The origins of Rocky seem questionable at the outset; the franchise started some 26 years ago, and the last movie - Rocky V - was 12 years ago in and of itself; and even with rumors of a Rocky VI, it's safe to say we won't see the next incarnation for a number of years yet. And it's not as if boxing games on current systems are selling, or even being made, ruling out the excuse of following a trend. Yet if the developers were aiming to create a quality boxing game with the Rocky license, then they've met their goal.
Those expecting something along the lines of Midway's Ready 2 Rumble series will be sorely disappointed, as Rocky is largely a simulation and includes the requisite Career, Tournament, and Exhibition modes. Moves are based on four key moves - head jab, body jab, head straight, and body straight - that can be modified into a series of hooks and uppercuts. The abilities to dodge and block are present, allowing Rocky or his competition to lean in one of four directions or sidestep. Timing becomes particularly important, as leaning any one way leaves the player open another. The only arcade element manifests itself in a kind of "super punch", which is easy to dodge but hard to plant, and uses a signifgant amount of the player's stamina.
Enemy AI allows each boxer to have their own strengths and weaknesses, requiring different approaches to heavy hitters over quick hitters. With a resilient determination, these boxers are seldom down for the count, if they can be knocked down in the first place. If left unchecked, they won't hesitate to unleash a very thorough beating to your video game persona, and the faster boxers in particular are too fast for heavy punches.
Matches look realistic, too, save for occasional clipping problems where someone's animation interferes with a thrown punch. Both sides wear bruises that worsen as the match continues, reflecting just where they've been hit. Boxers fall with the gravity of a juggernaut, shaking the screen with their fall. Arenas sport a variety of locale, including a mix of areas both from the film and made for the game, and all are detailed enough to be on par with most fighting games. The audience, however, seems transplanted from a much older game, displaying a mix of simple polygons and strange, pixilated movement.
At some point, a decision must have been made at Rage Software that the original Rocky would offer insufficient material for an entire game. So the ambitious result is that players take on not only Apollo Creed from the original, but boxers from all five Rocky films, from Dipper Brown to Tommy Gunn, with new boxers fleshing out the roster. The result is an enormous number of boxers to take on one by one, and everyone who makes an appearance from the movies is a virtual doppelganger to their cinematic counterpart. In a clever twist, these models also change depending upon the timeline. Rocky himself goes through five different looks, with repeat characters - such as Apollo Creed - adopting the appropriate look and attire for the corresponding movie.