Rocky Legends - PS2 - Review

Step into the shoes of Rocky Balboa, Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago.  Attempt to rewrite history, improving the status of your prized fighter, or screw up the whole thing by turning him into a giant loser.

Rocky Legends is half-arcade, half-simulation; 70% boxing, 30% training.  The music, movie clips and in-game scenarios will make you want to watch the movies again.  The gameplay appears to be shallow at first, but don't give up until you've fully explored the depths of this game.  There's a lot more to it than meets the eye.

The best part of a great fighting game is its fighting system.  The same is true for boxing.  Rocky Legends's combo system is quite interesting.  Tekken isn't a boxing game, but that's the first thing that came to mind when I realized that the shoulder buttons have not been given any attacks.  The face buttons (square, triangle, etc.) cover your left and right punches, both high and low.  L1 merely blocks except when used in conjunction with the directional pad, which enables your boxer to dodge flying fists. 

You swept me off my feet. 

The interesting part doesn't come into play until you learn your combos.  Tapping the square button three times triggers one combo; hitting square-triangle-square triggers another.  There are dozens of two, three and four-hit combo variations like this.  Add the R1 button and you have even more combo attacks.  R1 switches all punches to uppercuts.  If you hold the directional pad up or down while pressing one of the face buttons, Rocky will unleash a powerful hook.  Combos can be linked within each of these.  Finally a boxing game that won't be mastered in a couple of days.

To learn the combos and the way in which they're performed, you could read the manual and torture yourself with meaningless text.  Or you could have the fun of experiencing the boxing matches firsthand via the game's training mode.

The training mode consists of a farrago of mini-games, ranging from moderately entertaining to extremely repetitious and pointless.  The combo training is great: move your fighter around the punching bag and enter the requested combos before the time runs out.  Two time limits are given, one for the individual combo lists and one for the overall training session (you get sixty seconds total, but only about ten seconds to complete a combo set).  This forces players to memorize the combos and become good at punching them quickly.  The first few times I moved pretty slowly.  After that I just kept getting better and better.

Other training mode games include skipping, speed bag, sit-ups and punch mitts.  These are less gameplay-intensive than the combo training (heavy bag) game.  During the sixty seconds of punch mitts, you'll wait for your trainer to lift his mitt from a particular angle so you can punch it.  Gamers aren't likely to be knowledgeable about the slight changes in the punch mitt formation, so button icons are displayed to indicate exactly which button should be pressed.  Essentially it's a game of monkey see, monkey do.  Likewise, the skipping mini-game is intended to increase stamina.  It does this by scrolling button icons across the screen.  Press the button at just the right moment to skip your heart out. 

Momma said knock you out!

It would have been great to leave these mini-games out of my review.  They're not very entertaining, and they don't really make the game better or worse.  That's what I thought at first.  Unfortunate for you, me, and anyone else who wants to play this game, the career mode requires the endurance of all five mini-games.  There are other "bonus" mini-games, but they aren't important to your success.  Your boxer's stats cannot be improved without training.

I understand why the developers made the game this way, but I don't understand why they didn't make the training games play more like games.  You will get frustrated by them and eventually lose interest.  It's possible that not enough interest will be lost to deter you from beating the game, but why should there be any deterrent at all?  Why can't we have a boxing game that's entertaining all the way through?

I hope the sequel achieves what this game didn't.

Review Scoring Details for Rocky Legends

Gameplay: 7.9
Almost an 8.0.  Rocky Legends's boxing engine is great.  The game does get repetitive after a while (can you name more than one boxing game that doesn't?), but the entertainment value and replayability wouldn't let me give up on it.  That says a lot for the gameplay.  I don't like watch-and-click mini-games.  They're usually enough to turn me off from a game, but not here.  There's just too much good.  Despite having nothing to do with the gameplay, the music added a little something to the experience.

This is a great first effort for the series.  I hope to see it blossom over the next couple of years.

Graphics: 7
Rocky Legends’ graphics are somewhat disappointing.  They lack the true-to-life realism that EA’s boxing game has, especially in the faces.  The skin texturing is like an enhanced version of Ready 2 Rumble.  R2R was considered a gorgeous Dreamcast game five years ago, but today it’s not much more than a memory.

Sound: 8
Rocky’s classic soundtrack, unaltered for your listening pleasure.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Easy to learn, fairly easy to master.  The combo training mini-game is helpful in learning the order and timing punches.

Concept: 7.4
Legendary fighters from the Rocky series crammed into one video game.  Not much can be said for the idea, but the gameplay has some serious growth potential.  Lots of entertaining gameplay mechanics are present, not including the unnecessary training games.

Multiplayer: 7
The two-player mode is just like the rest of the game, the only difference being that two real players can face off against each other.  Fun here and there, but can get boring if you play for more than an hour at a time.

Overall: 7.5
What it all comes down to – what it always comes down to – is whether or not this game is entertaining for more than a rental's worth of time.  The answer is yes and no.  The boxing matches are very enjoyable.  The combo system is great, the controls are mostly good, and the excitement level is high enough for boxing fans, but not necessarily gamers who just love the films.

On the downside, Rocky Legends becomes repetitive by default.  Most of the matches, as good as they are, feel the same.  The difficulty might increase, and your opponent will look different from the last, but there's not a huge difference outside of that.  Furthermore, the fact that you have to train to increase stats, and the fact that training occurs after every match...it's not good.

Rent it for sure, but wait to see what Ubisoft does with the sequel before investing yourself in the series.  There's a lot of potential here.  All the developers have to do is use it.

Good

Gw
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