"Play with me?" - by Mr. Domino
Ristar takes a moment to show-off on his title a bit before saving the world.
Buried beneath Sega's 32X and Saturn hype, Ristar, one of the
last Genesis games released, never really got the exposure it
deserved. Ristar is a beautiful game; it has a likable hero,
a neat attack scheme, and a nice assortment of puzzles and
enemies. Although Ristar's voice samples ("Play with me?") may
sound sickenly cute, the game is free of sugar coating with a
nice level of challenge. With the dearth of good platformers
available on all the next generation systems, we're revisiting a
great Sega classic which most people are probably not too familiar.
The game kicks off with a well animated introduction explaining
the basic premise of the game. Ristar is trying to stop the
forces of Greedy, an evil being which has taken control over
all of the planets' leaders including Ristar's own father.
Ristar must "free" (re: beat senseless) each of the planets'
leaders at the end of each of the games six levels. While the story certainly won't
win a Tony award, at least without a dead author, it's a nice change of pace from the
usual "save the girl" junk found in most games of this nature. The whole concept of greed influencing
world leaders is a novel one in a platform game, though it's honestly just a shell of a plot and certainly
not worth debating on Meet the Press, assuming Ristar and Greedy could wake up that early to meet them. Ristar was asleep when the takeover took place, only to be awakened when needed after the fact.
A friend nearby will bring Ristar soup to feed this frosted boss.
Unlike most platform characters who use their buttocks as their
weapon of choice, Ristar uses his arms. His sole means of attack,
Ristar can reach out in any of eight directions to grab an enemy
or object. Depending upon what he has grabbed a hold of, Ristar
may cling onto it, spin around it, or smash into it head first.
It's this flexibility and intuitiveness which make the game so
much fun. Ristar can leap and grab enemies below him, hold onto
flying enemies for a ride, leap from pole to pole horizontally
and vertically, scale walls with repeated head bashes, and so on.
The game controls perfectly and moves at a good pace. Although
getting to some extraneous goals or bonus items can be a bit
frustrating, the game itself is moderately challenging in later
levels without being "unfair" (ie., blind leaps, "impossible"
leaps, etc.). Ristar can take a few hits and pick up some more
stars (hit points) up to a maximum of five, which allows the
player a few errors while enjoying the game.
The six planets are each divided into three levels (save the last which has two), with the
final level culminating in the boss battle. These levels are
fairly large, and a single one can take upwards of 20 minutes
if the player scours the area for all of the hidden gems to
increase his or her score. Fortunately, a level select becomes
available via password after completing the game. Occasionally
Ristar will happen across a spinner which allows the hero to
spin rapidly and fire himself like a shooting star. Regular
spinners allow him this quick invincible attack while bonus
spinners propel him into one of the game's bonus challenges.
There is a bonus game hidden away (two per planet) requiring
Ristar to grab a treasure in an obstacle filled room before
the given time limit expires.
Ristar uses his arms to lift himself up with this broken elevator gizmo thing.
The difficulty progresses nicely with the first planet used
mainly as a place to become acquainted with the controls and
Ristar's many moves. The puzzle elements begin appearing on
Planet Undertow which features switches that must be destroyed
to open doors and turbines which push Ristar back into harm's
way. Switches must be used and traps avoided on Scorch, the
fire planet, while Ristar must use various devices to deliver
a metronome to a bird on Planet Sonata. Completing the goals
for each planet require a different set of skills which makes
the game refreshing and fun to play. The planets' enemies are
varied and keep the action level high with some "mini-boss"
style encounters tossed in here and there with the typical
"big boss" awaiting at every third level. The game's bosses
are unique and challenging, each requiring a different
strategy to succeed. These fights can last quite a few minutes
depending on how adept one is with the game and how cautious
he or she is playing... especially Greedy, who is a major
pain (but then he should be).
Ristar is a fun platformer which really just never got the
audience it should have. While I doubt I'll never live to
see a sequel to Ristar, I can be thankful that the game
itself is as great and fun as it is. Like many later Genesis
games, Ristar really pushed the envelope with the system's
graphics and musical limitations, and the game's visual and
sound quality are top notch. Ristar delights with catchy techno-y pop
music, really bright and colorful graphics, great animation
(Ristar himself sports a unique standing animation for each
planet), great level design, and a nice sense of style.
Next: More screenshots