After about 30 hours of gameplay, I beat Pier Solar tonight. It was a very enjoyable experience, only challenged by some weird design choices. To review, Pier Solar and The Great Architects is a Sega Genesis RPG that has been in the making for the past six years by Watermelon Games and was released December 2010. For more information about the game (and for order information for the upcoming reprint), visit piersolar.com.
Graphics: For SEGA Genesis, the graphics were excellent. The sprite animation looked great, the environment were very detailed, and the cutscenes are of a quality close if not beyond that of the Genesis Phantasy Star games. It is easy to see the amount of detail put into the game, from the critters in the dungeons, to the lush vegitation in the forests. The spell animations are a treat as well, showing off the same quality.
Music/Sound: The way this game is made, the soundtrack can be enhanced by using a sega cd with a special disk that came with the game (both cartridge and cd playing at once). However, my model 1 sega cd, with the tray that comes out in the front, did not work correctly, so I settled with the soundtrack off the cartridge. Still, the music was great throughout. Most towns and dungeons have their own music, a huge plus to me. Each track fits their setting quite well and does well to set the atmosphere. The battle and boss music was really good as well, motivating without annoying. The sound effects were also very good. Again, the effort in the details is very evident. I hear that using the enhanced soundtrack cd adds ambient noise in town and improves the overall quality of the music, but again techincal difficulties kept me from that experience.
Basically a map with a cursor for choosing where to go. Works well for the game.
The towns vary in size, some having two or three buildings, with others having four or seven screens, Lots to explore and see (and miss the first time through).
Most are very big, with winding paths, hidden chests, and some pretty tough puzzles. The encounter rate is balanced well enough, so that you get a good twenty to thirty steps in before the standard blur into battle, making exploration a bit easier on patience. There is a lot to miss as well, considering how robust the developers made the dungeons. There are also some pretty cool puzzles along the way, as well as some neat minigame (such as sokoban at one point). All seemed to fit nicely and not be out of place.
The battles are turn-based, with the standard attack/defend/item/spell ring. In addition, there is the Gather mechanic. Think of it as gathering energy, which helps boost attack and power spells. Gather takes one round and boosts a character's Gather level by 1 (max of five levels). Gather can also be passed to other characters, which helps get the bigger spells ready in less time. Getting attacked can reduce a character's Gather by a level, but it helps in the challenge. I liked the Gather mechanic, which is extremely useful in the intense boss fights.
Other items for battles:
-Two status status effects besides dead: poison and sleep.
-Five characters in party at a time.
-Poison also confuses your party members.
-Using a weapon that inflicts a status has a chance of inflicting it's user as well.
-Flying enemies can only be hit by projectile attacks and spells.
-Good variety of enemies to fight.
The battles require strategy in terms of which enemy to kill first and figuring the best way to utilize your party's attacks and spells. The challenge throughout feels balanced, not being too easy, but having some mercy as well on the player. The grind factor is little above medium, with the average amount of battles to level up to be about ten to fifteen, depending on the type of enemies around. I would say it feels to be between final fantasy and dragon quest, for both experience and gold. The puzzles also require some thought and time, which is very rewarding. I had to ask some questions at the official Pier Solar site, but most of the puzzles can be figured out without too much frustration.
-Healing items and spells work based on percentage, not fixed numbers. So an herb can still be useful late game.
-There are quite a few places in the game that you can not revisit after a certain point, so a second playthrough may be warranted to see what was missed.
-The game can be saved on most screens, however the save occurs when the screen was entered, This means that to save your current progress, you need to change screens to reset the internal checkpoint. Weird design choice to me but whatever,
-Story is very unique, with great character development and interactions. Though some things are slightly cliched, there are some great twists and surprises as the story goes on.
-Not every town has an inn. Sometimes, the game goes for a while without a place to heal up instantly. Having a good supply of healing items is very helpful.
-Some funny stuff: a character can equip a Ban Hammer at one point. The descriptions for some of the items are great.
-Great packaging, very professional quality for an independant game.
I had a lot of fun playing this game. I preordered my copy nearly twenty months ago, and it was definitely worth wait. If you are interested in trying it yourself, there is a demo rom floating around the web, and Watermelon Games is currently taking preorders for the reprint. Better to do it now before the only place to get it is ebay. I saw some copies going for three hundred dollars for minimum bet, while the reprint preorder is 45 bucks with shipping. Due to the game requiring a 64 megabit cartridge, emulation is not possible at this time as well, so Sega Genesis is required.
I hope this helps answer some questions, though piersolar.com has the rest of the answers. Good night and have a great week.
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