Genre: Platformer Developer: Game Freak Publisher: Sega of Japan Players: 1 Released: 1994
Pulseman is an import-only platformer that came out late in the Mega Drive’s life span. As one of the many triple A-quality games that SOA either didn’t promote (Ristar) or ignored altogether (Monster World IV), Pulseman lost much of its intended audience. Over the years, it’s become an import gems that leaves one wondering what the heck Sega of America was thinking. Of course, we know now about release slates, budgets, and localization limitations, but back then we knew nothing of these things. We just wanted our games!
Not that Pulseman would be major effort to localize. It’s story isn’t complicated and doesn’t exactly ooze originality. It tells the tale of a digital superhero, created by a brilliant scientist, who must battle against the creations of said scientist’s evil rival. Sound familiar?
You’re probably already thinking, “sounds a lot like Mega Man,” and you would be right to think so about the back story. However, any similarities with the Blue Bomber end there. The game is more parallel to the Sonic series in terms of actual gameplay, which actually makes for an interesting ride. It shares the same interesting character, tight game play, and great graphics as that benchmark series, giving it a polished and well-oiled feel to it. There is no doubt that Pulseman is a quality title.
As Pulseman, you have your share of abilities to use against your enemies. Punching, kicking, and jumping are standard but hold the D pad down as you walk and Pulseman will break into a run, which charges a distance attack. Moreover, pressing the A button while charged shoots our hero as an electric “pulse” in any chosen direction, allowing you access to those hard to reach locations where goodies abound. The control is very tight, making it easy to pull off successive jumps to reach items, and Pulseman’s pulse charge makes getting to hard to reach places a breeze.
Among those goodies are power ups, life refills, and 1-ups. Although the game isn’t extraordinarily hard, the standard “three hits and you’re dead” setup prods you be a little greedy and search everywhere (but that’s what makes it so much fun!).
There are seven levels to challenge (each composed of multiple stages) for several hours of enjoyment. You might find it tempting to just hold the D pad right and just run to the end (hence the Sonic reference) but then you’d be depriving yourself of some of the most gorgeous graphics on the system. Backgrounds are detailed and colorful and parallax abounds. As I made my way through the game, a smile kept coming to my face as I played each stage. Everything just looks that good.
Some people have a problem with the level design and I can understand this. There does seem to be a tendency to have as few obstacles in your path as possible, making it very easy to reach the end of any given stage. Some areas seem to be almost slapped together in places and this detracts a bit from the pace of the game, although not much. The charge pulse makes completing levels even easier, which can lead to the “run right run!” problem I mentioned earlier.
The music in Pulseman is excellent as well (OST worthy IMO) and the game has plenty of voice samples to go around (I’ve heard there are over 60 in all). The soundtrack fits the the game and gets you into the action without trying too hard. I just hate those games that try to cover up mediocre game play by throwing in a heavy metal soundtrack. The music should fit the game’s style and in that regard, Pulseman gets the job done nicely.
As imports go, the price has shot up quite a bit over the years (seemingly like just about all retro games). I was able to obtain a mint copy (registration card and catalog included) off a friend pretty cheap but have rarely seen it go for less than $150 on eBay. Thankfully, flash carts make it possible to play the game on real hardware without the financial burden.
You will need to set aside a few hours to thoroughly enjoy Pulseman. Between exploring and perfecting your attacks, to the cool Breakout-style bonus stages, this is a game that will remind you of Ristar in terms of length and playability. That my friend, is a good thing.
SCORE: 9 out of 10