A shining, flaming, hot, gas orb in the Genesis library
Overall Grade B+
Despite what most people believe, Ristar is far from unknown. Ristar has graduated from "game no one played" to "cult classic". This is thanks to Sega's habit of releasing the same couple games inside compilations. After all, Ristar has been in almost every single Sega compilation in the last ten years. This means, anyone who has picked up these compilations has almost definitely played Ristar. The sad thing about Ristar is that is rarely makes it onto any "must play" lists even they it has every right to be on said lists. Is there some reason for that?
The plot for Ristar is very basic. You are Ristar, an anthropomorphic star in solar system known as "Valdi". Ristar has to save the solar system from an evil Space Pirate named Kaiser Greedey. It's a simple "save the blank" plot that you see in a million games from this era. Unlike most of those games however, it's on a galactic scale, not just on a measly worldwide scale. And...this changes....not a whole lot. I suppose you could argue that it makes it possible to visit other planets but for the most part, there is nothing really unique about a lot of the planets, so it's a null point.
Most of the characters really don't have any defining personalities either. They're very generic and kind of lame. There is one exception though and that is, our protagonist Ristar. Sega decided to go all out on Ristar's personality which is told through a variety of facial expressions. He has a multitude of different and unique animations that he goes through. Unfortunately, somebody Sega of America decided that it would be a good idea to make Ristar perputally angry. Ristar does change his face a lot but his primary facial expression is this horrible frown. It doesn't compliment Ristar or his game. This flaw isn't there in the Japanese version and I believe the reason they "added" this to the US version was to capitlize on the stupid "edgy mascot" phrase that was occuring. Other than the constant frowning, Ristar is a very fun and cute character. He's no Sparkster but he's a decent runner-up.
Ristar's plot isn't very complicated and neither are the characters. What you see is what you get and what you get isn't very much. It's an early 90s Genesis game so I can easily cut it some slack. After all, Ristar is a pretty good attempt at making a likable protagonist, even if he always frowning.
For a Genesis game, Ristar looks amazing. The sprites are large and detailed. The animations are fluid and the entire game is filled to the brim with bright colors. There is a large amount of detail present in this game that isn't present in a lot of other Genesis game. I'll admit that I think this is one of the most impressive looking games on the Genesis, rivaling games such as Vectorman 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3. The graphic style is reminiscent of a Sonic game with large sprites and colorful backdrops.
Now, I know I said the characters aren't "interesting" but they certainly look original. Ristar may be a star with a face but his facial animations make up for generic character design. He's certainly more creative than Stafy (or Starfy). The enemy designs are also pretty creative with each one looking completely different and fairly colorful. There are some pallete swaps of the most common enemy but aside from that, no enemy sprite is re-used. Sega showed quite a bit of creativity with the boss design too. They aren't just your generic mech or something along those lines. They're more akin to giant moles and strange snow monsters. The alien design is pretty cool too. They remind me of the Scrubbing Bubbles mascot Kaiser Greedy reminds me of a mix between Megamind and a Xenomorph (those aliens from the Alien series). They're creative characters that definitely show that Sega was really going all out on the creature design for this game.
Sega obviously cared a lot about this game and it shows. The game might not push the Genesis to its graphical limits but I bet it comes close. The amount of animation Ristar receives is proof that Sega cared about the game. The enemy design is creative and the levels are all bright and colorful. It's a really nice looking game and definitely one of the nicest looking games on the Genesis.
People always say the Genesis has poor sound quality and while this may be true, there a plenty of games on this system that say otherwise. Ristar is one of those games. Ristar has an astounding amount of variety with its soundtrack. The tracks in this game can range from cheerful and upbeat to mysterious and somewhat somber and they can also be incredibly intense. It's certainly got a huge amount of variety with at least one song that should suit everybody's tastes. The first level BGM is particular is probably one of my favorite first level tracks of all time. All in all, Ristar has an incredibly underrated soundtrack which is only fitting I guess.
The sound effects in this game are quite enjoyable too which is pretty surprising frankly. Ristar makes all sorts of adorable noises and the noise he makes when bouncing off of enemies is oddly entertaining for some reason. There's just something about a prolonged *BOING* that is so amusing. The other sound effects are your standard crashes and other noises you've heard in a lot of games.
Ristar doesn't have the best soundtrack on the Genesis but it certainly has one of the better ones. I'd compare it ToeJam and Earl in terms of quality. It's also reminiscent of a classic Sonic game, so if that's your cup of tea, give this soundtrack a try. There are a few memorable sound effects here and there including the aforementioned *BOINGS* and Ristar's adorable yelps. It's a shame not all the sound effects are as memorable as these two but, they're just sound effects so I'll give it a pass.
Ristar was actually orginally about a rabbit who would grab things with his long ears. At that point the game was known as "Feel". This rabbit character was also one of the many ideas tossed around as being Sega's new mascot. Knowing Ristar's roots, you would expect this to play like a Sonic game right? Well, you'd be kind of right.
Ristar feels a lot like a Sonic game but it plays nothing like it.This game gives off an odd paradox feeling that may leave some gamers confused at first. First off, Ristar moves a slower pace than Sonic. The game also encourages you for exploring the areas. It does this by rewarding you with bonus areas, extra lives and scoring items. It doesn't penalize you for not exploring either which I think was an effort to cater to an audience who just wanted to beat the game. The idea that the game tries to cater to both audiences is admirable on Sega's part. You generally didn't see that in many non-Nintendo platformers after all.
The second difference and the most notable is that Ristar uses his long arms to reach out and attack enemies. This is your only form of attack and it never gets more complicated. It's very basic and you know what? It may be more fun than simply jumping on an enemy's head. It also makes the game feel more fluid than a Sonic game. Sonic games generally halted when you came across a certain enemy. Ristar never halts the action. You'll often bounce off an enemy, grab another enemy and then swing by a pole or something along the lines of that. It makes the game feel more fluid and it's certainly makes enemy encounters more unique.
Ristar's level design is something else. The levels, while linear on the surface have plenty of paths to explore although most of them end up leading to the same place. This doesn't hurt the explanation part of Ristar though. Trying to find one of the well-hidden bonus areas is just as fun as trying to get to the end of the level. The levels are also pretty varied. Yes, it's primarily a "Get from Point A to Point B" game but getting to Point B requires some thinking. A couple levels require you to carry an item and solve a few puzzles revolving around it (most of it regarding around "how will you move it".). This requires some creativity and for a pseudo-escort mission, it's surprisingly well-done. The rest of the levels are all well-designed too and they all require some quick thinking in order to avoid some of the traps the game lays out for you.
The bosses in this game, are no slouch either. Most of them are very simple and only require you to bounce off of them a couple of times in order to win. All of the bosses keep with the simple feeling of this game.However, many of the bosses are surprisingly hard to defeat. Yes, all you have to do is bounce off of them but the bosses will throw everything they have at you in order to stop you from defeating them. These attacks can be really hard to dodge and some of them require really fast reflexes. These are bosses that test your skills, reflexes and everything else essential in a platformer. In my mind, the bosses succeed simply because they test your skills so well.
Ristar is a brilliant game. The grab and bounce mechanic is creative and it's unlike anything you've ever seen before. The level design is top-notch and it caters to both explorers and people who just want to finish the game. The bosses are well-done too, what with them being a great way to test your skills and just plain fun to fight.
Despite being another game of the Early 90s mascot craze, Ristar is incredibly well-done. It stands in a league with Rocket Knight Adventures and High Seas Havoc as being one of the few good mascot games. It's an incredibly impressive game with great music and astounding graphics. The plot is standard "save the world" fare and that's excusable considering what type of game it is. The gameplay feels oddly Sonic like despite playing nothing like a Sonic game. I'd recommend this game to almost every platformer fan, it's a solid title that deserves more love.