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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (382)

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Xuan-Yuan Sword: The Ga... 3/5
Star Trek: Bridge Crew 3.5/5
King's Quest: The Compl... 3/5
Strange Brigade 4/5
Metro Exodus 3.5/5
Evoland Legendary Editi... 4.5/5
Evoland 2 4.5/5
Burokku Girls 2/5
Finding Paradise 4.5/5
To the Moon 4/5
Marvel: Ultimate Allian... 2.5/5
Valley 4/5
Satellite Reign 3/5
The Fall of Gods 3.5/5
Even the Ocean 3.5/5
Asterix & Obelix XXL 2:... 3/5
Valkyria Chronicles 4 5/5
Ninja Gaiden ( Shadow W... 1/5
Super Mario Land 2.5/5
The Messenger 3.5/5
Super Mario Land 2: 6 G... 2/5
Super Mario Maker 2 3/5
Pillars of Eternity II:... 4/5
Sundered 3/5
Iconoclasts 3/5

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Pier Solar and the Great Architects HD   PC (Steam) 

Genesis Don’t What Ninten-Do    1.5/5 stars

WaterMelon, a self-proclaimed ‘international’ game development studio, started as a homebrew outfit. While the company incorporated in Muscatine, Iowa in 2009 – 5 years after the group reportedly started working on “Pier Solar and the Great Architects” (“Pier Solar”) – and incorporated in Hong Kong in 2015, the general vibe the company gives off is one of a shady Chinese operation.

“Pier Solar” made a big splash back in 2010, as it was originally released via an incredibly limited print run for the Sega Genesis, over a decade after the Genesis’ demise. Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy ROMs, “Pier Solar” was functionally un-pirateable due to some of the technical wizardry involved with its oversized cartridges (capacity, not physical). Thus, “Pier Solar” became something of a Holy Grail for seekers of old-school RPG goodness, as it was made public right in the middle of the drought-stricken 7th Generation, in which RPGs were driven to the brink of extinction.

When, in 2014, it was revealed that “Pier Solar” was getting a High Definition re-release for the Sega Dreamcast as well as every digital platform known to gamers, a great sense of ease washed over the RPG-starved masses, as we knew that we would no longer be deprived of a taste of this elixir distilled from the last remaining waters of the Golden Age. I ordered a Dreamcast copy of “Pier Solar” for the outrageous price of $50, then proceeded to wait, and wait, and wait… and wait… and wait some more. Before my physical copy of the game even arrived in the mail, I had purchased “Pier Solar” for a paltry sum during one of’s sales. I still had the intention of playing the Dreamcast version, so I held back, and got lost in my backlog.

Eventually, “Pier Solar” floated to the muddied surface of my glut of unplayed games. I no longer have my Dreamcast connected to my TV (as I had to replace my old one), so I decided to leave the Dreamcast copy that FINALLY arrived sealed in its shipping wrapper (to preserve its collector’s value, obviously). I fired-up the version of “Pier Solar” and prepared to have my mind blown.

It was… but not in a good way.

“Pier Solar” is an attractive game when running in 16-bit mode. The environments are quite eye-catching, though the character sprites are, unfortunately, less than impressive. When running “Pier Solar” in HD or HD+ (HD+ just applies a smoothing filter to HD, which would look familiar to anyone experienced in the use of emulators on 16-bit ROMs), the environments look absolutely amazing… yet the sprites still look the same, and somehow manage to look even worse due to the clash between their style and the environments.

The character sprites are very pixilated and overly ambitious, making it difficult to tell what the characters look like. To make up for this, each party member and important NPC has a portrait that appears when they speak (as has become a fairly standard practice). These character portraits differ greatly between 16-bit and HD mode, making the characters practically unrecognizable. To make matters worse, these ugly, pixilated sprites receive an excessive amount of animation for EVERYTHING they do. These animations are slow, repetitive, and drag down the game’s pace significantly… even when casting healing spells outside of battle!

The environments, while beautiful, also tend to be incredibly cluttered. Perhaps this is the result of overly-ambitious graphic designers attempting to prove just how much (WaterMelon) juice they can squeeze out of a Genesis or Dreamcast, but it makes the game tedious to play. Paths are frequently hidden by clutter, making it difficult to tell where the party can walk and even where they need to go.

Enemy designs are incredibly bland, and get re-used a LOT. Most 16-bit games would pallet swap enemies to allow for differently-colored versions of the same generic monster to have different levels of power. “Pier Solar” doesn’t bother with that. It just re-uses the exact same (hideously-colored) turtles, slimes, naked giants, etc. throughout the game without pallet swapping. Even worse, none of the game’s enemies have names applied to them, so I can’t call them out by name, only description. There are plenty of rehashed bosses too, which is further disappointing.

The soundtrack is probably the best single thing about “Pier Solar,” and even that is a mixed bag. While the main theme is quite pleasant, and is artfully woven through other tunes in the soundtrack, the two tunes players will hear most – the battle theme and the victory chime – are bland and grating, respectively.

The use of sound effects in “Pier Solar” is generally not handled well either. The (optional) treasure radar makes a horribly grating ‘ping’ and every dialog box disappears with a different, yet equally horrible and grating, ‘ping.’

I have heard that most of the digital versions of “Pier Solar” suffered from numerous annoying bugs early on. Having played a fully-patched and finalized version of the game, I can confirm that I did NOT run into any major bugs. I can also confirm that the fully-patched version of the game on digital platforms adds a number of player concessions, including the ability to speed-up the horrifically slow animations and fiddle with the random encounter rate. These concessions are very nice, but they ultimately don’t do enough to save this game from itself.

“Pier Solar” opens in a small town and reveals that our hero, Hoston (not Houston, which would have been better), and his friends are all tweens or young teenagers.


“Pier Solar” has numerous moments throughout its script that seem like they were written by an English as a Second Language (ESL) student… A ‘C’ student, at that!


“Pier Solar” features a lot of dialog. Much of this dialog seems like it was intended to be funny, but actually just comes off as cringeworthy. Referencing real-world topics in a fantasy world, breaking the fourth wall, and cluttering the game’s lore with stupid, throw-away comments makes it impossible to take the characters, plot, or narrative seriously. This isn’t a parody game like “Earthbound,” and it cannot get away with that kind of stuff.

STRIKE 3… “Pier Solar,” you’re OUTTA THERE!

But wait! The game still isn’t done flailing away at its attempted story! “Pier Solar” features incredibly weak character development, boringly stereotypical NPCs, and a predictably clichéd plot that doesn’t hold any promise.


Yes, “Pier Solar’s” story elements are abysmally bad. If I had to compare it to an RPG that people generally like, I’d say the general immaturity of the characters and their McGuffin-chasing quest are reminiscent of the original “Grandia,” which, itself, was only saved from mediocrity by its excellent battle system. To be more accurate, though, I’d have to compare “Pier Solar’s” general story quality to that of cult catastrophe, “Tecmo Secret of the Stars.” This is no ‘Final Fantasy.’ This is no ‘Dragon Quest.’ This is no ‘Phantasy Star.’ “Pier Solar” simply doesn’t live up to the great RPGs of the 16-bit era in any aspect of its story. Then again, almost all of the great RPGs of the 16-bit era were SNES games, and “Pier Solar” is a Genesis game… a platform that also bore unpalatable RPGs like “Shining in the Darkness” and “The Faery Tale Adventure.” Perhaps we can read something into that…

“Pier Solar’s” story elements are so bad that, when combined with its mediocrity in every other area, I couldn’t bring myself to push through to the end of the game. While “Pier Solar” is reportedly somewhere between 20 and 50 hours long, I only managed to make it 9 hours in before setting the game aside for a month in favor of sorting through the massive hoarding piles left behind by my late Troll Dad. When you would rather sort through literal garbage and random junk than play a game, you know you have a Bad game on your hands (yes, with a capital ‘B’)!

“Pier Solar” is a fairly straight-forward turn-based RPG. How could WaterMelon screw that up?

Well, they could make the random encounter rate a skosh too high and make the rate of ambush attacks even higher than that (giving monsters a free turn against the player’s party). They could also combine a generic MP system for casting spells with a ‘Gather’ system that requires characters to spend/waste a turn charging up energy (which is not MP, somehow) in order to cast higher-power spells… make that up to 5 turns spent Gathering. They could also make random encounters incredibly beefy, to the point of taking numerous turns and a significant resource hit against the party each and every time, not to mention the fact that enemies can come in flying and earthbound varieties, and only a small portion of the player’s party can hit flying enemies with standard attacks.

Guess what? WaterMelon did ALL of those terrible things I mentioned. Even worse, they screwed up the world map once the player passes about the 5-hour point. What at first looks like a fairly standard world with visitable points of interest that lead to towns, dungeons, etc., eventually morphs into a giant maze with very little overworld activity. The player will spend a huge amount of time in inter-connected dungeons that just refuse to open-up to the world map. These dungeons are so overwrought and convoluted that they EVEN CONTAIN TOWNS.

Cutting the bitterness of these ill-conceived mechanics with some generic equipment and item mechanics isn’t enough to turn “Pier Solar” into a good or enjoyable game. It’s just a slog that doesn’t do anything clever or engaging with the genre framework it’s built upon.

I was one of those in pursuit of the RPG Holy Grail, and I believed it would be “Pier Solar and the Great Architects.” I was wrong. We were all wrong! “Pier Solar” is not the next great RPG we’ve been looking for. “Pier Solar” is not a successful homage to the great RPGs of the 16-bit era. “Pier Solar” is not even a good game. Having seen their magnum opus and having dealt with their horrendous customer service and constant missed deadlines, I will never buy another WaterMelon product again.

Presentation: 2.5/5
Story: 0.5/5
Gameplay: 2/5
Overall (not an average): 1.5/5



Recent Comments
Comment On Review


dbarry_22- wrote on 10/04/16 at 03:35 PM CT


Your review does not increase my enthusiasm for me to play my WiiU version of the game. I guess I'll put other RPGs higher on my backlog list.

Chris Kavan

Chris Kavan- wrote on 09/24/16 at 10:18 PM CT


Sounds terrible! But you'll be happy to know the only Dreamcast version of PIer Solar I could find was on Ebay and it was going for $125 - so you've already doubled your money! In ten years... who knows! All for a terrible game no one should play - huzzah!

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