About a week ago, I put up a poll on my Twitter asking what I should do for an upcoming theme week, offering the three major Sega consoles as the options. As my luck would have it, the poll ended in a tie, because of course it did. Fine by me, since both the Genesis/Mega Drive and the Dreamcast are systems that I have a deep history and appreciation for. So being the responsible and very organized creative force that I am, I immediately began the day by preparing myself for the task ahead of me, knowing that I absolutely had to write about Pulseman when the time was right.
And then I kept playing Pulseman, so apparently that time is right friggin’ now.
You may be wondering what I’m even talking about. You see, Pulseman was a very special game that only the coolest kids on the block had access to. If you didn’t live in Japan, you had to be one of the few in the 90s with the Sega Channel, which would occasionally drop imports into your living room. Though it obviously didn’t take the world by storm, the Sega Channel was an integral part of my gaming diet and really informed the tastes that I still maintain to this day. My affection for/proficiency at difficult 2D platformers can be traced back to those weekends I spent playing games like Alien Soldier and Mega Man: The Wily Wars.
Something about Pulseman spoke to me more than the others, so much so that I still cite it as my favorite game on the console. Maybe it was the way it seemed to push every piece of the Genesis hardware to its absolute limits, filling every inch of the screen with so much color that it was often overwhelming and spoiling my ears with that downright grimy 16-bit bass. It played like a combination of Sonic and Mega Man, but with a style all its own. I revisit it every so often to see if my nostalgia googles are starting to fall off, but it still holds up, even I’m not nearly as good at it as I once was, usually bouncing myself around aimlessly until I run into something pointy and unfriendly.
The one thing that does stand out to me now is just how much of Pulseman was repurposed for later use in Game Freak’s more well-known Pokemon franchise, from the designs of the enemies to Pulseman himself. He even used “Volt Tackle” before that weird yellow mouse thing ever did. Sadly, I don’t think they even implemented any sort of annotation or disclaimer in those games to properly credit the platform genre’s greatest unsung hero. Maybe just a something in small.. 23 point font along the bottom of the screen reading “go buy Pulseman on the Virtual Console you heathens!”
This is why I’m not in game design.