Of all the 16-Bit RPGs to be my first, I would not have placed money on Pier Solar being the lucky gal. It is the equivalent of a lusty high school fling born from proximity that seemed to become a worse and worse idea as we went along.
This really is the first 16-bit RPG I’ve ever finished. I have Final Fantasy 6 on one of these damn consoles and Chrono Trigger, so it’s not like I’m lacking for legendary options. Pier Solar was just the one at the moment, for better and slightly worse.
Maybe I’m spelling too much doom for this game from WaterMelon because it’s not strictly terrible. Your stock of hopeful characters has to travel hither and yon to stop a corrupted army from taking control of the world’s magical sources. The party you run with most of the time is full of bland platitudes that are smart, sassy, or one of another characteristic.
That’s what kills me with characters from the 16-bit era is that they’re basically sitcom shells. Nearly everyone is just one characteristic spread across their entire body and mind. There rarely seems to be a funny guy character that’s also good with machines – just a second branch to give these poor avatars. Octopath Traveler, albeit coming 20 years later, nailed this with deep characterization and I’m spoiled now. I won’t go back.
The locations and game itself are suited to fit onto a Genesis cartridge, so my PlayStation 4 version seems a bit thin. Locales are vastly different by design (time for the forest trip, now to the big city, now the desert etc.) so there isn’t a real sense of journey. You’re just ferried from one spot to another across a compacted land.
Pier Solar battles to a slightly more original tune, but not one that picks up the pace at all. Your main options involve attacking with your main weapon, defending, magicking, or charging for a turn. Your merry band of 4 members can go against up to 6 enemies, changing the ratio quickly of how many turns it’ll take you to end the battle. You will, even on the appreciated higher speed options, likely feel that each battle is a drag thanks to slow animations, an unnotable, inconsistent weakness system, and hard hits.
There are a crapload of small issues that add up to the unfun sum of battling, but the main couple are how hard those hits really are and how long it takes to do anything worthy in the later game. Sure, in the beginning, it makes sense to build up power and slice through everything at once, but there’s never a shortening of that time. You never feel powerful, even against lower enemies that can go first and still bash you hard. You’ll almost never walk away from a battle unscathed, cascading the damage quickly and eating through your magic and items like a candle with two wicks. It feels like a more aggressive damage system than the first Pokemon games, which simply does not hold water for even a retro nod of today.
I do have to mention the comfort options Pier Solar offers in the way of game speed and encounter multipliers. Encounters can go away completely, or can hound you every step of your fast-forwarded adventure. This is a power-levelers dream of functionality, even if there doesn’t seem to be a real arena to use all that amassed ability.
Pier Solar is a rough trek through a tame world. What could’ve ended up feeling like a breezy RPG was instead given stakes on the bottom of its feet to trudge through the fresh mud. Again, this is a completely accurate representation of what I’ve seen 16-bit games as for years. That doesn’t help this game stand out as much more than a publicity stunt at this point.
Pier Solar and the Great Architects Score: