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Video Game: Ristar

Ristar (known as Ristar the Shooting Star in Japan) is a quirky little platform game by Sonic Team about a (literal) star-man on a mission to free his superhero father and solar system from the clutches of a space pirate appropriately named Greedy. It boasts lush graphics that do as much as they possibly can with the Mega Drive/Genesis's capability, an excellent soundtrack, and innovative gameplay mechanics: Ristar has stretchy arms like rubber bands, and he uses these to perform a host of actions, including latching onto surfaces at any angle, slingshotting himself into enemies, and grabbing, swinging around, and flying off of poles. Ristar made an appearance on both the Sega Mega Drive and the Game Gear, and more recently has shown up on the Wii Virtual Console.

If that funny little yellow thing in the picture looks familiar, it should. Ristar derives from the same original character model (a kind of rabbit thing with prehensile ears) as Sonic the Hedgehog, before he became, you know, a hedgehog. If you pay attention to the game's art style and soundtrack, you can see some other similarities to the Sonic series besides the protagonist's appearance. Although this game never took off the way its estranged relative did (it didn't even get a sequel), it's still widely considered to be an excellent game.

This game provides examples of:

  • Ascended Extra: Ristar itself became this when it was rescued from obscurity and made an unlockable game in Sonic Mega Collection.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: Ristar's angry eyebrows, originally only present in the boss fights, are always present in the North American version. The enemies have meaner expressions, too.
    • Although, curiously, the ending went from the Japanese version's slightly rough and tough image of Greedy and his henchmen looking annoyed on some rocky world, to the English version's significantly cuter "Dad!" and implicit embrace between Ristar and his (way, way bigger) father.
  • Band Land: Planet Sonata, which is made of giant musical instruments and inhabited by sapient musical instruments and Cool Shades-wearing avians.
  • Bad Ass Adorable: Come on. How many other videogame characters use their face to beat the tar out of their enemies?
  • Bonus Stage: Each level contains a hidden warp to a bonus area. Each bonus area requires you to get to a treasure chest on the far side of a series of obstacles within a time limit in order to obtain a treasure. At the end of the game, you receive passwords based on the treasures you've collected.
  • Bonus Stage Collectables: The treasures in the bonus stages, each of which is lost forever after missing it once.
  • Boss Rush: Entering a specific password unlocks the Boss Rush mode.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The first boss is the leader of a friendly tribe on Flora, and is in fact the one who sent the call for help to Ristar in the first place. He is being controlled by a minion of Greedy riding on his back.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: A miniboss on Planet Freon becomes your ally after you beat him. He helps you against the stage boss later.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Probably unintentional, but depending on how you look at it, Ristar's signature attack can look a little bit like a Kiss of Death, or possibly even like something a bit more... intimate.
  • Dreadful Musician: The boss of Sonata is a vulture-like bird with a potentially lethal singing voice.
  • Dub Name Change: Most of the level names got changed from the Japanese version, possibly for the better as a few of them were the unpronounceable (such as Neuos, which was changed to Sonata in the English version). The treasures from the bonus stages all had (originally English) names in the Japanese version, which were cut out of the English version for some reason.
  • Electric Jellyfish: Among the dangerous inhabitants of Planet Undertow.
  • Escort Mission: Played with in that it's an item and not an NPC. In the first stage of Sonata, in order to wake up the birds blocking your path you have to carry metronomes over to them and hit them with them. Since holding the metronome prevents you from doing anything else that involves Ristar's all-important arms, this leads to potentially frustrating puzzles where you must go through elaborate sequences of steps to get both yourself and the metronome from point A to point B.
  • Eternal Engine: Planet Automaton.
  • Every 30,000 Points
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: The star handles. The trick is they can send you very far if you're spinning really fast, but then it's harder to time it for the angle you want.
  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Ohsat, the end boss of Planet Undertow.
  • Extendable Arms
  • Flaming Sword: One of the items you can find on the Bonus Stages (officially named "Fire Blade").
  • Flunky Boss: Greedy, who summons mooks to help him time to time.
  • Free-Fall Fight: Adahan.
  • Gratuitous English: ALL the text in the Japanese version is in English. Most of it is exactly the same as the English version. Additionally, Ristar's voice clips (such as the "Hasta la vista, baby!" he delivers after the final boss) are in English in both versions, and sound exactly the same.
  • Green Hill Zone: Planet Flora, which is subdivided into a Ghibli Hills area and a Jungle Japes area.
  • Groin Attack: This is what your attack inadvertently becomes when you fight the airborne bosses Riho and Greedy.
  • Idle Animation: One for each world.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Planet Scorch. Somewhat subverted, in that although it's entirely underground and there's fire, earthquakes, and other evidence of volcanic activity everywhere, there's no actual lava to be seen.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Greedy, whose Black Hole destroys his palace when defeated.
  • Meaningful Name: Ristar, Greedy, and the planets all have pretty unsubtle names (the planets have different names in the Japanese version, though).
  • Mega Neko: Freon's boss, Itamor, is a big cat in the Japanese version. Elsewhere, it got turned into a snowman.
  • Mini-Boss: At the end of each first act, you encounter one, ranging from a Snake creature on Flora, to the enemy groups you face later. Two of the Mini-Bosses are actually minigames, one of which is a quick paced memory game, and can become That One Boss if you can't keep up. Another is a classic snowball fight, which Ristar happens to find deadly. That particular boss can lead to a frustating moment or two if you can't actually figure out how to FORM the snowballs, mind.note 
  • Nintendo Hard: The regular game isn't so bad. Super Mode, on the other hand, may be hazardous to your controller, your wall, and your sense of self-worth.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: One of the play options unlockable with a password is Super Mode, where along with having only one Hit Point (you normally have four), you have only one life, and all health items and 1-ups become gems. However, as compensation, the game gives unlimited continues in this mode, meaning death only sends you back to the start of the level with your score returned to zero. Approaches Kobayashi Mario territory.
  • 1-Up
  • Painting the Medium: When Ristar takes a hit with one hit point left, the final star falls off the health meter and hits him on the head, killing him. Planet Sonata supplies two musical examples. The first stage on that planet starts with suspiciously minimalistic-sounding background music, and as you proceed through the level you wake up sleeping birds who sing, and by doing this you gradually create the stage's true background music. Also, while the boss of Sonata is singing, the background music becomes distorted.
    • Isn't Sonata's music supposed to be diagetic, though?
    • The game loves the music distortion effect so much that one of the cheat passwords allows you to unlock this effect for all the songs in the sound test.
  • Playing Tennis with the Boss: A variant. The boss of Automaton can be damaged by causing the mechanical claw attempting to grab you to hit it instead.
  • Polluted Wasteland: The last planet, Automaton.
  • Prophetic Name: If you name your child "Greedy", his career paths are fairly limited, are they not?
  • Punny Name: Itamor Lunch (the boss stage of the fifth world).
  • Puzzle Boss: The boss on Freon can't be attacked normally. Instead, you have to harm it by feeding it plates of spicy curry supplied by that kid you "befriended" earlier in the level. Also, the first stage of some planets ends with a somewhat boss-like puzzle.
    • For that manner, the way in which you "befriend" the kid in the first place - using a level-specific Idle Animation.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Ristar is a little round ball with cylindrical limbs, White Gloves, a star-shaped yellow face, and huge eyes. And his voice is a childlike squeak. Additionally, as noted above, the American version of the game gives him his angry/serious eyebrows at all times. For some, this may backfire and make him look even cuter.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Each planet Ristar visits is strongly implied to be one, or at least to be dominated by one biome. Sometimes overlaps with Planet of Hats, as can be seen with Planet Sonata.
  • Sliding Scale of Visuals Versus Dialogue: The international version has Opening Narration and Ristar saying "Dad!" in the ending. The original Japanese version has no narration or dialogue.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Planet Freon, with a snowy first area and an icy lake second area.
  • Spikes Of Doom: These are found in many areas, but they're especially frequent on Sonata and Automaton. They also show up a lot in the bonus areas, but as you're invincible there the only thing they do is cause you to recoil as if you've taken damage, which wastes time.
  • Storming the Castle: Greedy's Space Castle at the end of the game.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: But hey, why would a star need to breathe?
  • Teleport Spam: Greedy does this throughout the fight, but special mention to his final phase, where he instantly appears right in your face with no fade-in animation whatsoever and drops a huge column of lightning on you.
  • Timed Mission: Only within the bonus areas.
  • Turns Red: Most bosses change color multiple times as you damage them, sometimes speeding up gradually as this happens, but the boss of Undertow, a shark that you fight in a water-filled cave, features an interesting twist on this trope. Each time you damage it, it knocks out a plug in the floor of the cave and some of the water drains out, leaving you with a progressively smaller space to fight in.
    • And you defeat it by knocking it about so that it removes all of the plugs, leaving the room completely dry and the boss flopping helplessly around like, well, a fish out of water.
  • Under the Sea: Planet Undertow. Its second stage is Underwater Ruins.
  • Use Your Head: Ristar's primary means of attack is to extend his arms, grab an enemy, and let them contract and slam him head-first into it.
  • Violation of Common Sense: There's really not much else you can call chucking an oversized metronome at a giant sleeping bird's head.
  • Wall Jump: Used in a rather weird fashion: Ristar can grab onto any surface in the game that isn't spiked or otherwise harmful to touch, but he can't hold on unless there are rungs or other handholds; otherwise, he will bounce off. However, by grabbing a wall over and over again in rapid succession, it is possible to bounce up the wall. Unlike the typical Wall Jump, only one wall is needed for this, although it can be done with two opposing walls as well.
    • This is also impossible on Planet Freon, presumably because the walls are made of slippery ice... cold ice, that causes Ristar to withdraw his hands in discomfort upon touching it.
  • Wolfpack Boss: In particular the Planet Automaton's miniboss. There are some earlier examples in the game as well.

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alternative title(s): Ristar; Ristar The Shooting Star
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