As ever, with the advent of a new generation of gaming technology, there is the temptation of revamping older titles and giving them a makeover that Nick Knowles would be proud of. Pier Solar and the Great Architects is such a title. With all that power at your disposal, the first instinct is to throttle it back. I’ve never understood why, but in some cases, I don’t care.
Taking inspiration from the Sega Genesis classic of the same name then, Pier Solar starts off as faithfully as the original. You are Hoston, the main character, a young botanist whose father is gravely ill. Joining him on a quest to find a universal herbal cure is Alina; an adopted best friend, and Edessot; a genius at mechanics and electronics. Starting in Hoston’s home, it’s clear that his mother doesn’t want him to go into such a dangerous place as the caves, where the medicinal herb is found. Along the way you’ll have to face ambush from monsters, numerous side-quests and mini-games, all set in a 16-bit inspired graphical world.
These visuals are a symphony in 16-bit. Think souped-up Japanese handheld console and you might not be too far wide of the mark. There are a trio of setting for the graphics too, depending on your own personal tastes. I couldn’t really fault the graphics, knowing the origins of the game, it’s refreshing to see the developers, who also developed the original, use the technology to reproduce the environments with a smoother feel.
The audio too, is faithful to the original, if not a little repetitive and irritating. There are no speech samples in this version, which is quite disappointing. The developers obviously wanting to reproduce that original feel in every way. There are no footstep sounds, from the text appearing during the character interactions scrolls along to an irritating beepy noise, to the odd, almost 4-bit squelch that happens when you enter a building or the map is baffling. There were so many opportunities for these little imperfections to be addressed and improved upon to make this huge Japanese-style RPG even better, but I have to admit to being confused as to why the developers haven’t taken this opportunity. The clunky audio aside, the gameplay again, remains faithful to the genre. Wander around the village, the forest, the headquarters, the bridge and beyond and you’ll have the opportunity to meet and greet some of the locals. These guys, while a little standoffish, are usually friendly and will give you quests. One of the first you’ll get is to collect watermelon from the local farm. Hey, developers, I saw what you did there. Now, you’ll pick up little trinkets along the way, a dagger here, some herbs there. Keep an eye on these in your inventory by tapping Y or select. When the opportunity arises for you to do battle, you’ll probably be in the forest at the outset. The battles follow the tried and tested turn-based attack. If you’ve played the recent Rovio fare, Angry Birds EPIC, then you’ll know the type of gameplay you’ll face. To be honest, this didn’t grab me, and I know it’s not down to something new to take in, or an innovative control method. I think it’s just because I didn’t feel the game.
You’re probably wondering what I mean. Let me explain. The initial story starts out well. You have a quest & some friends to help you. You get to help a farmer out, then a bounty hunter & then the story seems to peter out. There is a lot of aimless wandering around in this game. There’s a notebook that I’m presuming is designed to help you remember what you’re supposed to do as the temptation to click through the text without reading it properly is simply too great but the information you get in the notebook is scant to say the least. Even following the instructions here to the location in question, searching them thoroughly and coming up with nothing left me feeling somewhat deflated. I know I’m looking for something & I don’t expect to find it immediately, but I’ve no idea what to next. Running through the forest, with the controls as temperamental as they are, whilst running through random battle scenarios simply left me frustrated. I like role playing games, especially when there’s a sense of purpose about them which leads to a series of events, one after another, intertwined in the story with nothing incidental. Pier Solar falls somewhere in between in this, which is a shame. There will obviously be some fans of the original who will lap this up, I just hope that it doesn’t disappoint. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDNiJYZbXdA
Thanks to Xbox for supplying TiX with a download code
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