If you were asked to think of a Sonic Team-developed Mega Drive platform game with a spiky hero, you’d be forgiven not to answer "Ristar" immediately. That’s a shame really, because his only appearance is a wonderful adventure full of vibrancy and innovation.
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was once a time when seemingly every other game released was a cutesy platform game (I’m currently playing Wonderdog on Mega CD, a prime example!), but Ristar mixed in some innovation with all the bright colours and big eyes. His key difference lies in his stretchy arms, which can be used to grab hard-to-reach items, ledges and enemies, which he bashes against his head in an extremely satisfying manner. They’re not as flexible as, say, the Bionic Commando‘s arms, but they bring a great sense of freedom to the game’s levels, as you swing between vines and generate speed on hand-cranks. It’s an extremely versatile concept that deserved far greater exploration than Ristar‘s solitary 16-bit adventure suggests – zipping around Angel Island Zone with extending arms would be revelatory.
Released pretty late in the Mega Drive’s life, Ristar is a forgotten gem in Sega’s back catalogue, but having recently got a welcome second lease of life in Sega Mega Drive Collection he’s now making the fans he deserves.