Saturday 29 January 2022

Ristar (Sega Game Gear review)

Developer: Japan System House
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1995

Ristar is a platformer that was also released on the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive (1995).

Your mission across the game's six levels is to stop the 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 level design feels expansive thanks to the multiple routes you can choose to take through each stage, and the mixture of verticality and straight-ahead platforming is highly engaging. Your move-set is so intuitive and dexterous that the environment feels like one huge playground for you to explore and enjoy; what's great is how the level design caters to this and the emphasis isn't always on trying to overly challenge the player, but rather to encourage them to try out new ways of attacking individual stages. Compared to the 16-bit original, the world themes are largely similar, although there are some unique locations such as a pirate ship. Also, the exclusive ability to collect stars in this handheld version becomes very addictive in a similar fashion to rings in Sonic the Hedgehog (1991, Sega Genesis). Another terrific feature is the ability to procure enemy weapons, and managing to use them to solve puzzles adds another layer of playfulness to the action. Everything runs at a blistering pace too, although there are moments of minor slowdown later on in the adventure. The animation is absolutely top-notch though, the graphics have some fantastic shading effects / texturing, and the game makes excellent use of the console's expansive colour palette.
Ristar takes many cues from the 16-bit original, but there's just enough unique content and gameplay differences to make it a worthy companion piece. The level design is sublime while offering you tons of freedom in the way you can tackle each one, and the graphics are some of the best you'll find on the system.

Random trivia: As of the time of writing, this version has only been re-released once on the PlayPal Plug & Play system (2006).

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