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Ristar

Genre: Platformer Developer: Sega of Japan Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1995

Ah Ristar. Just thinking about this game makes me grin. This was the kind of game I showed off to my friends. This was the type of game that made me love my Genesis more than any other system before or since. This was a game that was completely ignored by SOA’s marketing division. Sad but true. Poor little Ristar was released right when the Genesis was on its way out. Having all his thunder stolen by the Saturn, it was doomed to bargain bins and gaming obscurity.

There is a good side to all this, though. You can find this game just about anywhere for rock bottom prices. If you own a Genesis and consider yourself a platforming fan, you owe it to yourself to get Ristar now!

Ristar is the type of character I like. He doesn’t try to be cool or overflow with ‘tude. He’s just a little star out to do the right thing. When the space tyrant Greedy takes over the solar system and imprisons his father, it’s up to Ristar to save the day. Divided over seven worlds composed of multiple stages, it looks like the little guy has his work cut out for him. You can select either normal or hard difficulty from the options menu, but neither mode is very hard. I do believe there is an expert mode you can access with a password, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Right off the bat you’ll notice the incredible use of color and detail here. The graphics are among the best I’ve seen on the system and the developers appear to have mixed, filtered, and chanted to the gods to get every available color out of the Genesis’ meager palette. The Genny really shines in Ristar.

Backgrounds are parallax-filled and extremely well drawn. Many stages have cool little details in their backgrounds, like the flaming cauldrons in stage three, the sunlight effect in the first boss’s stage, or the airships in stage four. There are also some cool touches like the screen getting darker as you dive underwater, then relighting as you reach the surface (stage two).

Ristar himself is well animated, with everything from the standard bop-to-the-beat standing animation to the overused “off balance” pose. As I said, he doesn’t try to have the attitude most other mascots of the time imitated (thanks a lot Sonic), and reminds me more of Mickey Mouse in his demeanor than anything else. This little star has personality but doesn’t overdo it.

Enemies are detailed and pleasing to the eye. There is also a large variety of them, and they change depending on the world you’re currently exploring. The bosses themselves are large but a bit on the easy side. Some have expanding stages (the stage three boss, for example) and do provide enough of a challenge without making things too hard.

The soundtrack in Ristar is awesome. It’s well-composed, and it also makes great use of the Genesis’ sound capabilities. Catchy, bopping tunes fit the action perfectly and play for quite some time before they loop. The sound test lets you listen to each tune in a concert setting, complete with applause and everything. Another OST-worthy game. The sounds are also excellent. Hits and crashes are clear, and the dreaded Genesis sore throat does not rear its ugly head. Ristar only makes a few sounds but some could have been clearer.

Our little star has many moves he can perform with his stretching arms. Grabbing and throwing are the most commonly used. He can also climb up or down ladders, bang himself up walls, hang, swim, float, move pulley ropes, or flip himself up or down branches to reach another area. Treasure boxes are scattered around each stage and contain extra stars for life extension or refilling, as well as gems for points. Only two buttons are used in Ristar (the other for jumping) but the game play is tight and easy to get into. Spinning off hidden Star Handles sends you to bonus stages that vary depending on where they were found. Each stage has a treasure for you to find, if you can reach it. The password option is used to enter codes that open time attack modes, level select, or even a configuration mode. Considering the great length of the game, the passwords help out a lot when you run out of continues five worlds in. Some people may complain about the level design (the stages are HUGE) but don’t let that turn you off to this great title.

Everything in Ristar is done with the kind of love and care you’d expect from a triple A Sega team at the end of a console’s lifespan. Stuning presentation, rock-solid gameplay, and fantastic level design all combine to make this a must-have title. From the cool opening story to the great ending (yes, the game has an actual ending. No “Congratulations!” here!), Ristar deserves a place in every platform-loving gamer’s library.

SCORE: 9 out of 10

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2 Comments

  1. Osquip says:

    Despite the great visuals and ok controls I cannot in all honesty say that this is a good game. The levels don’t make any sense and remind me of LCD trips or fever dreams, and they are long, boring and repetitive as hell. I really wanted to like this game but after getting about half way trough I just gave up. There’s no point and little to no fun. Skip this one if you are over 13 years old.

  2. Greg J says:

    This game deserves all the praise it gets. The game-play, visuals and sound are all fantastic, and it really shows off the hardware’s true potential. Ristar is an excellent game – definitely one of SEGA’s best creations. 10/10 as far as I’m concerned.

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