GameSpite Journal 12: Pulseman


Accessing games never really became an issue by the time the Genesis came out. Most stores understood the popularity of the hobby and stocked as many games as their shelves would allow. Sadly, those games that didn’t either stayed in Japan or got slapped onto an early online service like Sega Channel. Pulseman, one of the best works of Pokémon developer Game Freak, demonstrates the shamefulness of letting fantastic games languish in the obscurity of the import scene or primitive online experiments.

The game doesn’t feel terribly innovative or fresh at a glance, as it plays much like any other of the hundreds of colorful platformers that graced the Super NES and Sega Genesis. You navigate the main character across platforms as you defeated enemies along the way towards the end of the level. But superior, inventive level design (as well as some striking art) gave it an immediate advantage over everything else on the market. The game feels effortless exactly because it’s familiar even as it adds new elements, the exact same quality that keeps people coming back to 2D Mario games.

But it’s the game’s central mechanic of being able to launch and ricochet yourself that truly pushes every aspect of the game to true heights. Reminiscent of the Rocket Knight and Sparkster games, Pulseman can launch himself into enemies and to higher platforms by turning into a ball of energy, bouncing off everything he runs into. Game Freak built the levels around this mechanic, giving each stage not only a greater vertical element than most games, but more complexity in the normal horizontal progression that took the ricochet effect into account as well. Making your way through the levels is truly a joyful experience.


Sadly, few people ever experienced this brand of joy. Though it released as a standard boxed game in Japan, we only saw it as a Sega Channel download. This Internet-based service may have been ahead of its time, but that proved to be a bad thing as far as getting people to participate. Internet connections still lacked the speed and ubiquity necessary for such a service to be the norm. That, coupled with the steep subscription fees, meant that most people never bothered with it. Worse still was the fact that Pulseman released on Sega Channel unlocalized, and though it ends up being a non-issue as far as playability, it was enough to scare even more people away from a game that already had an albatross around its neck.

It’s truly a shame, because Pulseman deserves to be a classic in the same league as Mario and Kirby, two series that Pulseman feels very similar to in that they all staunchly adhere to platformer conventions while simultaneously twisting them with fresh mechanics. Today, it finds itself on the Wii’s Virtual Console, a service much better suited to its times than Sega Channel ever was. Now, free of the baggage that initially doomed it, the world can finally experience this would-be classic properly.

Article by Jeremy Signor

GameSpite Journal 12: Pulseman

10 thoughts on “GameSpite Journal 12: Pulseman

  1. Pulseman is fragile (dies in three hits, can’t use his electrical powers when submerged in water), but he makes up for it with diversity in what he can do. He can do an electric swipe, he can kick, he can use a somersault kick (with extremely exploitable invincibility frames), he can travel along wires in energy form, he can dash forward a few spaces (easy static charge), and he can use his charged electricity to shoot arrows of lightning and fling himself about as a ball of light.

    The third stage…I’m surprised that got into the final version and Virtual Console port as is. The casino stage is quite a site, but that flashing…well, “everything” looks like a seizure waiting to happen a few years before the Pokémon anime incident.

    Really, it’s stuff like Pulseman and Drill Dozer that makes me wish Game Freak would get to do more odd projects outside the Pokémon money machine. Speaking of, I’m still hoping we’ll get a localization of HarmoKnight eventually.

  2. I really need to play Pulseman. I loved Drill Dozer to death, and ya know, Pokemon wasn’t so bad.

    Also, MetManMas, not sure what region you’re in but HarmoKnight is definitely getting a US eShop release, because there is still some good in the world.

  3. Really enjoyed Pulsman, it did need fine tuning, but fun experience all around though. Drill Dozer is still one of the best GBA games, in fact I would put that, Aria of Sorrow, Metroid Zero Mission, Astro Boy and Mario & Luigi as the best the GBA had to offer imho. As for Pokemon. . .always loved the little bastards but I also despised the games, so damned ploddingly slow. . . .Pokemon Ranger was enjoyable but all that damned swirling got annoying fast. Don’t forget Mario & Wario, that game rocked.

  4. @Kayma Yeah, I’m in the US, but I didn’t know it had been announced for localization yet. How recently was this?

    Anyway, great to hear it! I have interest in picking up a 3DS of some sort in the next few months for the upgraded version of Monster Hunter Tri, so I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it if it’s not already on the eShop by the time I get one.

  5. This is totally off-topic, but I didn’t know where else to say it. Any chance we could get more Evangelion episode reviews JParish? I was really enjoying those. Though I don’t mind the Trek musings, you’e Evangelion reviews seemed more in-depth and manageable. I listened to the Evangelion podcast on 1up but would still be interested in the episode-to-episode breakdown. :)

  6. I dunno, man. I mean, it’s not as egregious as Zuma, but that game look like Puzz Loop with photo graphics. That… that doesn’t mean it won’t be perfectly fun!

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