Old is New Again in Pier Solar and the Great Architects
by Marcus Estrada
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]any of us have fond memories of playing RPGs on consoles such as the SNES and Genesis. Although they existed before either came out, it was really in this 16-bit era that the JRPG garnered a much larger audience thanks to the release of key classic titles. Pier Solar and the Great Architects initially launched as a homebrew Genesis game in 2010 to recapture that long lost nostalgia. Of course, many gamers never got hold of that release. Four years later, WaterMelon have finally released Pier Solar on a wealth of platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Ouya, and Wii U – with more still on the way! You can thank an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign for all these HD ports.
As soon as you start up Pier Solar you’ll be amazed with how accurately it creates the feel of a retro RPG. Unlike many modern games with pixel art styles, this game actually attempts to create an aesthetic that would actually exist at the time. Even on PC, which is where I played, you can set up scanlines and other filters to make it look more “authentic.” By default though it runs in HD mode which offers better-than-Genesis visuals. All told, it leaves an immediate impression that you’re in for a great new JRPG along the lines of a Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger.
Perhaps it’s just been too long since I’ve sat down with a decades old RPG but the gameplay is surprisingly slow. Pier Solar’s cast is sure to tell you what to do next, but oftentimes figuring out where to go to accomplish said goals is a challenge. I’d suggest checking out the menu-based notebook regularly to get a better handle on the situation. Even then, there are occasions where the environment is annoying to navigate and pathways are either purposefully or inadvertently obscured.
As with any RPG there’s also a ton of random battles to fight while you’re meandering about. As should be expected, these occur in turn-based fashion and you can control each character’s turn or let them auto battle. Fights are slow and unfortunately it seems that character’s don’t inherently have the best AI when allowed to self select. As such, try to engage in all battles yourself. Enemies themselves aren’t usually hard as long as you get the jump on them.
The strangest issue I encountered while playing Pier Solar on PC was a lack of comprehensive controller support. This is odd because the game was already built with console controllers in mind, and there are also the recent PS3/PS4 releases. Perhaps getting full Xbox 360 controller support is just tougher? In any case, it worked in some aspects of the game but not all. The response time from controller to PC also felt a bit slow. Here’s hoping full support is added in the near future to complete the classic console effect.
With all of this said, devoted fans of the JRPG genre should play Pier Solar and the Great Architects. It is a game that resulted from a group of fans whose genre affection was so strong that they had to make their own game. It doesn’t get everything right, but it does have an air of a long-lost RPG. It’s thanks to the excellent pixel art, music, and world that one could easily believe this to be an authentic retro game.
[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg” ] Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]