Ristar (Sega Genesis) Review

Ristar (Sega Genesis) Cover
Death By Pizza?

Platformers come in all shapes and sizes, from the slightly overweight plumber in Mario, the blue bomber that Capcom has in their corner, even the mighty hedgehog that the blast processing has behind them. Some of these characters jump on goomba’s heads, use boss powerups or spin so fast it will make your head hurt. But if you told me a star like character would be any good back in 1995, I’d probably laugh in your face. Today you’ll find out if Ristar on the Sega Genesis is worth playing today.

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Ristar was a late Sega Genesis release back in Feb of 1995 published by Sega. What you might not know about Ristar is that Sonic and Ristar were originally intended to be the same game. When the team at Sega was developing Sonic, they originally thought the character would have the ability to reach out and grab things as part of it’s core gameplay. Of course it didn’t turn out that way for Sonic being the incredibly fast hedgehog that he is, fast forward four years later Ristar was born.

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Ristar takes on a much different approach to the platformer genre. Instead of simply jumping on enemy heads, Ristar uses it’s hands to grab onto enemies. For such a simple mechanic, you have a ton of different uses outside of smashing an enemy against your like climbing up a ladder or signing from a bar. Later stages of the game you’ll see even more clever uses like holding onto a pole while pulling yourself around.

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I had a blast with the areas that Ristar had to swim around in. Watch these sections where you have to rush forward and avoid getting pulled back by the current. I wish more games used this type of gameplay so that was great to see.

Ristar rewards you for taking a slower, thought out pacing. Running in guns a blazing will usually end up in a death from some enemy just appearing on screen. You really want to take things slow if want any chance of progressing.

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You can press A or C to jump or hold the B button to grab. The lack of buttons keeps the controls simple and precise. Ristar plays extremely well as you would expect from a Sega developed game.

The levels were laid out extremely well. Each of the six stages will have two main levels then a boss battle on the third stage. Except for the seventh stage which is the final stage and boss battle.

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Each of the stages has a different theme to them to keep things fresh. One’s a music level, ones a robotic level, you got this underwater level, oh and of course an ice stage. Nothing spells plat former like an ice stage.

In each of these stages, Ristar comes with really cool puzzles to solve. Let’s take this one as you have to find the gem to put in the machine to progress to the next section. Or this section where you have to pick up this device to give to the bird in order to proceed. Things like this help so much in giving Ristar a sense of progression and break up the whole thought of, “Oh another game where I move from left to right and make it to the end”!

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There’s also often multiple paths you can take to progress. When I found myself dying on a stage, I’ll often look around for another way to get through.

Graphically, Ristar is among the best of the best on the genesis. The art style holds up so well today and looks crisp. In case you were wondering, It’s being captured on a model one genesis through an OSSC here in 4x mode.

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The boss battles are outrageous. You got a hammerhead shark who keeps pulling the tub stoppers on the ocean as you swim around grabbing him. Check out the armadillo boss that you have to fight while falling down a pit. Then there’s a giant bird who I can only imagine as woody the woodpecker that throws musical notes at you and slows down the music in the process. Then you have this giant ice boss that you have to throw hot pizzas in it’s mouth? Yeah talk about an odd way to die, “Death by pizza”!
I don’t know what the team from Sega was on at the time of creating these bosses but yeah, whatever they’re smoking, it must have been some really good stuff.

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The game takes place in and around seven planets where an evil space pirate Kaiser Greedy makes the planets leaders obey him using mind control. One of the planets prays for a hero before this could all take place and it somehow reaches the star goddess who awakens Ristar. Who really plays a platformer for the storyline? It’s often about rescuing a princess or Denzell in distress.

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The tunes are upbeat and give you that whole, I’m in outer space feeling. Sega always does a great job on their soundtracks. It definitely reminds you of something you’d hear in a sonic the hedgehog game and of course Ristar could have been sonic at some point so it’s not out of the question to think that way. Each of the tracks set  the mood for each of the different stages, I never thought any of the tracks were annoying throughout the entire game.

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Ristar does get a bit difficult past the third stage. It’s not a bad thing by any means, it just means you’ll need to take things slow and learn the patterns of each of the enemies and stages. You can totally finish Ristar from a difficulty standpoint. There are also ways to pickup lives or extra continues along your way. There’s also a difficulty option in the menus as well as a password system that I’ll leave below in the description. Entering in the password ILOVEU lets you skip through stages which was great for picking up where you left off.

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I had a blast making my way through Ristar and if you’re reading this article, I cannot stress it enough, find a copy of Ristar, it’s been ported everywhere from The Nintendo Switch, Windows, Android or iPhone and experience the masterpiece that is Ristar because it’s one of the best games released on the Sega genesis.