Saturday 16 November 2019

Ristar (Sega Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Sega CS
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1995

Ristar is a platformer that was also ported to the Sega Game Gear in 1995. 

Your mission across the game's seven levels is to stop the evil space pirate Greedy from taking over the solar system, free the brainwashed leaders and rescue your kidnapped father. The main gameplay gimmick is Ristar's arms which can be used to grab and attack enemies, as well as allowing you to throw objects, climb up walls and ascend from platform ledges. The controls are unusual which does result in a small adjustment period, but once you get the hang of them it's fun linking moves together in a style not too dissimilar to parkour. Where the game truly excels is in its level design that perfectly compliments the abilities of Ristar. The action could easily have become stale if the developers stuck to the ideas found in Stage 1, but instead there's underwater areas that are reminiscent of Ecco the Dolphin (1992, Sega Mega Drive) and puzzle elements where you need to transport a metronome to unlock the next section. It's all incredibly well done and the thoughtful, playful design leads to some appealing gameplay that encourages you to explore every nook and cranny. The bosses feature a ton of interesting ideas too and the addition of mini-bosses makes for some epic encounters. The game is not without minor flaws though, such as Stage 3's mini-boss which requires you to memorise the order in which to attack enemies; failure results in instant death and the meagre checkpoint system results in frustration. Also, the controls can be a bit finicky in later levels as you try to link moves together. The music is highly memorable though and the outstanding graphics could be mistaken for a Sega 32X game!

Ristar is basically the game that Tempo (1995, Sega 32X) wanted to be and it trounces it in every way thanks to its superior level design, gameplay variety and tight controls. It constantly throws new ideas into the mix to keep you engaged and Ristar's abilities are innovative enough to push the genre to new and exciting places.

Random trivia: TCRF website details a number of regional differences between the U.S. / Europe and Japan / Asia versions of the game, including revised sprites.

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