Developer: Sonic Team
Platform: Sega Genesis, Game Gear (originally); later Virtual Console and also bundled in compilations for PSP, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PC, PS3 and Xbox 360
Metacritic score: Not available
VGChartz sales to date: Unknown
WHAT MADE IT GREAT
For those of us born during a certain time, the 90's represented a coming of age in more ways then one. For the video game industry, the 90's was when gaming transitioned from youthful fad to full-fledged entertainment industry juggernaut. In 1982 at the height of the home console market just before the Great Crash of '83 the industry was pulling in around $4 billion annually, a number that would rise to over $20 billion globally in just ten years. While there have always been multiple competitors in this market, it wasn't until the 1990's when we saw two companies so evenly matched. By the end of the 16-bit era Nintendo would claim a slight victory in the Console Wars with 49 million Super Nintendos sold compared to Sega's 40 million Geneses (fun fact: the plural of genesis is geneses, you can look it up if you don't believe me). It's fitting that the two generals of this conflict, Mario and Sonic, were both mascots from platformers because in many ways the 16-bit era was tailor made for the platforming genre. The SNES and Genesis still had the same 2D rendering limitations as the previous generation, but modest increases in addressable memory space and processing power gave developers access to a greater palette of colors, sounds and sprites to craft worlds that possessed far more personality over their predecessors.
|If your first experience with video games was Pong, seeing this many colors onscreen at once could give you a stroke.|
|Apparently nobody notified Ristar of the change, because he maintains those arched eyebrows throughout the game|
|Each stage ends with either a mini-boss or boss battle. Battling the boss on Planet Undertow is made easier by not needing to breath since stars live in the vacuum of space. Doesn't stop them from wearing sneakers, though.|
|Bonus chests can contain anything from points to extra lives and are scattered in various hard to reach places|
Timing is everything. Ristar was one of the last new games to release for the Genesis before the launch of of the Sega Saturn in the North American market. The Saturn had already arrived in Japan and it's famously botched U.S. launch was only two months away from becoming a reality when Ristar was released. Sega's attention was completely fixed on their next console and Ristar received very little marketing. If that wasn't bad enough, an electronics powerhouse waded into the Console War by rolling out a new platform of their own. Sony's Playstation had already followed the Saturn into the Japanese market in December 1994, and it would arrive in the U.S. in September '95. The 16-bit era had ended, all hail the 32-bit reign!
WILL WE SEE IT AGAIN
Despite starring in only this single outing, that determined little luminous sphere of plasma has grown in popularity over the years. The game was re-issued in collections of Sonic games for GameCube and PS2, and was more recently brought to Steam and Virtual Console on it's own or bundled on PSN and Xbox Live in the form of Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection. Ristar has also made two cameo's in the Sonic & Sega All-Star Racing series but never as a playable character. He's become such a cult icon that homebrew sequel have even sprung up based around the original gameplay.
Maybe we'll see a true sequel come from Sega, at the very least the cameos prove they remember the game exists. Bionic Commando, which uses a similar platforming mechanic, has tried to refresh itself to mixed success but perhaps Ristar can make a more comfortable move to 3D platforming like Mario Galaxy accomplished. If you want to play Ristar on the go, you'd better have a working Game Gear and a truck load of batteries because it's not available on 3DS or PS Vita. While some Sonic games have made it to mobile Ristar is not one of them. A touchscreen version may be difficult since your finger would always be obscuring the exact place you're moving to, but using a digital button pad might work. We may never get another Ristar game, and it's possible the platforming genre will never be what it once was, but for a very short window of time Ristar gave fans of the genre one last fleeting moment of greatness.
|Do we dare to wish upon this star? Picture credit|