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Saturday, 3 April 2010

Unsung Classics. Number 9: Ristar (Sega Megadrive)

Ristar is a game that seems to have been very highly regarded in general, but its release came toward the back end of the Mega Drive's cycle, and so it probably wasn't seen or played by as many people as it deserved to be. Of course, in this day and age gamers are given second or even third chances, with emulation and retro compilations being the order of the day. Ristar is on the Sega Mega Drive Collection, and also the Wii Virtual Console (at least, I think it is), so there's plenty of opportunity for it to get a good playing. Here's why you should jump at the chance.

Sega, of course, had already created one of the all-time classic mascot characters in Sonic the Hedgehog, and he/it had a range of games, all wildly successful. It's almost a shame that Sonic was so successful in a way, because Ristar could have been a great mascot character, and as far as the game goes, I prefer it to Sonic.

You are, naturally, Ristar, and you live in a world of platforms, which is handy when it comes to making a game. An evil space pirate has captured your father and is using mind control to enslave the planets in your galaxy. It's left to you to rescue your dad, and stop the evil Kaiser Greedy (for that is the space pirate's name).


Grrrrr! I'll thwottwe you, you wascawwy wabbit!

Ristar is a funny and cute looking character, albeit an angry-looking one. But given the quest at hand, he's not very well-armed. All you can do is jump (and not very high at that, and there are no double-jumps here), and grab. The grab is your offensive move... you grab your enemy and then slam into it and bounce it into oblivion. It looks funny, because it looks like you're throttling the life out of the enemy creatures! Larger enemies take a few hits, though. You also have other moves, depending on your environment... for instance, in the second world you can swim, and whilst underwater you can swim faster instead of jumping. Or there may be rungs or ladders which you can climb up or swing across.

Unlike Sonic, this game is played at a pretty sedate pace, which means you've got more time to explore the levels and take things in. This is good, because there are plenty of bonuses to be found, in the form of treasure chests. Break one open and you'll receive a reward... usually a unit of health, but sometimes it'll be a crystal which gives points, or sometimes a full health top-up. Sometimes you'll see a chest, but figuring out how to get it is difficult. I like that... it means you go out of your way to find it out, and see more of the level. And there's no time constraint of any kind, so you can potter about at your leisure.


Look at the size of that fella! Wonder if he'd taste good with tartare sauce?

At times, you will encounter a crank. No, not a madman... a lever or handle, suspended above the ground. If you jump and grab on to this, you'll start to swing around. Hold on for a while, because once you're swinging fast enough, when you let go you'll go zooming into the air, invincible to everything in your path. Usually there's some kind of bonus to be found when doing this... sometimes treasure, sometimes a large "height bonus" (lots of points). It's just something else to keep you interested.

Ristar is a heck of a lot of fun. It's a pretty chilled-out game, not too difficult but quite long and still enough of a challenge to keep it from getting boring. It also looks lovely, with a great art style complementing the action. It's a real shame that it didn't get the attention it deserved at the time... put that right now, while you still can.

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