Before the enormously successful Pokemon franchise, Game Freak developed this little unknown action platformer for the Sega Mega Drive. Chances are that you have never heard of Pulseman, let alone played it, as it was only physically released in Japan during the summer of 1994. I say “physically released in Japan” because it was briefly available as an exclusive on the short lived Sega Channel online service. It was also a time of uncertainty as developers and gamers were clambering for the next generation of consoles and the fad of 3D gaming, which meant that games like Pulseman were pushed to the side.
The game’s plot is set in the far future when world famous scientist Doc Yoshiyama has created an advanced Artificial Intelligence called C-Life, from which, a half-human, half-C-Life being was born – don’t ask how – and was given the name Pulseman. Being a rather unique individual, Pulseman is able to traverse between reality and the virtual world and can channel electricity through his body and outwards as a weapon. However, things don’t stay blissful for long as living in the cyber world has taken its toll on Doc Yoshiyama who has become increasingly unstable. Returning back to reality, the Doc – now known as Doc Waruyama – has gathered together a terrifying army of cyber machines to take over the world. Pulseman steps up to put an end to the cyber menace and stop his own father from completing his evil plans.
Gameplay consists of platform hi-jinks across seven stages around the globe, with the first three stages available to play in any order. Each stage contains a number of puzzles, traps, mazes and an assortment of cyber beings that must be overcome to progress. Play can be fast and furious at times and, if you are new to the game, quite difficult as pitfalls await the more impatient gamer. With Pulseman’s suit only able to withstand three hits, gamers will have to use his extensive array of moves to progress successfully through the stages.
Pulseman’s basic moves include jump, run, duck and leg sweep, but additional super powers are also attainable… Pulseman is a rather speedy little fella and can work up a burst of speed pretty fast, which is handy as this charges up his best move, the versatile “Voltteccer”. Basically, this involves a buildup of electricity around Pulseman that he can either use as a form of attack or transport. Of course, the Voltteccer move is extremely useful in taking out those troublesome enemies that pose a risk when fighting at close quarters and Pulseman is totally invincible while performing this attack. But the move will be of most use by traversing the levels’ many obstacles and pipes, with Pulseman shooting into the air, ricocheting off the walls and can even breaking through into impenetrable areas, which may hide secret rooms.
Pulsman can prove to be a difficult game at times, so thankfully, there some familiar power ups that can be found throughout the varied stages, from Life Up, Voltec Energy, 1 UP, Spark Ball and Voltec Blocks. All have their benefits, but arguably the best one of the lot is the Voltec Energy power up. With this power up, Pulseman remains fully charged for the remainder of the section, meaning that he can use his Voltteccer abilities at any time without having to charge it up – very handy indeed.
One of the many highlights of the game is the variety of enemy that Pulseman will come across, from Bat Missile. Frogman. Flying Handy Camera, Spingy to Gunfish, but the most annoying, and admittedly best, enemy must be the Gelgel. These are small green translucent blobs that fly about absorbing Pulseman’s electrical charge, usually when it’s needed for a ricochet up walls manoeuvre. The real kicker, though, is that these blighters are invincible to any attack so Pulseman must use his agility to out manoeuvre them.
A lot of the stages can be pretty difficult and frustrating with some pretty intense visuals, so it’s a relief to have a relatively relaxing experience in the Mechanical Ruins of Stage 4 with an appropriately mellow soundtrack. Here we are introduced to the perils of water, which shorts out Pulseman’s Voltteccer ability. This gives the level an added strategy edge as you have to work around those waterfalls and take out the enemy with good old fashioned hand to hand combat. Full of puzzles and traps, this is one level that you have to think your way out of rather than use brutal force.
Pulseman is chocka of inventive boss enemies so it is always going to be hard to pick out one, but the classic evil twin scenario is always a sure fire winner. Found on Stage Five, the mysterious C-Life being called Veil may look like Pulseman, albeit with a green lined suit and go faster wings, but he is most certainly one of Doc Waruyama’s loyal minions. With all the same abilities as Pulseman, Veil will provide a hard fought battle for even the most hardcore gamer.
Pulseman is as polished and impressive as any Sonic game, sporting some of the best aesthetics and gameplay that the 16-bit console has ever seen, so it was a crime of Sega not to give this a proper release this in the West. Throughout the whole game, from the super anime style cut-scenes to the characters, everything is beautifully drawn, animated and well defined. Then there’s the contrasting settings of the superbly designed cyber world and reality levels brought together, never letting boredom set in. One mixed blessing is the rather stupendous scrolling backgrounds on certain cyber world levels, which can be a strain on the eyes if you find yourself replaying the same level repeatedly.
Yes, the original version may be in Japanese only, but the game is very easy to follow with actual English voice acting used for certain scenes. And if you really insist on playing an English language version then you can always check out the Virtual Console version, although if you are an avid collector then nothing beats the original physical copy. I could go on and on, but I will close things off by stating that Pulseman is, without a doubt, one of the Sega Genesis’ lost gems and should be experienced by all Sega and retrogaming fans alike.
|System:||Sega Mega Drive (Japan only)|