Ristar (Review)

I was always a Nintendo kid growing up and I wasn’t big on Sega. Due to the whole “console wars” thing. Of course, this changed over time and I began to explore Sega’s catalog. And this is when I discovered Ristar.


Ristar released towards the end of the Genesis’ life so it was missed by a lot of people. Which is a shame considering how many things this cutesy platformer does right!

I’ll start with the graphics. This is a great looking game! Bright colors, details galore, and interesting character designs – this is one great looking Genesis game. But this also brings up another point: while this game looks about as good – or maybe slightly better – than Sonic the Hedgehog, it also follows that template a little bit too closely.

Bright, detailed graphics compliment the excellent level design.
Bright, detailed graphics compliment the excellent level design.

The levels are the usual ‘left-to-right’ affair but with some interesting twists. Much of the game revolves around the “grab” mechanic. Ristar can grab his enemies and body slam into them and this acts as your primary attack. But the grab mechanic extends beyond that. You can grab trees and use them to swing and reach new places. You can also body slam into certain objects to knock them down which often opens up a new path or takes out a group of enemies.

I can’t do this review without mentioning the water levels. Traditionally, water levels kind of suck. They are slow, sluggish, and not very fun. In my opinion, the best ones are from that of the Donkey Kong Country series. While far from perfect, they are considerably more fun than many other water levels – and leaps and bounds better than the water levels from the 16-bit Sonic games. Thankfully, Ristar’s water levels are much like those found in Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze. Ristar zips along at a great pace and this makes the water levels much more enjoyable. They aren’t perfect by any means and contain a good amount of frustrating moments, but they could be a lot worse.

Yes there is a set of ice levels. And yes they are frustrating.
Yes, there is a set of ice levels. And yes they are frustrating.

In terms of sound, Ristar is a clear winner! Though it is not as memorable as the Sonic the Hedgehog music, it is certainly a standout soundtrack. The game’s sound effects are the usual run-of-the-mill aside from a select few voice samples. They are a garbled mess but it’s cool that they are in the game at all. This was a 16-bit Genesis game after all.

As with most games, this one isn’t perfect. The swing mechanic can be cumbersome at times and the fact that you can’t simply jump on enemies to take them out can take some getting used to. Oh, and there are some questionable enemy placements that made me wonder if the development team simply wanted to give me hell.

All in all, I highly recommend this game to anyone that is a fan of 2D platformers or retro games. Ristar is a 16-bit gem all around. As well as a criminally overlooked game. I recommend this one to anyone who enjoys 2D platformers.

If you want to check out this game for yourself you can find it on Steam, Wii Virtual Console, and, of course, the Sega Genesis. Additionally, you can find this game in various compilations on a variety of consoles.

Were you one of the many people who missed this gem? Let us know in the comments!