Pier Solar HD
With its spring release nearly upon us, Pier Solar HD is ready to deliver old-school RPG goodness to fans across multiple platforms. The game is an homage to classic entries in the genre, but has some modern twists to keep it from feeling antiquated. The revamped visuals retain the original retro charm, and the new platforms open up new possibilities that the team at WaterMelon couldn't achieve when the game was released on a single Genesis cartridge in 2010. We spoke to WaterMelon president Tulio Adriano about the changes in store for Pier Solar HD and the challenges associated with making the old feel new again.
Pier Solar began as a Genesis game, and was bound to the system’s restrictions. How is the HD version benefitting from the lack of those restrictions on the new platforms?
The first thing that it enabled us to do was to re-insert all parts of the game that were cut out due to the ROM size restriction that we had. That gives us the director’s cut. With the new hardware, we were free to do our graphic design approach of drawing the map as a whole rather than creating tiles, which provides a design that flows much better. Wii U offers a second interactive screen which we are definitely taking advantage of, and having much more processing power and memory allows us to have gameplay that is generally smoother than the Genesis. Characters reacting to the environments lighting, faster transitions, etc.
Can you cite any specific games/series that inspired the team to create Pier Solar?
Phantasy Star IV, Chrono Trigger, Albert Odyssey, Lunar, Wild Arms, Shining Force II are games that influenced us a lot.
Assume you’re talking to someone who is familiar with the common plot threads and character archetypes in the RPG genre – what sets Pier Solar apart?
The gameplay, though generally familiar to most, also contains a few elements such as battle strategies and a few puzzles that are unique to Pier Solar. And I think Pier Solar's plot development is very interesting – it’s different from most games we drew inspiration from.
The team’s fondness for 16-bit JRPGs shines through, but do you think players need to be longtime fans of the genre to appreciate Pier Solar?
Not necessarily. I admit that Pier Solar appeals a lot to the nostalgia effect, since RPGs evolved in time and these days they can be much different from their 90’s ancestors. But if anything, Pier Solar can be a bridge between these two eras, containing some modern concepts but avoiding certain complexities included on new RPGs that I sometimes find unnecessary.
For someone who managed to play the original release of Pier Solar, what is the major incentive to replay this version? What are the key differences?
First, there are the gorgeous new graphics, which will be able to portray in much more detail what we wanted each location to look like. Then there’s the director’s cut, which will extend the story, tying a few knots and giving the player more insight on the plot and characters. Finally, there’s the gameplay improvements, some HUD elements, and improved battle AI and menus.
The original version of Pier Solar has technically been available (though hard to track down) for a few years; is it challenging to raise awareness/excitement for a game that isn’t “new”?
It certainly poses its challenges, but in general we discovered that a very large quantity of people became aware of our game thanks to it coming to the new platforms, so in a sense it is new to a lot of people, even though the game has been out for three years.
Pier Solar HD is coming to so many platforms – has that broad scope been difficult to manage at all?
For Pier Solar we designed a new engine that is very flexible and easy to add new platforms. That has helped a lot. Each new platform took us about one week to implement, which was massively helpful.
The traditional turn-based RPG is rare these days, but the success of your Kickstarter demonstrates an eager audience. Do you think there’s room in the gaming landscape for more projects like Pier Solar?
Yes, certainly. A genre doesn’t exhaust just because it’s old. We only see the interest dropping when too many studios decide to make a certain type of game just because it’s selling… that results in an inevitable drop in overall quality. Now that more developers have been bringing out RPG projects, the most important thing is that they focus on producing quality material and remaining creative. As long as that doesn’t add too much complexity and they don’t end up losing their focus, it’s good to bring fresh air and expand the gameplay possibilities.
For more on Pier Solar HD, check out our previous interview with WaterMelon's Tulio Adriano, where he goes into detail about the studio's history and the game's successful Kickstarter campaign.