[PS3 JRPG Review] Pier Solar and the Great Architects
Pier Solar and the Great Architects is a Mega Drive/Genesis game that began its life back in 2004 on an internet forum. The game started as a homebrew mini-game but evolved into the biggest 16-BIT game ever, and shows many unseen features on the Mega Drive/Genesis hardware more than 10 years after the last original Mega Drive/Genesis release.
Being a turn-based RPG with state-of-the-art aesthetics, Pier Solar tells the epic story of Hoston, a young botanist who is on a quest to save his father from a mysterious illness. With 64MEG of mega-power at their hands, WaterMelon have given players innovative battles, fantastic graphics with background scaling, mini-games and plenty of other surprises that will mega-blast the player every time!
Pier Solar and the Great Architects is an ambitious project that was relatively recently released (in 2010) on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis, ten full years after the last official game release for this console. After its successful launch, it has been given a second life on the PS3 and PS4, and it will also release on the Vita (game is Cross-Buy between all platforms).
Pier Solar HD – E3 Trailer
This is a 16-bit game RPG where you start by following Hoston, Alina and Edessot, who are searching for a cure for Hoston’s father. They soon find what they were looking for, but on their way back to the village after their dangerous excursion, Alina’s father is very mad at her, and she then decides to leave town. Soon after, Hoston and Edessot go after her and thus their story begins.
The battle system in Pier Solar is similar to what we would expect from a 16-bit turn-based RPG, with its own specific features. For instance, some magic spells need to be buffed (by gathering) before being casted. Each “gather” raises the character’s buff by one increment (and can go up to 5), and affects both his attack and magic power.
An automatic battle mode is available and can be used when you encounter weaker enemies, but it felt that the characters weren’t very good at thinking by themselves. For instance, some characters would use up all their precious mana for unnecessary healing spells on almost full HP characters. There is an option in which you can select which kind of action is enabled for the Automatic battle, but even when the Spells options was disabled, it didn’t stop them from using spells.
In the dungeons, the level design is a bit weird. A few dungeons have sections that are unreachable which led to unnecessary searching to get there, and are filled with small hidden paths that are hard to see on the default HD rendering mode (more on this later). Also, while being fairly acceptable, the random encounter rate of the game feels too high when we have to backtrack while looking for the path that leads to the end of the dungeon.
Finally, apart from the unusual level design, there are some cryptic design choices in the story progression. For instance, in the second dungeon of the game, I reached the end and was greeted by a closed door. I searched, but there seemed to be nothing I could do to progress further, so after half an hour of research, I resorted to an online guide to see what I was doing wrong. Turns out, I had to talk around ten times to a guy from a zone I thought I had completed before he joined my party and unlocked the door of the dungeon. It would have been easier to determine if there had been an indication I needed that character to progress.
Game engine and soundtrack
One of the strengths of Pier Solar and the Great Architects is how well the visual and game engines are done. The soundtrack is pretty good, and can be switched from 16-bits or remastered on-the-fly (I preferred the charm of the remastered one though!). Same goes for the rendering modes, which can be switched from 16-bit to HD and HD+. I preferred the HD modes, but like I mentioned earlier, the level design has a lot of hidden paths that appeared almost invisible on the HD mode. Because of this, I often needed to switch to 16-bits rendering in order to see the paths and get through a dungeon, and then back to HD once I found the way.
Pier Solar and the Great Architects is a good RPG that has a very fun battle system but a harder than usual dungeon exploration setting due to its level design and some cryptic progression choices. The ability to switch from 16-bits to HD modes for both the soundtrack and the graphics is a very nice feature that will definitely please RPG gamers.
Also, do keep in mind that this game is Cross-Buy between the PS3 and PS4 versions, and that a Vita version is coming soon!
[review pros=”Cross-Buy for the PS3/PS4 and the upcoming Vita version
Good release for 16-bits RPG lovers
Ability to switch graphics and soundtrack from 16-bits to HD” cons=”Level Design
Cryptic design choices” score=74]
PSN Game size: 2.2GB