When envisioning the creation of a new Mascot Character in the early 90s, the creative minds at Sega came up with the idea of a Rabbit with long ears that could pick up objects. This idea was sidelined in favour of a faster creature that could roll itself into a ball, and thus Sonic the Hedgehog began his headlining career.
The original concept was not forgotten however, and Sega decided to create a game based around it. First emerging as a prototype named Feel, subsequent revisions, including the change from Extendable Ears to Arms, and even dropping the rabbit idea, the end result was a small star-shaped creature called Ristar.
Although gamers were already looking towards the looming 32 and 64 bit machines when Ristar was released on the Mega Drive, it gained enough respectable sales and possitive reception to be part of future compilation re-releases and most recently, a Virtual Console upload in late 2006.
Ristar takes place in the seven-planet Valdi System. An evil space pirate, Kaiser Greedy, has used excessive force to make the planet's leaders obey him. The inhabitants of Planet Flora pray for a hero before Greedy influence reaches them. Those prayers reach Ristar, the son of the Legendary Hero that protected the planetary system before he was kidnapped by Greedy. And so, Ristar starts off on a quest across the seven planets to stop Greedy and rescue his Father.
Primary gameplay consists of the aforementioned system of grabbing enemies and objects, and although this sounds somewhat limited, in practice Sega have added a lot of variety to what you can grab, hold, and hit, such as ledges, bars, walls and enemies.
The main objective of each level is to get to the end, and collect treasure along the way. Finding the treasure chests that yield these items gives the player the task of navigating through a small mini-level to get the treasure. These small diversions add a lot of Longevity and Replay Value to the game, as it is unlikely that the first-time player will find everything in one sitting.
Ristar's Shooting Star element is also expanded within the game, in the form of special swing poles that, with enough charge, can catapult your character off in different directions. How much control you have on his bearings depends on the difficulty level selected. This plays well into the uniqueness of the title, and gives it that extra aura of wonder, of what is to come next.
Also depending on Difficulty choice is the number of Stars you have for each level, that act as your life meter, 4 on the easiest setting, and 1 on the hardest.
Ristar was one of the Mega Drive/Genesis's most vibrant lookers, and it still holds up well today. Most of the worlds and enemies have unique themes, such as a bird that conducts Music in an instrumental world, or an underwater city.
The music Sega have created for this game is surprisingly good, even for a Mega Drive/Genesis game. Themes for most of the levels are well-suited, and very catchy. An example below;
Alongside the core game, Ristar offers a Sound Test system, multiple difficulty levels, a Time Attack mode, and a Boss Rush mode so traditionalists who wish to collect and beat everything they can in a game will find 800 points a worthy investment. If you are looking for a unique and challenging Platformer to download, you could do much worse than Ristar.