Touted as the first Sega Genesis/Mega Drive game in 20 years, Pier Solar and the Great Architects (referred to further as simply Pier Solar HD) dips more than just its toes into the wading pool of nostalgia. From its lowly beginnings as Tavern RPG to its development into a full-fledged Genesis title, Pier Solar HD has come a long way with its classical JRPG influences. Now, the title has found its way onto the latest of Sony platforms (and Vita) with a few new coats of paint and polish to enhance the experience. Does Pier Solar HD still shine so brightly after so many years, or has the experience dulled out in the modern age of RPGs?
The story for Pier Solar seems so similar to other role-playing games of the era. A group of adolescents, friends from practically the day they were born, discover a secret that their elders wish to keep hidden and venture forth on a journey across the world. At its onset, Pier Solar starts as something much smaller. Hoston, the botanist son of a somewhat famous adventurer father that’s grown ill with some unknown illness, ventures out against the wishes of his worrying mother to track down a medicinal herb, capable of at least subduing his father’s symptoms if little else. Accompanying by his side are two of Hoston’s best friends: Alina, a charming girl that thinks of herself as everyone’s big sister, and Edessot, a shut-in tinkerer that fondly enjoys experimenting and crafting up mechanical contraptions that may or may not prove to be of any use. More characters join and leave the party depending on circumstances, sometimes those under less than amiable conditions.
Pier Solar and the Great Architects is a light-hearted endeavor that doesn’t attempt to be too presumptuous and act like it’s something more than it ever is. At its heart, the game looks and feels like a visual love letter to the forgotten days of the 1990’s role playing games. The folks at WaterMelon have certainly taken inspiration from titles such as Lunar: Silver Star Story and other famous JRPGs from the Sega Genesis era while still crafting with personality all its own.
Throughout this review, I’ve made a couple of references to Lunar: Silver Star Story, and for good reason. Pier Solar HD draws a fair bit of inspiration from the title’s combat, although certainly not making a 1:1 copy by any means. Combat flows in a tried-and-true turn based fashion with no reverence to enemy units with the exception of aerial enemies that can only be attacked with ranged weapons or spells. You’ll pick each characters move for the turn from a radial menu that consists of attacking, defending, skill usage, items, running away, and gathering. The latter is a unique component that allows a character to gather their power for the remainder of the battle.
Gathering is increased by continual charging or the usage of certain items to a maximum of level 5 in a given battle (although after a turn or two, it will drop down to level 4). Each increased level of gather increases a character’s combat potential by an extra 0.5x and lasts until a battle is won. A common tactic is to focus one at least one or two lead attackers while someone in the rears spends each turn gathering, as you can spread that commodity across the entire party with a creative use of the game’s systems and increasing everyone’s battle potential significantly.
Each environment and locale you travel to in the world of Pier Solar HD has a sense of wonder and discovery all its own. No two towns share a similar architecture or layout, nor do the various forests and other biomes. Exploration can be one of the more exciting parts to visiting a new area. Hidden paths and treasure chests dot the landscape, just begging to be opening and looted. During your exploration, you may encounter a great sum of enemies due to a high encounter rate. It’s not uncommon to walk only a handful of steps before stumbling across your next fight just moments later. If you’re the type of player to encourage grinding to get past a particularly tricky boss, this higher rate could be a blessing as running through battles can be a quick endeavor thanks to a competent A.I. system for auto battles.