Review: Pier Solar and the Great Architects

Almost a modern classic.

By Anthony Vigna. Posted 12/11/2014 12:00 2 Comments     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Entertaining story; Amazing visuals and soundtrack; Deep combat system.
Poison Mushroom for...
Bad pacing; Lack of conveyance to the player; Glitches.

Writing a review for Pier Solar and the Great Architects was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do at Nintendojo. The game replicates gameplay from the golden age of 16-bit JRPGs extremely well, yet a few hiccups within the overall experience hold the game back from being a true modern classic. I love Pier Solar for everything that it does right, but it could have been so much better with a little polish.

Let’s start off with what Pier Solar does right. While the game’s plot is nothing original, since you’ll discover information about a mysterious civilization and save the world from impeding doom, it’s still very enjoyable because of the journey itself. For instance, the beginning of the game is just about curing your father from a deadly illness, which doesn’t fall in line with any prevalent JRPG cliché. Because the characters themselves are very well written and likable as well, it’s pretty easy to become invested into the game’s story.

The game looks and sounds absolutely beautiful. At any time, you can go into the game’s settings and switch between the Genesis and remastered versions of the graphics and soundtrack. This is one of the best features of the game because it lets you experience the same exact game in different ways. There were times where I got tired of the seeing the same area over and over again, so I’d switch from the remastered settings to the Genesis settings to give myself some much needed variety. You can even mix these options together by having the remastered graphics with the Genesis soundtrack and vice versa.

Another excellent part of Pier Solar is its battle system. The turn-based combat will be very familiar to anyone who’s ever played a JRPG, but the new gathering system adds a brilliant twist to this classic gameplay style. If a party member starts gathering, they will receive one point of gather and their turn will end. Gather points are useful because they give you access to new moves in battle and also multiply the amount of damage you can deal. This may sound familiar to the battle system in Bravely Default, but there are a couple of differences. Not only can you send your gather points to other party members, they don’t lose gather points when they act! The only way to lose them is to get hit by a devastating attack from an enemy. It’s up to you to use your gather points efficiently through your own tactics in battle.

Okay, now let’s delve into the bad. At times, Pier Solar can be a drag due to pacing issues. For example, there’s one area of the game where you’re exploring a huge forest for multiple hours without any towns in between. No towns means no healing, which makes every fight in this area a battle of attrition. There’s another section of the game where you explore an enormous city for over two hours straight. These segments desperately lack a balance between town exploration and combat, which is detrimental to the overall experience.

Another issue is the lack of conveyance given to the player on their current objective. The game may tell you something vague about what you are supposed to do, but it’s entirely up to you to figure out how to progress the plot. This entails tedious tasks such as finding a random person to talk to in a big city, attempting to interact with a bunch of random objects in hopes that it will activate something, and returning to spots that you’ve already visited that have changed without the game telling you that anything happened there. I don’t want Pier Solar to hold my hand, but I’d prefer if it gave me some idea on how to continue my adventure.

Pier Solar also houses many different glitches. The Wii U GamePad is generally really useful because it allows you to use items and spells without accessing menus, but at times, the game will use a spell that you never chose and waste your magic. I also came across a glitch that didn’t allow me to use specific button inputs without holding the Select button down at the same time. These bugs don’t appear too often, but they can still cause an annoyance to the player.

Pier Solar had potential to be an incredible JRPG. The game’s well-written story, amazing visuals and soundtrack, and deep combat system show that the game does a lot of things right, but the poor pacing, lack of conveyance to the player, and glitches hold it back from being truly exceptional. With that said, Pier Solar is still worth your time and money. The game may have its issues, but it’s still a great love letter to classic 16-bit JRPGs.

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