Some time last year, through a road that started with me thinking about that company that released Beggar Prince and what they've been up to, I learned about a game called Pier Solar. It's a homebrew Genesis RPG released in physical cartridge format, developed by a European group calling themselves WaterMelon. It sounded kind of interesting, if only for the novelty of what it was. At first I thought I missed out on it, but a reprint was being planned and I checked the main page just about every day waiting for it to come (because their site bugged up and I couldn't sign up for the newsletter). When they finally got the reprint out I had just gotten some cash for advertisements, and bought a copy right away. But in the time between my placing the order and when I finally got around to playing it, WaterMelon started doing things that pushed my "Fuck you and your video game!" buttons, and not just advertising the soundtrack as an "eargasm" and setting up their forums so you can only choose from a selection of Pier Solar character portraits for your avatar so that several people are sporting the same picture of a generic anime hero with Down Syndrome.
Pier Solar does everything it can to remind you it's a 16-bit game. The header of the main site calls it "the Ultimate Mega Drive/Genesis RPG." The game's box has "biggest 16-bit adventure" right on the front. The back advertises 16-bit graphics and 16-bit music. WaterMelon calls themselves a 16-bit factory. You just know WaterMelon wants to call it the "Ultimate 16-Bit RPG." You'd think they're not saying that because they know their product, while maybe good, has nothing on Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, or any other of the many, many SNES RPGs out there, a library that's been steadily growing thanks to the Internet and fan translators making the likes of Shin Megami Tensei and Treasure of the Rudras available to people who can't read Japanese.
Except that doesn't fly, because WaterMelon, or at least the team member they're letting speak for them, doesn't consider the SNES 16-bits. From here:
I understand what he means with the TurboGrafx. Although it displayed graphics in 16-bits, the main processor was 8-bit. But the SNES? When I asked him to explain how it was an 8-bit system in disguise (yes, I'm the "Codiekitty" in that topic, so I do have a bit of personal investment in this), he said:
That's meaningful. I also like that he didn't think to correct me on what I said about the TurboGrafx; I've since been informed it has two graphics processors, but only a single central processor. Still, at least he didn't say "Blast Processing!"
You know, PC emulators have no problem with "Blast Processing" and neither does the Wii Virtual Console or Genesis collections on the PS2, PS3, or 360. I'm not laying down money for something I can totally do for free via emulators, but I imagine the Genesis games on Steam also work fine. Okay, you might argue those are emulated and the emulator is emulating Blast Processing. But if Blast Processing is some absolute necessity, why is the TurboGrafx-CD version of Exile considered the definitive version while the Genesis version remains largely forgotten? Why did people complain that the SNES version of Mortal Kombat was censored when the SNES was better equipped for the game than the Genesis, if the Genesis had "Blast Processing" and the SNES didn't? And saying a port of a Genesis game to a modern console may be inferior because of the lack of Blast Processing makes about as much sense as saying a port of an SNES game to modern consoles may be inferior because of the lack of Mode 7. Oh wait, that comparison doesn't work because "Mode 7" isn't a bullshit marketing term and actually means something.
By calling Pier Solar the ultimate Genesis RPG, and by saying the Genesis is the only 16-bit console, they are sneakily calling Pier Solar the ultimate 16-bit RPG. And this raises a pressing question: if only Genesis games qualify for the title of "Ultimate 16-bit RPG", what exactly is Pier Solar's competition? Phantasy Star IV? I like that game, but I still have to admit it's overrated (anyone who points out I gave it a perfect 10 at GameFAQs gets virtual punched in the gut). Shining Force? I kinda figured we were discussing turn-based and action RPGs here, but fuck that game anyway. Shining in the Darkness? Does anyone besides Shining Force's most hardcore followers, if even them, give a crap about that game? Crusader of Centy? Despite the box claiming it's an action RPG, it's not - it's a Zelda wannabe with a flavoring of Soul Blazer and Brain Lord mixed in, and while decent has nothing on Link to the Past. Sword of Vermillion? I've only known one person who attempted that game, and here's what he had to say about it. Surging Aura? I love how so many people are crying for an English patch to that game but nobody cares enough to actually make one, even with that translation tool that's been floating around since 1999. Traysia? I understand that game has an easily exploitable oversight in design that makes your characters invincible, and isn't that great anyway. Rings of Power? The alternate company logo is the only reason anyone remembers that game. Faery Tale Adventure? Don't make me laugh. If the SNES really was 8-bit, maybe you should look into making games for it anyway because there's clearly something about 16-bits and/or Blast Processing that makes them incompatible with outstanding RPGs.
WaterMelon, you'll forgive me for suggesting that the real reason you'll only make games for the Genesis isn't because of the supposed lack of power of the SNES, but because you like the Genesis, you realized its library of RPGs needs all the help it can get, SNES cartridges cost more than Genesis carts to produce, and/or you're European and still mad about how Nintendo treated you in the 16-bit era. And that's fine, I'd be pretty pissed off with the SNES too. But just say so instead of making shit up.
As for the game itself, I'm only to the cliff area as of writing this, but based on what I've done so far, forget comparing Pier Solar to Final Fantasy VI, hoping for it to even be on the level of Breath of Death VII is severely optimistic. The script reads like it was written by somebody who doesn't read anything that isn't video game or manga related, thinks Working Designs was the height of video game storytelling, and grammatically understands English but still doesn't grasp the subtleties, like the difference between a carnivore and a predator, and a code and a cipher. Every continent I've been to only has two or three enemy configurations used in every area of that continent, give or take a few instances of adding/removing a monster to/from the most common one. I couldn't get my burned music enhancement disc to work right, but oh well, what I have heard from it actually sounded worse than the cart's music and even then, if Pier Solar's soundtrack is an eargasm then Cthulhu Saves the World's soundtrack is a furious mass eargy. Somebody really should have informed WaterMelon most players aren't clairvoyant, and if told to go to somebody's house or a locked tunnel to the next area would like to be told where it is instead of having to meander around until they stumble into it. Maybe the reason WaterMelon won't right-out call Pier Solar the Ultimate 16-bit RPG is because "Okay, we'll admit maybe Chrono Trigger is better, BUT IT'S NOT 16-BIT!" doesn't look very good, for more than one reason.
I'll *try* not to let the makers' nonsense taint my experience and hope it improves, but I would like to mention how when you cast the healing spell outside of battle, which causes a strip of the screen to flash white and some white dots to appear around the character you're casting it on, the framerate drops and the music stutters quite noticeably. And in the deeper cliffs you sometimes run into an enemy formation consisting of one large ape, five monkeys, and an orange plant ghost, that causes the game to chug like hell. So much for the power of Blast Processing.