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Review: Pier Solar and the Great Architects

BY CONOR MCBRIEN | NOVEMBER 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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Nintendo’s Wii U online store is now selling Pier Solar, a recent role-playing game made for a classic system.

Pier Solar is a “home brew” game: consumer-developed software made for proprietary hardware. In this case it was the Sega Genesis, the Super Nintendo’s direct market competitor during the fierce “console wars” of the early 1990s. The Genesis was replaced by the Sega Saturn in 1994, and Pier Solar was first released on the Genesis in 2010.

Indie developers use old systems such as the Genesis (and even older ones, suchas the Atari 2600) to make new and unique games that often sell in limited, physical copies. Beginning in 2014, developer WaterMelon was able to crowd-fund and release Pier Solar digitally on PlayStation Network and Steam on Sept. 30.

The Wii U’s eShop is the final leg of the game’s journey to potential success in the video game market. Given the nature of the game, its release on a Nintendo console may be just the boost in exposure the game needs to win over the masses.

Made in the style of ’90s role-playing games from Japan, Pier Solar is sure to be a hit with previous owners of the Super Nintendo that played games such Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and the early entries of the Final Fantasy franchise.

The player’s party of characters explores the land, battling monsters and accepting quests along the way. This design continues to win over nostalgic players my age and older, especially in the wake of successes such as the more recent Bravely Default on Nintendo 3DS.

As someone who feels games such as Pier Solar can hold the medium of video games back, I’m not very attached to the old-school aesthetic of the game. Despite my qualms, the minutiae of it is quite charming at times, because the developers decided to truly capture the limited designs of games from that era.

WaterMelon emulated the truncated words — intentionally used at the time because of character limits — to evoke a sense of “working with what we have,” as games did then. For example, to cast magic in battle, the player selects “spel” instead of “Spell.” This at least brought a smile to my face.

Furthermore, unusual character names, which seem to make no sense in translation without possible research involved, are everywhere. The main character’s name is Hoston (though I began to pronounce his name like the city in Texas), and his two friends are called Alina and Edessot. Good luck pronouncing that last one, as the game has no voice acting to guide us.

Overall, Pier Solar isn’t impressive on a visual or technical level, as most games are today. Granted this is intentional, but younger players may not appreciate this game like folks my age. I’d hate to see Pier Solar languish in obscurity for another four years just because it was made with older tastes in mind.

Pier Solar is out today for Nintendo Wii U on the eShop at $14.99 and is also available for PlayStation Network and Steam.


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