Jay Button: The disorienting madness of Pulseman

August 11, 2011

A few weeks ago I told you that Game Freak –the makers of Drill Dozer— were primarily known for their Pokemon games. After enjoying Drill Dozer so much, I thought I’d check out what other games they’d made. Turns out, even though they’re exclusively contracted with Nintendo these days, they actually made two games for the Mega Drive in Japan. The first one is called Magical Tarurūto-kun and is based on an anime you’ve never heard of. It’s a kids game, but is pretty fun and looks beautiful. The second is a game I didn’t know about but apparently has a pretty strong following. 

Pulseman can be unwieldy and takes skill to master. As he runs he’ll build speed and an electric charge. That charge can be thrown as an attack, or used to turn Pulseman into a ball of energy that bounces off any surface he bumps into. It’s really easy to build speed and lose control, slamming into enemies and obstacles. It’s slightly reminiscent of Sonic, but when Sonic jumps he’s invincible. Unless you’re in energy form, Pulseman is completely vulnerable and three hits will kill him. Three hit points works in most games, but the bosses in this game seem to go on forever. There are health drops, but they’re few and far between. The controls can be a little janky, too. If Pulseman jumps while standing still, he’ll do a flip kick. This will inevitably screw up a lot of your platforming and timing, because the guy has to have at least a tiny head start to jump in any direction. The flip kick also leaves you wide open until the arc of the jump.

The game is gorgeous, but can get a little overambitious visually. Many of the backgrounds are a moving image rather than one big matte, and the levels and boss fights have a lot of moving parts. There can be a lot going on on-screen at one time and it will cause the game to chug, totally screwing up whatever crazy maneuver you were trying to pull off. It also has a very cool Sega BIOS opening with the company’s logo forming out of static. I’ll have to do a feature on all my favorite Sega logos from Genesis games soon. And some of those backgrounds can be pretty trippy. This one almost made me vomit.

I find it interesting how similar this game feels to Drill Dozer after such a long gap between the release of the two games. Both titles value style and unique play mechanics making them an uncommon gaming experience. They even have a similar aesthetic. Drill Dozer and Pulseman could take place in the same world. Pokemon too. I love Pokemon as much as the next guy, but I’d really like to see Game Freak develop more IPs. You can find Pulseman on cart for a very high price on eBay or on the Wii’s Virtual Console. If you like 16-bit platformers and want to find one with more than just “run, jump, run again,” check out Pulseman.

Matthew Jay’s collection is always building, and he’s always up for suggestions. Shoot him an email if you have an idea for something obscure you’d like him to cover.