Pier Solar has certainly taken a unique road to reaching modern systems. Originally released as a home brew Mega Drive game the HD version has now made its way to PC and a number of other home formats. The story follows a boy named Hoston who, with a group of friends goes looking for a herb to help his sick father. While searching for the herb the three friends find something from an ancient world and then the real story begins.
Set in a world of magic and fantasy the game has some beautifully designed backdrops for our heroes to wander around. There’s a little bit of a strange juxtaposition between the pixel based characters and objects and the backgrounds themselves but if you set the full HD filter into action it’s certainly a lovely game to look at. Despite reminding us of games like Chrono Trigger and Breath of Fire it has a style and visual charm all of its own as well.
The game also has a subtle musical score which fits well with the different environments and plays away in the background. It’s not spectacular but considering this was designed with the Mega Drive in mind it’s quite an impressive accomplishment.
Combat is carried out in the traditional turn based way. Random encounters are the order of the day but they are paced so that your adventuring isn’t interrupted every few seconds. Once in combat you have the standard options of attacking, defending, using items. The main gimmick of the combat system is the Gather mechanic. This allows players to power up a level per each turn they remain inactive. Not only does doing this increase the damage your character does but also allows for higher levels skills to be used. It works well and while you won’t be using it much to begin with you’ll soon be weighing up the pros and cons of charging characters up in order to succeed.
There are also a few things hidden away to help you. A map can be displayed of your current area and radar turned on. You can also teleport to the entrance of an area. We found this completely by accident by pressing a controllers trigger button and couldn’t find any other reference to it anywhere else. Maybe it’s all part of the mystery?
There are a fair few things that could be clearer in the game such as how you save (pressing action on a glowing gold circle). The game only tells you the basic controls and explains very little else. We worked things out fairly quickly but we can only imagine how many gamers out there must not know half the stuff you can do in the game or had to resort to a guide to work out how to save.
Once you get to grips with everything there is a fun adventure to be had with an interesting story and satisfying turn-based combat. The writing is a little hit and miss, normally strong for the main characters but weaker for NPC’s (and downright odd in places). But it certainly does the job of setting up the world and grandeur of the quest at hand.
Overall, Pier Solar is a charming game that doesn’t feel dated despite being designed for a 16-bit system. It’s an enjoyable world to wander around and the characters are likable and have some fun skills to play with. If you want something that merges the classic RPG style with a few modern touches to ease the pain then this is well worth a look.