After recently holding an interview with the team behind Pier Solar, we have eagerly been awaiting the game's arrival after the game's delivery had been confirmed. With over two years in development, a lot of anticipation and the obvious display of constant hard work from the team, we are expecting something great.
Let's get this package opened and relive that childhood feeling of opening a brand new game.
The Pier Solar Package
Upon opening the package, the greatness we were looking for began to shine through. Pier Solar comes in the most impressive and beautiful packaging ever seen on the Sega Mega Drive to date. While we had already seen pictures online of copies that had already arrived, the photographs do not do this game justice.
Watermelon opted for a custom cardboard box to house the cartridge, a decision at first which might be looked down upon due to potential degradation, however the many hidden bonuses within the box make this something we can easily over look. Attached to the inside of the box is the Audio CD that comes bundled with the game, one which once removed reveals further artwork and the tip that this same CD offers additional content for your PC/Mac.
On the opposite side of the Audio CD is the English language manual of the game. Attached to the inner spine of the box, the manual doubles as a cartridge cover offering further sparkle to the overall approach and design. The first few pages of the manual list those who paid the extra $15 in the pre-order process, with Watermelon giving their thanks to them.
From here on it really becomes apparent that there is an experienced designer on board. The product begins to feel almost as if it was a special edition from years ago, one which Sega would have been proud of (or could be proud of even now). Each page of the manual is carefully decorated and arranged, while offering all the details you ever need to know about the game.
Below the manual lies the cartridge. While there isn't too much to say about the cartridge, it was nice to see Watermelon's logo embossed on the rear side, a nice finishing touch from the team. Below the cartridge lies a certificate of authenticity telling you which number game you own from the original print run of the 800 produced.
At this point, if you're still looking for more goodies, you're in luck. As one last treat, Watermelon have hidden inside the box a set of stickers, leaflet for Super Thunder Drive III, a new Sega 32x game in development, a multilingual manual and a poster (if you ordered the posterity edition, along with the strategy guide that was too big to fit inside the box).
If you haven't realised it yet, the packaging is phenomenal and almost worth the purchase on its own.
Pier Solar Gameplay
After turning on the game for the first time, you'll be pleased to see the design and finesse seen within the packaging has been thankfully carried over into the game's graphics. With a cheeky introduction mimicking a section of the Sonic The Hedgehog 2 introduction, you are reminded that this game was made by retro gamers, for retro gamers.
The story follows your traditional 90's plot line. A young teenager in the most traditional RPG village, hit with an unforeseen life changing event. In this story, the protagonist; Hoston, a young botanist is facing the upsetting fact his father has only days left to live due to a seemingly incurable illness. Rumour has it that a cure for this illness does exist hidden in the nearest forest, however his mother has forbidden him to risk his life with the dangers that live within. Hoston rebels against his mother's rules wanting to do anything he can to save his father before it's too late.
After stepping outside on his adventure, Hoston's close friends Alina and Edessot join his bold quest and set off towards the forest not realising what lies ahead. With each character introduced, a full screen anime-esque single frame cutscreen appears, showing a much closer look of the character and their current emotions regarding the current events in the story. This cutscene approach is a fantastic addition to the tried and tested genre, as with previous RPGs the characters you begin to know and feel for always remain in their inaccessible walking/battle graphic tiles throughout the game.
At this point, you almost have to take a step back from everything and remind yourself that this is in fact a brand new game and not a release from the Sega Mega Drive's prime time. The presentation and approach of the entire package has been so finely tuned towards the RPGs of the 90's, that it feels like it belongs with the likes of Phantasy Star IV and Shining Force II, as it could easily rival them in many ways.
Not too far into your quest you will take part in your first battle and get to grips with the combat system. The system takes elements of the traditional Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest combat systems, while adopting the design approach of Secret of Mana's spherical menu. With the standard options of Attack, Spell, Defend and Item, RPG fans will feel right at home with the familiar approach. Veterans of the genre who often complain about the lack of time free to play RPGs will also be pleased to know that an Auto button has been implemented to make battles a input free breeze.
And as expected, the audio within the game is more than impressive. Making the most of the hardware by being the only Sega Mega Drive to make use of the Mega CD hardware in parallel (Flux doesn't count!), it shows that Pier Solar really has had some experienced Sega Mega Drive developers on board for this project.
Pier Solar Thoughts & Conclusion
Overall, Pier Solar ticks all the boxes that classic 90's ever opened, with lots of nice additions both graphically and within its gameplay. While it doesn't attempt to anything too daring where the story is concerned, the game feels as if it is aware of this and more a homage to all the games that have paved way for its arrival. If RPGs are your thing, Pier Solar is an enjoyable adventure filled with nostalgia and tributes to the days of gaming past.
As a complete package, Pier Solar is the perfect addition to any retro gamers collection. Offering both the traditional gameplay and a beautiful collection of artwork on the box/cartridge, it is without a doubt worth buying now before stock runs out for good.
So, regarding Super Thunder Drive III... We're waiting! Until then, more thoughts regarding Pier Solar will be posted as we continue to play our way through the game.
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