Thursday, October 4, 2007
Ristar (Mega-Drive, 1995)
So the story goes in this platformer for the Sega Mega Drive that in the Valdi Planet System an evil pirate, Kaiser Greedy, has taken over and is ruling with an iron hand. You, as the hero Ristar sent by the Star Goddess, must free the planets from Greedy.
Interestingly, this was developed quite late in the Mega Drive's lifespan by the Sonic Team, and I'm saying interestingly because as a game this is a lot different to the exhilarating speed of Sonic The Hedgehog. The pace is slow and laborious, and isn't helped at all by the control method. Ristar doesn't shoot or jump in order to kill enemies. Instead he uses his hands. And also uses his hands for everything else, from climbing and snatching, to jumping over walls.
This control method is fairly tricky to get to grips with. And no sooner than planet number four, this cute little platformer is transformed to a monstrous dexterity test that will frustrate even the most hardened of players. Indeed as I was playing this, memories of Commodore 64's Thing On A Spring came to mind. Such is the difficulty of this game. Also you will need to use the grey cells a bit, as later levels offer obscure routes and mild puzzles.
The thing is Ristar would be an average game if it wasn't for the fantastic graphics. And when i say fantastic i don't mean that there are ten million layers of parallax or ultra high resolution modes or anything like that. Instead I mean that the programmers have created some of the most beautiful worlds you will ever see in a 16-bit game, from magic forests and frozen planets, to music factories and underwater palaces. This is true artistry, it's fairy-tales gone alive.
So to conclude, purely as a game Ristar is not anything to get terribly excited about. But as a virtual tour and a testament to the programmer's imagination it is really something. Try it out on an emulator with save states and see what I mean.