Ristar is a platform game developed and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis, which released worldwide in February 1995. A Sega Game Gear game of the same name and genre, Ristar, was also released, which shared similar themes, while possessing different level design and gameplay mechanics.
The game stars an anthropomorphic cartoon star who uses his hands and long, stretchable arms to both move and combat enemies. Reception for the game has been generally positive, but the game's initial release was overshadowed due to the imminent ending of the Genesis's lifecycle and the succession of the Sega Saturn and other fifth generation video game consoles. While never receiving any sequels, Sega has re-released the game a number of times digitally and on Sega-themed compilations, including the Sega Forever line of releases for mobile devices. The character has additionally received various cameos in other Sega properties as well.
Ristar plays as a 2D sidescrolling platformer, similar to games in the Super Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog series of video games, but focusing less on jumping and speed, and more on the use of Ristar's stretchable arms, which can reach in 8 different main directions. The player must maneuver Ristar through the level to its end, while avoiding damage from obstacles and enemies. Ristar's extendable arms are used as the main means of attacking enemies; through extending his arms, grabbing the enemy, and pulling himself towards them into a 'headbutt' motion to defeat them. The same motion also allows for opening treasure chests containing various items, or striking different parts of the environment, such as knocking trees over. Additionally, his elastic arms can merely be used for grabbing and/or throwing objects as well.
Beyond attacking, Ristar's arms are also used as a method of projecting him through levels. Many pole-like structures are present to swing Ristar from one side to another, across gaps or to ascend or descend platforms vertically. Ristar is also able to grab on to enemies and objects in mid-air and swing on them. Additionally, 'Star Handles' are placed in levels, where the player must have Ristar grab and use momentum to swing him around in a 360 degrees circle. Letting go launches him off in a given direction, dependent on the time of release. If enough momentum is gained, sparkles appear behind Ristar and he performs a move called the 'Meteor Strike', which makes him invincible and able to defeat any enemy upon touching them. When enough momentum is lost, usually a few seconds, flight ceases, and he drops to the ground back into his normal state, though this can be extended by bouncing off walls and ceilings during flight.
Every level ends with a special 'Star Handle', which is used to launch Ristar through the end of the level. Bonus points are awarded based on Ristar's altitude when flying offscreen, similar to how levels are ended in Super Mario Bros.. Additionally, every level also contains one hidden handle that sends Ristar to a bonus stage, which involve getting through an obstacle course within a given time limit. Completing the level in a particularly fast time will earn a continue, and after the game is completed, special codes are awarded depending on how many were completed. Ristar's health is shown through an icon based health system consisting of four stars in the upper-right corner of the screen. Taking damage removes one star, and losing all stars causes Ristar to lose a life. Locating and grabbing a Ristar figure grants Ristar an extra life, while finding traditional star figures replenish his health; a yellow star replenishes one star, while a blue star restores all four.
Much like other games from the same timeframe, such as Gunstar Heroes, the game's story varied between the Japanese language release and its English language counterpart. In all versions of the game, the events take place in the Valdi System, where an evil space pirate, Kaiser Greedy, has used mind control to make the planets' leaders obey him.
In the Japanese version, the inhabitants of Planet Neer (Flora in the English-language version) pray for a hero before Greedy's mind control minion, Rhio, snatches the planet elder. The desperate prayers reach the nebula of the Star Goddess, Oruto. She awakens one of her children, Ristar, with the sole purpose of granting the wishes of the innocent people. He must stop Greedy and the brainwashed leaders of each world in the galaxy to restore peace to the galaxy.
In the English-language version, Oruto is omitted altogether. Instead, Ristar has a father figure, the Legendary Hero, who is a shooting star that protects the Valdi System. Rather than Oruto awakening Ristar, the Legendary Hero was kidnapped by Greedy, and it is up to Ristar to rescue his father as well.
The Japanese version of the game ends with Greedy, and two underlings, Iounus and Uranium, stranded on a deserted planet, with a picture of Ristar appearing in the space, while Greedy simply stares at it. The ending scene shown in the English shows Ristar being re-united with his father once again.
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