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   PlanetDreamcast | Features | Sega Classics: Ristar

Sega Classics: Ristar
"Play with me?" - by Mr. Domino

Ristar Title
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

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