Everyone knows who Sega is...they were once great game developers and they have a whole slew of excellent games that are outlined in our history in one way or another, whether by wikipedia entries, or a slew of sites and fansites. Everyone knows who Sonic Team is...you know...the creators of Sonic the Hedgehog? Kinda impossible not to know about Sonic Team if you are a fan of Sega. Everyone knows about Ristar...you know...the cool guy who...wha? You DON'T know what Ristar is? It pains me to say this, but I can understand if you don't know anything about Ristar. While several old Sega games are in desperate need of sequels, few titles deserve a sequel as much as Ristar does.
Ristar is sleeping in the ocean depths when the greedy tyrant...Kaiser Greedy (yes, that is the villain's name or Greedy for short), comes from out the shadows of the cosmos to plague the galaxy with his life destroying minions. The people of several planets pray for a hero to stop Greedy's evil plans. The prayers reach the nebula of the Star Goddess, Oruto and she awakens one of her children, Ristar, with the sole purpose of granting the wishes of innocent people. Go Ristar, go! Protect the various worlds from evil, stop Greedy, and defend the galaxy! You will control your titular hero as he travels across several planets to end Greedy's schemes.........*cough*....Okay, the story isn't anything you haven't heard a dozen times already, but most great platformers or action titles back in the 8-bit and 16-bit era weren't usually deemed great by their plot (if that's the case, Super Mario World would reek of something awful). The plot isn't throughly explained within the game itself, but you should know that Greedy must be stopped.
Ristar...it's a magical gem of a game, and while it's short, it will still take you on one great joyride. I liked the Genesis version of this game but...I LOVE the Game Gear port. It has practically everything its big brother/sister has...excellent graphics, great sound (I actually like how this version sounds OVER the Genesis game) and solid gameplay, except it's on the go. Sure, you can play the Genesis game through the Sega Nomad, but it's just not the same folks. Some games don't fare very well when it's being ported from a more powerful console to a simpler platform, but Ristar for Game Gear proves it CAN be done, and it CAN be done well.
The game sports some of the most detailed backdrops and intriguing enemies of any Game Gear platformer. The game is smooth and colorful in all its handheld glory. My only real gripe about the graphics is when Ristar stretches his arms...they flicker and lose sprites. This may have bothered me if the rest of the game wasn't solid, but it is. Enemies animate nicely, the level design is excellent, and the game looks fantastic. The audio is also good, and has made the jump well from the Genesis port of this game. Each theme suits every environment to a tee, and each world you visit has a different soundtrack for each stage. Think Sonic the Hedgehog if you will. There may be 1-3 levels within a given zone, but each level (excluding boss fights) in the same world has a different soundtrack in Ristar...that is awesome.
The gameplay is mostly standard platforming fare, but given its other nearly outstanding traits, it propells itself from the average platformers of the pack and puts itself amongst the Game Gear elite. You can grab enemies in this game, throw objects, grapple, swing and more, and some bosses require little tactics to defeat them. There are items that Ristar can grab to restore life and poles that Ristar can grab. When he grabs them, Ristar can use them to become a shooting star that destroys obstacles and enemies that get in his way and he is also invincible until he loses momentum. There is also one at the end of levels and the higher up Ristar files when he leaves the screen, the more bonus points you get. The game more or less plays like other traditional platformers, but the stage design and environments make the game stand out.
Ristar is easily one of the greatest action games on this system, if not THE best action game. It's almost worth getting a Game Gear and 6-batteries or a plug just to play it (of course, there are other means...) and it's very discouraging to think that a sequel was never made and probably never will be...I could totally see this game in the next generation. It could be like Klonoa with a 2D/3D style, cel-shaded graphics, intense clever boss fights, and a simple but endearing story. I highly doubt the Sega of today has what it takes to pull it off though...it would require a subtle approach, and Sega...well, it's best not to think about it. Ristar is a pretty short game, but there isn't a whole lot more to say about this game other than "IT'S AWESOME!". If you like Game Gear, buy it. You won't regret it.
- Written by Vyse the determined -