Review: Pulseman (MD)

Will Pulseman's quality shock you?

Ask yourself this - what games have Game Freak actually developed? Many people will probably only answer with "Pokémon," but the truth is, before Pokémon was even created, Game Freak was responsible for a handful of unique titles of their own.

Pulseman was strangely only released in Japan originally. It was temporarily available on the "Sega Channel," a sort of download service for the Mega Drive/Genesis, but despite this was never released as a retail game outside Japan.

In the game you take the role of the titular Pulseman. The world-famous scientist Dr. Yoshiyama created him by entering the world inside computers, and merging his DNA with an Artificial Intelligence (don't ask!), thus resulting in a half-human, half-robotic boy. Eventually, living inside computers took its toll on Dr. Yoshiyama and corrupted his brain, turning him into the evil Dr. Waruyama. Dr. Waruyama decides to take over the world like any other good villain usually tries to do, and he has a whole gang of "cyber-terrorists" to help him.

Pulseman pretty much plays just like any other platformer. You make your way through various stages, defeating or avoiding enemies, collecting items and defeating a boss at the end of each one. Pulseman’s moves make this game somewhat unique: his speciality is electricity, which means he stores energy and releases an electric discharge in the form of a ball-shaped projectile. Energy is stored by running, but you can also instantly charge up by simply dashing forward once. This is slightly more risky though, as you never know what's coming up! When you're not charged, your only means of defending yourself are a close-range slash attack and a kick. Be careful with these attacks though - it's hard to hit with them, and Pulseman can only take three hits before dying, and any extra health is pretty rare!

When charged, you can also jump into the air and then dash in any direction you want instead of only being able to dash along the ground. This move is called the "Volteccer", and can be used to reach higher platforms and thus possibly items, but be careful: if you hit a wall while doing a Volteccer, you will bounce off like a pinball! The Volteccer can also be used to travel along electricity lines, which is a cool feature. One thing you'll really want to look for are items such as computer monitors: jumping into these will take you to a virtual mini-stage inside. Once you make it to the end you will reappear in the main stage at a much further point.

There's only seven stages total in the game, but each of them is quite long. The first level takes place in a simple city environment, but after that you'll visit slightly more varied locations like jungles, casinos and even the inside of an arcade game, complete with a score display! For the first six stages, you always get a choice of which one you want to tackle next, like the Mega Man titles, but eventually you'll have to do all of them. The seventh, final stage always comes last, for obvious reasons!

The most surprisingly good things about the game are the graphics and music. Pulseman is one of the nicest-looking Mega Drive/Genesis games, with big, detailed sprites, colourful environments and some really creative designs. The game has a large amount of different music, and almost all of it is very upbeat and catchy, which means you'll almost always have a nice beat to go along with the action. The game also includes a surprising amount of voice acting, which is all in English! That means that you can easily tell what's going on, even though there are also Japanese subtitles to go along with it.

Conclusion

It's a mystery why Pulseman was never released on cartridge outside Japan. Even with the Japanese text you can understand everything that's going on, and it definitely seems like a game that would've appealed to western audiences. Its fun, challenging, and decently-sized, looks and sounds great and is just an all-around great game. Now that it's finally available to everybody, do yourself a favour and check out what Game Freak made before Pokémon - you won't regret it!