Let’s Talk About Ristar

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The golden age of platform games came during the combined eras of the third and fourth console generations. We’re talking, NES and Master System alongside the Mega Drive, SNES, PC Engine and the CDi. This was the time when the platform game was KING and everyone in the gaming industry was trying to create something to match up to the genius incarnations of everyone’s favourite platforming mascots: Mr Nutz and Greendog.

Sorry, Aero the Acrobat and Dizzy.

I mean, Sonique and Andy Murray… oh.

The fuck was that joke…?

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In today’s episode of cliched forgotten mascot characters, we bring to you the obvious inclusion of Ristar on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis because everyone mentions Ristar. Everyone is aware of him being a bit of a forgotten gem…

So how does that make him forgotten when we all clearly know who he is?

Semantics aside, Wristy is still a super impressive platform game that appeared FAR TOO LATE in the life cycle of the Sega Mega Drive for it to make enough of a significant impact. By this point, the Playstation was already out in Japan, the Saturn was already out in Japan and we in the UK had the Atari Jaguar PFFFFTT AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! HOLY SHIT THE JAGUAR!!!

Oh. And the 3DO.

No, no. That console existed.

I know.

ANYWAY.

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Rosti is an example of how a decent platformer can easily get very overlooked in a market that had two problems at the time: 1) oversaturation of platformers; and 2) the move to 3D. The end of the Mega Drive/SNES era and the beginning of the fifth generation contributed heavily to the notion that 2D WAS BAD. As such, games like Rusty were started to get a little bit frowned upon. It wasn’t a graphical tour de force in the same way that anything blocky and ‘tick box for z-axis’ was getting roundly ooh’ed at just for existing.

Basically, if it wasn’t 3D by this point, the best you could hope for was a shrug. 1995 was HARSH.

And because of this FUCK YOU PIXELS mentality, Roasty didn’t really get the praise and adulation that he ought to have done at the time. Since then, the rose-tinted spectacles have gone on and everyone’s all “oh we remember this game!” and “look at how nice and wholesome this game is!” when in reality YOU’RE ALL TOO LATE TO THE PARTY. IT WAS AMAZING BACK THEN, IT’S STILL AMAZING TODAY.

So much about Risky is amazing, it’s difficult to pick where to begin.

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I suppose I ought to trundle into the story, which is told so epically in the opening cutscene. Well, our hero is awoken in an age of unrest after the leader of an alien race called Greedy corrupts every other planetary leader. Turns out he’s the son of the legendary hero that they WERE going to ask to help them but seeing as he’s been kidnapped… I suppose the child of the hero is as good as, right?

 

INSERT YOUR OWN CELEBRITY/CELEBRITY’S CHILD REFERENCE HERE. I don’t fancy getting sued for defamation.

Anyhow. Off goes Ripperoo on his journey to upend the tyranny and fuck it up right royally across 6 planetary levels, all of which are obviously themed because PLATFORMERS. Then comes the unending joy of everyone’s favourite FINAL LEVEL where you… fight the boss. And that’s about it.

WAIT. This sounds awfully familiar…

sonic 1 final

AHHHHHHHH.

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Well, unsurprisingly, this is also a Sonic Team game so perhaps there’s some logic to the idea of 6 levels, plus bosses, and a final level which features only the final boss who is an absolute BASTARD at times to defeat.

But what we end up with is actually a game that is almost as far removed from Sonic as it could be. Ritzy walks at an amble at best and cannot run anywhere. He can fly at times, provided you find the opportune handlebar to swing on and launch yourself up into the recesses of the sky or barrel rolling through walls and tunnels of spikes to throw yourself further through the levels, but the flying is very much an extra mechanic that speeds up the game or gives you access to areas you probably wouldn’t have got to otherwise. If anything… and this is probably one of my few gripes with the game itself, it’s underused.

I KNOW. I KNOW. GO WITH ME HERE.

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One of the major quibbles with this game upon release was that it was quite short and yes, I will agree with you in part that it can feel a tad on the short side. There are some levels that feel like they finish too quickly. The good thing is that you cannot use them to bypass a stage by flying directly over the top. If anything, they’re used in areas where they expect you to go in a certain direction to find bonuses like points, stars or lives. But somehow… it doesn’t feel as well used as it probably could have been. It is hindsight that I am basing that off, which feels very mean, truth be told, but there could have been more to it than just using them for finding a gem in a treasure chest that’s worth 200 points or something.

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However, gripe aside, the rest of the game is actually a cracking example of how to platform 101. Rumplestiltskin is as responsive as you like, jumps the old-school way with an excellent level of precision, and his main attack is headbutting enemies using his stretchable arms.

Yeah, he’s out-Luffy-ing Luffy in that respect. Rascally stretches out to enemies, grabs them and them steamrollers them into his face to get rid of them. He can also do this same thing to walls to climb them, multiple headbutts resulting in ascending to higher ledges, which you can usually reach provided there’s something to hang on to towards the top. Otherwise, you trying to climb a wall and falling to the bottom again having wasted a significant amount of time. However, sometimes you are rewarded for your curiosity. Just not always. But go and be curious because the game’s fucking gorgeous so what can go wrong?

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If you haven’t guessed by using your eyes, or from my last statement FNAR FNAR, this game is BEAUTIFUL. It is testament to the art team that they managed to make a game that looks this amazing throughout the game. It doesn’t skimp on ideas, it doesn’t do things by halves, it certainly doesn’t decide that Rosco should have all of the glory to himself and made everything else with the same level of beautiful detail. Every level feels lovingly designed and crafted and that they really went to town on being perfect with it. Backgrounds are mesmerisingly good-looking and the level of detail that went into the animation for each of the characters is astonishing. Our titular hero in particularly gets the high-end of the animation here with his whimsical curiousness, determined scowl, and his happy demeanour all implemented brilliantly into his expressive, charming-

THERE IT IS.

YOU KNEW IT WAS COMING.

Yes. This game is fucking charming beyond doubt. Ricicles is a charming little bugger from the get-go and his facial expressions heighten what is already a likeable hero. From the off, you just get a sense that this hero is going to be fun. He’s instantly likeable because he smiles his way through parts of the levels. Even if he looks sad or upset or angry, he manages to do it in a way that just makes me even MORE lovely. He is a determined-looking character who sticks to his mission but doesn’t mind having a bit of fun with it. He just… fits.

He looks and feels like a hero and it’s not hard to feel – yes, I said feel – why.

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And here’s something else about this game that sets it out as better than many other platformers. If you’ve ever played ANY platform game, you will probably hold a specific hatred for water levels. We’re talking about ANY game. Sonic, Tomb Raider, Ratchet and Clank, Mario… basically ANY GAME WITH WATER LEVELS.

This one does it right.

And before you go “YOU ARE CLEARLY OUT OF YOUR MIND FOR SUCH A THING DOES NOT EXIST” let me just say this to you:

I AM NOT FUCKING KIDDING YOU.

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The mechanics of the water levels just work. Rinse-Aid glides through the water at a nice pace and can push himself through the water quicker by swimming with his arms as opposed to just using his legs. This propels him through the water as a very brisk pace BUT it’s not often needed. If anything, using it too often is actually detrimental to you sometimes. You have to choose wisely when to use it and when not to. If you stop moving in the water for too long, you start to float upwards to the top. This works perfectly because it keeps you on your toes. I mean you wouldn’t want to get Roxy stuck on underwater spikes now, would you? You heartless bastards…

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As well as bucketloads of charm, the game itself feels incredibly polished throughout. Everything feels thought-out. It feels as though they didn’t just add things in for the heck of it. There felt like there was a reason to put certain things in certain places. They didn’t shy away from putting into something extra just to give the game something extra. The only minor fluff added in is at the start of the ice levels, where you shoot your way down a mountain for no apparent reason other than to land on the planet itself… it’s like the snowboard part from Sonic 3 & Knock Knock it’s Knuckles & Knuckles but without the rings. It’s fluff. But it’s nice-looking fluff so it can be allowed. Plus the music’s fucking lovely throughout these stages so bugger it. You get a pass. Just this once.

In fact the music throughout the whole game is just glorious. Even the more whimsical and novelty feel to the music on the game’s fourth planet, Planet Sonata, which is heavily music-based, doesn’t feel wrong. It fits perfectly. Which pretty much sums up the experience of this game all in all, it appears…

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It’s unusual to think that this is a game created by the same people who made Sonic the Hedgehog. As I mentioned at the start, this is kind of the opposite of that. It’s more about accurate platforming and skill, as well as a lot of puzzle solving and thoughtfulness, than it is about speed and epic loop-de-loops and MASSIVE scale levels. It feels much more compact and tight-knit. It feels as though the developers were able to be more expressive and the love that went into everything pours out of every orifice. It can feel slow to play, yes. It can feel a bit too short, yes. But you’re saying that because you expected it to be a Sonic-style game. It is not. It WILL feel slower because there are plenty of platform games out there and are slow and methodical that AREN’T Sonic. Neither is this.

And we don’t NEED another Sonic.

There. I said it.

WE DON’T.

We don’t need the next 2D Sonic game. The Sonic fans will never be happy with it.

Let Sonic Team, or whoever it is now, create the 3D Sonic and try and work on those. We’ll always have the 2D ones.

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Instead, I’ll take Risotto building a snowman, fanning himself in the flames of Planet Scorch, jigging about in the ready-position and pottering about beautiful locales ready to take on the world.

And then I’ll take a sequel any time now please, Sonic Team.

I think 21 years is long enough.

Pull your fingers out and get it done.

I want this little guy to Ri-STAR in a new game!

No?

I’ve still got my coat on, don’t worry.

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