It’s been a long time since my last retro review (I blame it on the flu). Of course, being sick has its benefits, as I get to have more time to look at classic games. Today’s entry is one such classic. It’s 1995, and it’s that time period where game companies could come up with many insane ideas for characters and it would work. I mean seriously, when was the last time you had a new game character that was a cartoonish looking thing like Mario or Sonic? These days, it’s all about gunmetal gray and faded colors with human looking characters carrying either the most realistic weapons or the most unrealistic. What happened to the idea that you could make a new character that was a cute cartoon and still be a good game? With that, let’s talk about Sega’s Ristar for the Genesis.
Created by Sonic Team using a few ideas left over from creating Sega’s legendary mascot, the game follows the adventures of Ristar, a living shooting star. In the Valdi system, a solar system with seven planets, an evil space pirate named Kaiser Greedy (never will I complain about Darth Maul’s name again) is taking over the minds of the leaders of each planet. He has even captured the Legendary Hero, a shooting star that protects the system. But the Hero has a son: Ristar, who proceeds to travel through all seven planets to defeat Greedy and save the day.
This 2D platformer was a treat, even though the gaming market at the time was starting to focus on the 32-bit systems. Bright pretty graphics, catchy tunes, and even a few digitized voice clips. But you want to know about gameplay. For a platformer, Ristar has really weak jumps. His true strength (and main gimmick) are his stretchy arms. By pressing the attack button, Ristar would stretch his arms out in front of him (or diagonally or above him, if you held the direction pad as such). If an enemy got caught, either he’d be pulled to you, or you to him. Whichever it was, it’d end in a Ristar headbutt. If a ladder or pole got caught, you could climb, swing and maneuver. At certain points in the level, and at the end of each world, were cranks you could grab and swing around to propel Ristar to the heavens. Doing this at the end of a world helped launch you to the next one.
Ristar was a fun game, and it definitely left an impression on gamers. Sega has referenced it many times in other games, and it’s been collected in several collections, like Sonic Mega Collection, Sega Genesis Collection, and recently Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection. It’s also available on the Wii virtual console. There was a recent hoax that Sega was planning to release a new one for the DS. We can only hope.