Rocky is one of the most famous film franchises of all time. Though somewhat dates by today's film standards, the Rocky films are still enjoyable to watch today and are probably some of the best old-school boxing films you'll ever come across aside from Raging Bull. The boxing action isn't restricted to the big screen however, since in 1987, Rocky the video game was released for the Sega Master System. The game involves a fair bit of training Rocky up before going head to head with a few of the contenders you will recognise from the films. Its notoriously sharp increase in difficulty and overly-simple nature aside, Rocky is a fairly enjoyable boxing romp with some finer points and some flaws.
Looking at Rocky from a general perspective, it is easy to see why the game may not be loved by a majority of those who play it. Though boxing games are extremely fun, the entire framework of Rocky is best described as being a tad simplistic. Firstly, you must train Rocky up before each of his fights, and then you enter into a fight against one of three total opponents. Yes, this means that the entire game is comprised of only 3 levels (one of Rocky's main flaws is its ridiculously short length).
Much like the original Rocky Movie, the boxing itself can be quite enjoyable, with rounds having the potential to go on for up to ten minutes depending on your abilities and previous experience. Rocky can perform several attacks: a straight punch, a hook, the classic uppercut, and a punch to the body. There are also move combinations to get to grips with, but nothing of the kind of seen in Mortal Kombat's brutalities; this game's mechanics simply aren't that complex in nature.
Each match is preceded by a training session that involves using different punching bags. For example, the first involves the use of a heavy bag and you have to make a certain number of punches in 60 seconds in order to 'qualify' for the fight. A further example would be the small bag where you have to hit it at a certain frequency in order to go on to fight the match. These simple and rather boring training sections really put a dull on the experience, slowing the pace right down to almost a halt. You can see why they were included however since they are quite appropriate for the game's theme and they do break up the fighting a little.
The game's content is extremely sparse, being comprised of only 3 rounds in total. You face off against Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang (gamers will note the comparison between the two legends Lang and the Street Fighter character Balrog), and of course the Russian Ivan Drago (not the game in this instance, just the boxer). It's a very short experience, even when you consider the steep rise in difficulty as you play through each of them.
Graphics, Sound, and Conclusion
This is where the game claws back some of the points for itself. The game looks very good, even for the graphics at the time. It's not groundbreaking, but its graphics and sound are quite impressive, leaving a stark gap between them and the relatively poor gameplay.
So in Rocky you've got a boxing game that looks and sounds the part, but doesn't quite live up to the Rocky Balboa hype with its simplistic mechanics and alarmingly short length. If you also factor in the ridiculously unpredictable difficulty that rises significantly once you beat Apollo Creed, you've got a less than enjoyable experience. If you paid for the game as well as the Master System to play it on, you will probably be very disappointed. However if you opted to play it on an emulator like Freeze SMS, you've had less of an outlay (all free, in fact) and therefore won't feel as cheated. You're better off going to a site that specialises in boxing games than wasting too much of your time trying to relive the Rocky series through this game.