Pocket Bravery combos are a sight to see thanks to its pixel visual style. A whole lot of care went into the various pixel art special moves and acrobatic strikes you’ll get smacked with as you play this indie fighting game. While that art style looks good in motion, the game’s Neo Geo Pocket-inspired visuals and characters are a bit of an acquired taste. If that art style jives with you, then this game offers some solid brawling that is only going to get better with time.
This four-button fighter has a unique cast that comes with some neat collections of stuff you can do. Malika lays out trap fireballs (on the ground and in the air) that explode on contact, but that she can also use as teleport points. She can also reflect fireballs back at opponents. Sebastian is a boxer that can create ice walls you can blunder into. Arshavin is a Russian grappler, but one with some moves that send him rushing forward (including some lunging grabs). There feels like there’s some great depth to the characters and some interesting flexibility in their movesets, making them fun to dig into.
You’re going to need to spend some time on the characters in Pocket Bravery, as their movesets are fairly extensive. Each has their regular strikes, plus usually several moves that differ depending on the distance to your opponent. Not only this, but you have two types of meter: Super Special and Elemental. The elemental gauge allows you to juice up some of your regular special moves, but in doing so tends to completely change how they work. Nuno’s Explosao (close fireball burst) turns into a double-hitting forward strike. So, instead of doing a more powerful version of a familiar move, you can get something totally new. It’s a lot to recall, but it also means there’s a whole lot of depth to explore if you love learning characters.
The pixel artwork on these moves look fantastic, too. The characters really flow in some compelling ways. Mingmei’s Dacados Dragoes super special move sees her whirling fireballs all around herself like a fire dancer. Hector’s Bolado is this huge overhead clawing attack that just looks really sharp in motion. Hadassa’s Pro Chao is a leaping arm bar that takes the opponent, but shows so much detail and flowing movement in the strike that it’s just a pleasure to watch. The developers and artists definitely had a keen eye for combat movement.
You’ll likely get to see a lot of these moves in action from all of the characters, as the base difficulty in Pocket Bravery will still see your opponents using some wild combos. After getting stomped by a massive combo from the very first enemy in Arcade Mode, I had to poke around in the Options to lower the difficulty. The game does not mess around on the default difficulty level, but as I said, at least you get to see what your enemies are capable of as you practice your own attacks.
There are some robust training modes and options if you don’t feel like figuring out your combos in live matches. In the Combo Factory mode, you can play around with some predetermined combo routes to help you get started. You can also get frame data and hitboxes to help you figure out how fast you can punch and where that’s going to hit your foes so you can sort out your own. As you figure out your own combos, you can even write them out in-game and save them as a combo trial of sorts using the Build Your Combo tool. While it’s all stuff you would probably expect in a modern fighter, as a reasonably priced indie fighter, it’s not slouching in its combo tool department.
You’ll probably want to start working on those combos because Pocket Bravery is a low-damage fighting game. At least, that’s how it felt while I was playing it. It takes a whole lot of hits before a fight is over, so you’ll both be going at it for a noticeable amount of time. Having come to this off of games like Guilty Gear Strive and Street Fighter 6, it felt like rounds took a good long time to finish. That CAN be good as it’s technically harder to die from simple mistakes, but seeing that you can build some wild combos in this game, you can still eat quite a bit of damage if you get smacked. Your opponent just needs to land a much larger combo to do so.
You’re not defenseless if you’re getting clobbered, though. You can spend half of your elemental gauge to do a Breaker, which knocks your opponent back enough to get some breathing room. If you’re blocking when you do this, it only costs half the gauge. If you’re actively getting hit, you need to spend the whole elemental gauge to break free. It’s a useful tool you can use with heavy punch and kick quite easily (which is so much simpler than trying to breaker in The Breakers Collection). You don’t HAVE to get slammed if you have some resources. However, your meters carry over between rounds, so the price might be a bit high in some situations.
If you’re not quite sure if you can remember all of these moves and strikes in Pocket Bravery, the game does have a Street Fighter 6 Modern-like control scheme called Accessible. With these, you just hold one of the shoulder buttons to execute elemental, special, and super special moves. As long as you have the meter, they’ll come out. It’s even better than the one in Street Fighter 6, though, as you don’t lose access to any of your moves in using it. It’s just significantly easier to use Accessible mode because you have access to everything. It’s only available in Arcade and the Extra Modes (Survival, Time Attack, etc), though, so you can’t use it in Story Mode at the moment.
I am not totally sure if you can use it Online in either Ranked or Casual matches. The reason for that is because, unfortunately, I was not able to get into a single online match in the time I spent reviewing the game. I have gone online at several points throughout the day during the week and weekend, but was unable to get into a match. It’s a shame as the game is compelling and frantic, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough of a player base at this time.
Not that you’ll be at a loss for stuff to do even if you can’t play online. The game has a full Story Mode that has a long, involved narrative arc to move through. It will keep you busy for a long time and help give you some background on the characters. There’s also the classic Arcade, Survival, and Time Attack modes to give you more to practice with. There are also some combo trials that are, frankly, totally bonkers. I am not anywhere good enough to do most of these, but they’ll give you some lethal ideas on what your characters are capable of.
However, my main issue with the game was with the characters. This is largely a personal taste thing, but I just did not like the game’s character design. The characters are clearly inspired by the Neo Geo Pocket-style of fighting games with their squished, smaller fighters. It’s just not an art style I find appealing as it looks really weird to me, and it made it really hard for me to like the characters or find any that clicked with me. It feels like such a small thing to fixate on, but I really need to feel a connection to a character I like the look and feel of in order to click with a fighting game. Without that, I found it difficult to maintain that connection with the game itself.
Pocket Bravery is an impressive fighter that shows some wonderful detail with its combat motions. The varied characters and their vast movelists give you many options on how to mangle foes, and you’ll need to use them skillfully if you’re to hope to win. An Accessible mode goes a long way to making that possible, although it unfortunately does not do much for the empty online modes at this time. It’s a great game that is finding its feet right now, so if you can get past the character art style (or if it doesn’t bug you), then you’ll want to get in on the ground floor with this sharp title.
Pocket Bravery is available now on PC. It is slated to release on the PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S in the future.