I’m always on the hunt for the undiscovered games that are out there. Ones that most of us don’t know about or never got a chance to play. A lot of the time, games never got the marketing push or suffered from being region specific. Think about some of the final fantasy games that weren’t released in North America until years later.
This same fate happened with Pulseman on the Sega Genesis. At first glance, the developer game freak may ring a bell but you cant put finger on it. Ah that’s right, before they were making Pokemon, Pulseman was developed by GameFreak.
The game was published as a Japan only exclusive in 1994 on the Sega Genesis. It’s yet to see a physical release elsewhere. You only had an opportunity to catch this via the Sega Channel in 1995. This revolutionary piece of tech allowed you to download a slurry of games onto your Sega Genesis.
Now I don’t know anyone who actually had the Sega Channel back in 1995 which is probably Pulseman fell under the radar of many retro gamers. Pulseman’s gameplay reminds me of part Mega Man and part Sonic the Hedgehog.
It starts off where you get to pick between the first three stages. Once you complete the first three stages you’ll get to choose between stages four, five and six. Pulseman has a pulse attack that you can charge up by running.
You can also jump in the air and dash that allow you to reach higher platforms and maneuver through tight areas. This move is dubbed the volt tackle. It’s neat to see the references in Pokemon that came from Pulseman.
This almost gives you the feeling of a pinball machine as you bounce off the walls. You can double tap the move button to charge up by insta-dashing. Pressing the charge button allows Pulseman to also zip along electrical wires. Pulseman features a health system in the top left hand corner in the form of a color system. You only have three hits before taking a death.
A unique set of abilities is what makes Pulseman really stand out. Among the typical jump on the head of an enemy platformers you’re probably used to. The level layouts definitely compliment Pulseman’s abilities and leave you with discovering how to use each of the moves to progress through the seven stages of the game.
Whether it’s climbing the various electric cables as you navigate to reach the top. Passing through the casino level where you have to break the blocks using the volt tackle ability. Scattered around the stages are various upgrades that allow you to get your health back or a one up or voltec power that lets you have unlimited sparking state. You can also collect 10 spark balls to pick up an extra life.
The bonus stages are incredibly cool by paying homage to the classic breakout on Atari. The level design in Pulseman uses some really cool parallax scrolling which is used on most of the later genesis titles. I would be careful if you suffer from epilepsy when playing through Pulseman.
Pulseman also suffers from simple level design that doesn’t make great use of the gameplay mechanics. I found that there wasn’t much variation in which mechanic to use to progress as you fight off enemies or have to traverse your way to new heights and areas.
The boss battles are large and play through long enough where you have to recognize each of the patters the bosses throw your way.
I think Pulseman could have been a better game if it had a difficulty select. I found that Pulseman was a tad bit easy for my standards. This is probably done to draw in a newer younger audience to the game. As I finished each level I kept thinking to myself, really that it?
You definitely get some Pokemon vibes from the game’s soundtrack and you can see where the inspiration came from. Pulseman is better than average game that should have received better marketing and at least a sequel later down the road.
It offers some original concepts to the platforming genre that could have definitely been improved on if given another chance. A sequel to Pulseman with better level design could easily become a masterpiece as other 16 bit Genesis classics have become.
An original copy is definitely going to cost you a pretty penny so you still have a Wii, hopefully you have a copy sitting on your virtual console.
So if you’re new to the side scrolling platforming genre, or are just looking for a good casual playthrough, I would definitely suggest giving Pulseman a go.