I was highly anticipating this game on most formats. A Game Boy Advance version kind of surprised me. I was worried that the developers at Rage were putting most of their work into the console versions and skimping out on the GBA version. Once you think about it, Rocky does have some serious competition on the GBA. Unlike most other consoles where all you have to worry about is just Knockout Kings, the GBA actually does have a wealthy amount of boxing titles such as Punch King, Boxing Fever, Ready to Rumble, and of course, Knockout Kings. Let’s see if Rocky stands out from the bunch.
Rocky loosely follows the events of all five movies. You start from the beginning as Rocky Balboa, a Philadelphia club fighter who’s at the bottom of the heap. Through a stroke of fate you land a lucky opportunity to face World Heavyweight Champ, Apollo Creed. As you progress through all five movies you’ll duel against all the other bosses from the other films such as the ferocious Clubber Lang, the steroid-fueled Ivan Drago, and the Rocky’s old protégé Tommy Gunn.
It seems that any boxer that had the tiniest of roles or even a name mentioned in any of the movies is in here. You’ll notice that this is the case with Spider Rico the bum who Balboa defeats in the beginning of the first movie, and Union Kane the paper champion who Tommy Gunn beats in the last film. The total roster for the GBA version of Rocky is an impressive 27 boxers. Asides from the aforementioned combatants above, there’s another dozen generic brawlers thrown to give the roster a little more depth.
Remember Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing on the Genesis? That’s what Rocky reminds me of. The in game visuals look similar to that game where you can see the upper half of both boxers in the ring. There’s even some nifty little pictures of the faces by the life bars at the top of the screen that feature facial damage as the match progresses. Rage did a great job of what they could muster out of the GBA hardware. The character models present great representations of the counterparts from the movies. Each of the five versions of Rocky Balboa in the game has his own little changes from film-to-film such as the different hairstyles and boxing trunks. Apollo Creed has his big afro, and Tommy Gunn sports the power of the mullet.
The venues are well done too, they’re nowhere near as good as the console counterparts, but good for what Rage could manage on the GBA. For example, you can see the stars on the mat of the arena where Rocky and Apollo first fought in Philly. You can even see the big pin ups of Stalin when you box against Drago in Russia. In the main single player game, there are little cut scenes of the movies that have digitized pictures. They look all right for the most part, and it was what I was expecting of them to do. All the animations for your uppercuts, jabs, and everything else also look good. My only complaint with the graphics engine is that there’s a little bit of flicker going on here and there when the action gets too intense.
The first thing you’ll notice right away when you boot up Rocky is the excellent midi rendition of “Gonna Fly Now,” the main theme for the Rocky films. I and other Rocky fans will be disappointed that there isn’t any inclusion of “Eye of the Tiger,” especially after you see that song listed on the back of the game box. There’s several other generic background tunes during game play that sound all right, but nothing to go bragging home about. The sound effects stand out a little bit. The crowd will chant “Rocky” on occasion to boost your spirits. The rest of the effects for things like punches, jabs, and grunts sounds like the ones out of the other GBA boxing games, and don’t get too repetitive.
The console releases of Rocky contain a boxing engine that is mostly simulation, but has a couple of arcade elements (such as fast pace matches and opponents getting dazed for a few seconds) thrown in. The GBA version takes an opposite approach with more strategy and tactics involved on your part like the console versions of Knockout Kings. There aren’t any dazed effects, and most matches last longer than the console versions of Rocky.
There are several different punches at your arsenal. You can do light jabs with presses of A and B. Medium and heavy jabs are performed by pressing a direction on the control pad or by combining a direction and holding the R button with the A or B buttons. Dodge with the L button. I was disappointed with the uppercut moves in Rocky, they aren’t as effective as its console counterparts and they rarely connect against your opponent. Other than that nasty flaw, the boxing engine is solid and can be learned in no time.
The main attraction of Rocky is movie mode. In this feature, you’ll box a total of twenty brawlers, which span the length of all five Rocky movies. It starts from the beginning in the chapel where you face Spider Rico. You progress as you conquer Apollo, Clubber, Drago, and a bunch of generic no-names. It ends with a battle against Tommy Gunn. Yes, you heard me right. They both put on the gloves in this version, but there are no ring ropes apparent, and you fight only one infinite round until one person is knocked out.
In between fights, Balboa will have to perform two training sessions to improve his strength and other attributes. Sadly, there are only three training games available (opposed to the five featured in the console releases). Most of these are fun and challenging, and prove to be a nice break between your heated battles. The training sessions consist of punching pads to improve hand-eye coordination, seeing how long you can consistently punch the speed bag, and how good you can punch the heavy bag. It’s too bad the sit ups and jump rope training games from the console version couldn’t make their way in here. They were very fun, but what’s offered here is satisfying enough.
Once you complete movie mode, the Knockout Tournament option is unlocked. Imagine the King of the Ring tournament mode featured in most WWF/WWE games, and that’s what you got here, which is an elimination tournament with sixteen boxers. Unfortunately, there’s no sparring mode offered like its console counterparts. Even though these controls are easy to adapt to, a sparring session would’ve been nice to hone my skills, and get a nice strategy going.
Movie mode will provide you with nearly ten hours of game play. You have to complete it to unlock most of the boxers, cut scenes, and venues in Rocky. The harder difficulty levels of the boxers will give you a run for your money. Especially Tommy Gunn, that guy is extremely tough to beat! It must be the power of the mullet. Knockout Tournament is also fun to play through once or twice, if not only to unlock the remaining hidden boxers. Once you beat this game and unlock everything, there really isn't any need to play it again, unless you want to recreate the classic bouts from the movies.
I would’ve preferred if some create-a-boxer option was included so all of us can create our own little versions of Balboa, but one isn’t to be found to my disappointment. At least be thankful the developers included compatibility with the link cable so we could challenge another owner of this version of Rocky. It’s a shame there’s no single-pak link play or Gamecube-to-GB Advance link cable compatibility. Just imagine the possibilities if there were.
+: Great presentation of the Rocky films, Easy to learn controls, fairly good graphics & sound overall
-: Lots of great features from the console version aren’t here like two training games and sparring mode, no GCN-GBA link cable compatibilities, where’s Thunderlips????
Game play: 8.0
Replay Value: 6.1
Rage did surprisingly good with the handheld version of Rocky. Fans of the movie will eat this up, and the actual boxing engine is pretty good too. There could’ve been a lot more features included to make this a better game, but thankfully that’s where most of my gripes are. While Rocky does have a good deal of flaws, it still manages to hold its own as one of the better boxing titles the Game Boy Advance that any fan of the movies or boxing in general should pick up.
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