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View Full Version : [Staff Review] The DrunkPunk Reviews: Pier Solar HD



DrunkPunk
10-24-2014, 12:27 PM
Pier Solar
and the Great Architects (https://www.ouya.tv/game/Pier-Solar-and-the-Great-Architects/)
http://i.ytimg.com/vi/3ELbajsHT-M/maxresdefault.jpg


"In the peaceful town of Reja there live three best friends: Hoston, Alina and Edessot. Young and curious, they want to go on a herb-seeking quest to help cure Hoston's father's illness. Little do they know ... it will be the beginning of their lifetime journey where they will learn the true meaning of friendship and the thrill of adventure.

This journey will demand their courage and wisdom to solve a long-lost mystery while they face the evil forces dispatched by a mysterious entity. Through this escapade, they will be reborn as great heroes to protect the universe from imminent destruction."

Would you like some cliche with that?
New graphics, new release; same 16-bit old-school goodness. It's been billed as "the largest 16-bit RPG ever made" and they might be right. The city of Verahansha alone will convince you of the game's size; and while the slick HD visuals will suck you in, they're the glossy surface that hides a great RPG experience under the hood. The development of this game is long, storied and even has it's own Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pier_Solar_and_the_Great_Architects), so I won't elaborate on that here.

You've got children questing to save the world, you've got elements vying for supremacy on the battlefield, you've got boss's with insta-death spells ready to clobber you, you've got swords, sorcery, hard-to-get-to chests that contain nothing (Really; another herb? REALLY?!), exploration, friendship, loss, and a beaver. All the expected ingredients are there, but is this just another 'ol fantasy game that we can stamp "FF" on and write off?

No sir, and no ma'am.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
While every RPG will have it's similar aspects, I mean it is it's own genre for a reason, there should always be things that stick with you and stand a good game out far enough from the crowd to be noticed. Top of that list for PSHD will be it's dialogue. It's hilarious and the execution is top notch. Sarcasm comes through near perfectly, and even though this game is firmly rooted in fantasy land, it doesn't take itself too seriously. There's also some fourth wall stuff hidden around, and even though it can be rather tongue-in-cheek, it certainly does not take away from or pull you out of the world they've put together here.

The world is a dangerous place. Don't forget to bring a towel.
Let not the beautiful scenes, scampering critters and the great sound track fool you; this is a game where strategy is king. Don't misunderstand me, it's not prohibitively hard by any means, but you're not going to be able to win just by smashing the "Fight!" command nor will you be able to grind your way out of it. You're going to have to think a bit, and oh how much fun it is!


First off, the difficulty of the enemies scale along with your party.
Secondly, the enemies and your party members all have an affinity to an element.
Thirdly, whatever you do, don't get poisoned.
Fourthly, the Gather command is your friend.

Okay, the last two are more hints than anything but the battles in this game will force you to plan your moves. Every area presents it's own unique challenges and you will find some random encounters to be less straightforward than some of the boss battles.

There is one thing I have been reading regarding PSHD around the interwebz that I would like to address here, and that is the game's difficulty. "Perceived" difficulty I would call it, as the game really isn't all that hard. There is no manual, just a Help screen that lists button functions, and no handy list of what the spells, EQ or items do. I call that fun! It's called experimentation people, try it and find out for yourself what it does. What's the fun of knowing everything ahead of time?
But if you are having a hard time, I am here to rescue you. I will provide a short, spoiler-free, guide here in order to help you out and get you into (or back into) the game. Don't look if you don't need the help. ;)


Don't forget about shoulder buttons!

L & R are your friends here. You can assign spells for quick use with the L buttons. The R buttons bring up the Map, Radar (which is almost cheating really), Warp (this takes you back to where you entered the area) and turns on the Auto-Save function.
If you're dying a lot in an area enabling Auto-Save can help you progress. It can be a double-edged sword at times, saving when you're low on provisions for example, but others times it's great for allowing you to take a break.
The Map is straight forward and just a map.
The Radar will show you the location of chests, even if you can't "see" them well or at all. It can also aid in navigation if you're having a hard time getting around.
Warp is only available after a certain point in the game and is great for grinding forays, if that's your thing.


Reja.
While you're out and about and learning your way in the game, make sure you grind up enough gold to purchase 5 Leaf Accessories from Reja. They're not all that expensive, so it won't take you long. DO NOT MOVE ON FROM REJA WITHOUT BUYING THE LEAVES, ALL FIVE OF THEM!
Got that?

The Elements.
Whenever you enter an area you need to find out the elemental alignment of the enemies it contains. After you've got that figured, equip the necessary accessory on every character and it will be smooth sailing my friends. Don't forget, every time you find a shop/salesperson that has elemental accessories that you don't already have, buy them. Always.

A few quick things.

Look at the walls for holes/pockets of light and run into the walls for secret goodies.
The Cupid's Bow is your friend.
You can move from the back row and act all in the same round.
Talk to everyone. Three times.
Sending Gather is always the first action in a battle round, and Gather Now is always the last.
If you're having a hard time seeing things, try switching over to the 16-bit graphics.
Have you checked your accessories?


Some nitty gritty.
Battle strategy is very important in PSHD. If you're foundering a bit, I'll give you a couple to get you started:
Carpet Bombing or the Nuke It From Orbit.
Use: Large groups of enemies. Last ditch efforts. Wanting to watch everything burn.
How: Have everyone Gather in the first round. Second round, send all the Gather to Edessot while having Edessot cast Fireball.
Mommy's Skirts or the Please Don't Hurt Me. Note: Only works if you have the Cupid's Bow equipped.
Use: Saving your behind during a long dungeon trek.
How: Take out all the heavy-hitters in the enemy party and leave 1 or 2 weaker enemies still breathing. Send your nearly dead characters to the back row and have everyone else Defend Now. This will grant you an extra couple rounds for MP regeneration, which can save you from certain defeat, while causing minimal damage to your party.

Fly, you fools!
It is possible to beat the game while running away from every non-storyline battle. Thank the scaling system for that one. It also makes it possible for you to have a good challenge while grinding your characters up.

Nothing fancy, I know, but if you were having a rough time this might help or at least get your own gears movin'. Good luck and have fun!




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTzXbASy9d8


Tell us more about the beaver!
One of the first things I noticed about the game were all the little details that went into it. Rabbits hopping around in the forest, frogs in the pond, people randomly yelling at you for looting their house, the anime cutscene panels (http://www.piersolar.com/hd/pshd_ks1280set_4.png), the inclusion of mini games. It's clear that a lot of love went into the creation of this game and it shows. If you jostle around with the Options menu you will find that you can switch back and forth from 16bit/HD/HD+ on the visuals and FM~/PCM on the music front. Setting things to 16bit & FM will throw you straight back to the early nineties and will dredge up fond memories for all of us who grew up playing games in the RPG heyday, or for anyone who has played through the classics of the genre.

The switch to HD will blow your mind. The textures are crisp and not just fuzzy pixels trying to hide their sharp edges. I'm talking completely reworked environments here, with gorgeous shadow effects. This option leaves the character, enemy and random critter sprites rendered in 16-bit, which is a fun contrast. The switch to HD+ is a bit more subtle and only concerns the aforementioned sprites. HD+ will switch over to better drawn sprites that still cling to the old feel but look updated enough to fit in with the HD scenery. You even have the option to add in scanlines if you're nostalgic for that ray tube feel.

The PCM soundtrack is nothing short of awesome. Switching back and forth from the two music options will highlight more of that love I mentioned earlier. The new tracks retain the feel and beat of the old ones perfectly and expand them into our new fancy era and succeed at drawing you in more. "Point Zero Lake" is a personal favorite. It's haunting feel and timing/placement within the game are spectacular.

Whatever you do, don't eat the bread.
"Wow, you've made this game sound perfect!" Indeed it might seem so, but nothing is perfect and though most things are amazing they can often help the flaws cast a deep shadow. Speaking of shadows...

Those beautiful HD graphics I mentioned? They are dark. Very dark. Really dark. 'You're television doesn't have a large enough Brightness setting' dark. I spent 15 minutes in the game's first baddie filled area squinting at the screen thinking "Is that a log? No, a black shrub...a giant skull? WTF is that?!" Who's bright idea was it to create such gorgeous scenery and then throw it into such dark shadow that you can't tell what you're looking at? You can say one thing for it, the shadow effects work...maybe a touch too well.

Now that you can't see where you are going, let's throw in some lovely Bumper Characters™! That's right folks, wherever your travels take you you'll never be able to run into anything ever again; you also won't be able to get anywhere in a hurry but hey... "Hello there player! We know that you're too stupid to be able to go around things so we've added this feature in just for you. You like taking 5 extra steps to open that treasure chest don't you?" I just want to be able to stop and talk to someone! Just once!
Update: After going back into the game and fiddling around I found the "Path-Finder" option and that will turn off the collision avoidance weirdness. No idea how I missed it during my playthrough blitz for this review, but the fault is mine here.

This next batch of items I will label as Annoyances. They aren't flaws per se, but just...ugh.

Random healing amounts. Why is this still a thing? Cast a recovery spell for 427 HP and then the next cast will heal for 82. Gah.
The Buy/Sell system is clunky. I have to talk to the person two or three times to get a transaction done, why? You can Buy & Equip, so why can't I also sell my old gear right on the same page?!
No quicksave or map saving. There is an auto-save option but you don't have the ability to save the game yourself outside of the provided save points. Being able to save out on the world map has been pretty standard for a long time now. Quicksave would be nice for those of us who can't spend an hour or two in a dungeon to get to a save point. I know why it was left out of older games, but it's not 1992 anymore and space is no longer at a premium.
The game was released with quite a few bugs/glitches. Nothing game breaking mind you, but with some playtesting they could have been avoided.
These issues have been addressed and taken care of quickly by Watermelon (http://www.magicalgamefactory.com/) after being brought up on the forum. Their community interaction (http://ouyaforum.com/showthread.php?14219-Pier-Solar-and-the-Great-Architects) throughout the process of bringing PSHD to the OUYA has been second to none and I applaud them.


http://www.diggvideo.com/uploads/thumbs/5775ce335-1.jpg

Conclusion.
If you're an RPG nut, then PSHD should already be a known quantity to you and you've been having a ball playing it. If you're new to the genre, or haven't played many RPGs, then PSHD is a great game to cut your teeth on. The visuals, music and dialogue are all spot-on and provide a great gaming experience. The scaling difficulty makes this game approachable from a variety of gaming styles and will provide well balanced playthroughs for anyone willing to boot it up. With any bugs getting fixed as soon as they pop up and the great presence Watermelon has in our corner of the OUYA community, I heartily recommend this game to anyone who has even the slightest interest in checking it out. Just play the demo and you will be convinced.

It's well worth the price, and then some.


4/5 Stars!
http://templon.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/beer-4-star.jpg

SwiftIllusion
10-27-2014, 03:35 PM
Awesome review :D, happy to hear the game ended up turning out so well, and awesome to see the devs continued support in this forums.
A few questions though-
When you say "These issues have been addressed", which issues exactly? Is there now a quick-save/map save, does health recovery have a set amount now? Is HD no longer so dark? Or are you just referring to the bugs.
Also did the end of the story get to have a satisfying conclusion? (you might want to respond to this in a spoiler tag if possible).

DrunkPunk
10-28-2014, 05:29 AM
Awesome review :D, happy to hear the game ended up turning out so well, and awesome to see the devs continued support in this forums.
A few questions though-
When you say "These issues have been addressed", which issues exactly? Is there now a quick-save/map save, does health recovery have a set amount now? Is HD no longer so dark? Or are you just referring to the bugs.
Also did the end of the story get to have a satisfying conclusion? (you might want to respond to this in a spoiler tag if possible).

The bugs were fixed, very quickly too.
The darkness of the HD graphics and the lack of quick/map save was an aesthetic choice so those things didn't need to be "fixed" as such.

I know people will look here anyway, because they can't help themselves, so I'm not going to give anything away. ;)

The end is satisfying indeed. Hell, the build up to the end is very nice, just as it should be. "Power corrupts..." and getting to take down power-mad/insane antagonists is always a good time. Very worth the price of admission!

flamepanther
10-28-2014, 06:14 AM
Now that you can't see where you are going, let's throw in some lovely Bumper Characters™! That's right folks, wherever your travels take you you'll never be able to run into anything ever again; you also won't be able to get anywhere in a hurry but hey... "Hello there player! We know that you're too stupid to be able to go around things so we've added this feature in just for you. You like taking 5 extra steps to open that treasure chest don't you?" I will call this forgivable as it doesn't take very long to get used to, but adding this "effect" to the standard walking pace as well is not forgivable. I just want to be able to stop and talk to someone! Just once!You can turn that feature off if you want :)

DrunkPunk
10-28-2014, 06:30 AM
You can turn that feature off if you want :)

I found the option to turn off and on Auto-Run, but not the collision avoidance.

EDIT: Found it, Path-finding. How did I miss it? Haha! Review updated accordingly.

frpnit
12-25-2014, 08:31 PM
This game is great and i'm enjoying it a lot! It's a shame i don't have the same spare time i had years ago, to play it much more!!!

Cheers,
Fabrício.

DrunkPunk
12-30-2014, 08:20 AM
This game is great and i'm enjoying it a lot! It's a shame i don't have the same spare time i had years ago, to play it much more!!!

Cheers,
Fabrício.

Glad to hear you're enjoying it! It's a fun RPG. :)