Stallone is a blockbuster action hero, filmmaker and Hollywood legend. Rocky is an Oscar-winning film, complete with five sequels and a well-loved legacy lasting over thirty years. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, as it turns out, a whole lot went wrong! It boils down to a major lack of content. This is ironic, considering the wealth of backstory there is to draw from. Granted, only four of the six films had been released when this Sega Master System game was released, but there is no plausible excuse for such simplistic gameplay. What's more, the game only offers three main levels. That's right, THREE LEVELS!! Most modern games have more training levels than that.
Don't go in expecting to beat Rocky in one go, because levels two and three are harder than Ivan Drago's Iron Curtain stare. Granted, Rocky does take a few beatings before he gains the 'Eye of the Tiger' to win that final bout, but all you will have is eye sore from the large amount of time replaying the same three fights again and again.
In a post Street Fighter II world, it's easy to see every shortcoming of this sadly poor fighting game, but what it does have in its corner are some truly outstanding graphics, some of the best seen on the humble Master System. The large detailed sprites and realistic setting are impressive and clear, but sadly the famous theme song is absent and replaced with fairly standard 1980s video game chip tunes.
The controls are ... interesting. That is, all of the moves are logical enough to pull off, including jabs, uppercuts and hooks. But you may be a bit startled while your controller D-pad is idle. You see, good 'ole Rocky shifts about left to right on his own, which is very odd and confusing. It adds to the visual excitement and is true to boxing in a way, but hinders you greatly when a focused dodge move is required, as it's not always possible to see the result of your movement actions in between the automatic motion. Suffice to say I've never seen this dodgy 'half control' mechanic in any other game since and thank heavens for that.
The main levels have a training mini-game attached. These short stages are incredibly repetitive and are nothing more than tiring button mashing exercises. Unfortunately, it's vital to beat the last two training rounds, as the upgrade in power and speed they bestow is essential in defeating the final two characters, Clubber Lang and the mighty Ivan Drago.
With stunning games like the Fight Night series and even the awesome updated Rocky game for the Nintendo GameCube in existence, you have to question whether this bruised old has-been of a game should be retired to history. There was always a layer of depth to Rocky in the cinema, one of the many reasons it is so beloved to this day. It's a real shame this game chose to ignore this depth and ended up a lazy, lumpen old brawler instead of a showcase for the Italian Stallion's legacy.