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Video Game / Ristar

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Ristar (known as Ristar the Shooting Star in Japanese) is a quirky little Sega platform game by Sonic Team about a (literal) star-man on a mission to free his 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 Genesis and the Game Gear, as well being re-released for later platforms, such as 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 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 and Ristar himself, while not as well-known as NiGHTS or Ulala, still makes an occasional cameo or two to this day, such as as the flagman in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed.


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. The character became this in the Sega Superstars series where he went from making a blink and you miss it cameo in the Death Egg to being the flag waver in the second racing game, replacing NiGHTS.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: Ristar can be seen as Sega's equivalent to Nintendo's Kirby. Both Ristar and Kirby are small, spherical Badass Adorables that are associated with stars, and are capable of traveling to different planets with ease. Both characters have even gotten slightly modified to look tougher and meaner in the Western releases of their games in an attempt to downplay their cuteness.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore:
    • Ristar ended up getting this treatment in a single game even more than Kirby himself has across his whole series. The cute and cuddly alien was edited to look like a scowling badass in pursuit of revenge in the U.S./PAL versions. He's still pretty cheerful in the cover art and title screen, but his sprite is much more aggressive: Ristar's angry eyebrows, originally only present in the boss fights, are always present in the English version, and look even angrier than when he confronts a boss. Several enemies were exited to have meaner expressions, too.
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    • 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.
    • Completely averted for the boxart themselves, as the American/European boxart gives Ristar a friendly smirk that nonetheless keeps him as happy as he looks in the Japanese boxart (the page image seen above).
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In most cases, dealing the final blow on a planet's final boss while projectiles are on the screen will render Ristar immune to damage from the remaining projectiles.
  • Band Land: Planet Sonata, which is made of giant musical instruments and inhabited by sapient musical instruments and Cool Shades-wearing avians.
  • Badass Adorable: Come on. How many other videogame characters use their face to beat the tar out of their enemies?
  • Badass in Distress: The game's English prologue reveals that Ristar is the son of a legendary hero who got kidnapped by the game's antagonist prior to the events of this game. Averted in the Japanese version of the game in which his father did not appear.
  • Bat Out of Hell: Greedy's cape is very similar to a bat's leathery wings when furled, and his helmet has what might be bat-like ears (either that or horns).
  • Blue Means Cold: Itamor is dark blue and one of his attacks is freezing Ristar with his ice breath and then trying to suck him up with his mouth.
  • 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.
    • In the Game Gear version, the bonus rounds are accessible at the end of each world by finding icons that resemble the Sega Saturn logo. In these bonus rounds, Ristar must collect 200 stars without falling into a Bottomless Pit.
  • Bonus Stage Collectables: The treasures in the bonus stages, each of which is unobtainable 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 named Rhio, who is riding on his back.
  • Bridge Logic: In Planet Flora, Ristar has to headbutt a tree so it fall over and he can use it as a bridge.
  • Brown Note: Auweck, the boss of Sonata, is incredibly tone deaf and the notes he produces not only screw up the music, but can actually harm you.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: A miniboss on Planet Freon becomes your ally after you beat him. He helps you against the stage boss Itamor later.
  • Difficulty by Region: In the Japanese version, Normal mode gives you 9 continues instead of 5. On the other hand, Hard mode in the Japanese version makes you start as a One-Hit-Point Wonder instead of two. You can still pick up stars to increase your health, though.
  • Difficulty Levels:
    • Normal: Starting Health: 4, Max Health: 4, Continues: 3
    • Hard: Starting Health: 2, Max Health: 4, Continues: 5
    • Super: Starting Health: 1, Cap Health: 1, Continues: Infinite, only one life per continue and no way to get extra lives.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Probably unintentional, but depending on how you look at it, Ristar's signature attack of headbutting into his foes can look a little bit like a Kiss of Death, or possibly even like something a bit more... intimate.
  • The Dragon: Inonis appears to be this to Greedy.
  • Dreadful Musician: The boss of Sonata, Auweck is a vulture-like bird with a potentially lethal singing voice. The player needs to simply keep him away from the post while another bird with a better voice is given a chance to sing.
  • Dream Apocalypse: In the Game Gear version, the boss of Planet Terra seems to be a dream master. When he is beaten, the background, which was a fairly normal world becomes overrun with lightning and storm clouds, thus hinting at what happens to the world Ristar is in when he beats the boss.
  • Drill Mole: The boss of Planet Scorch is Adahan, a mole-like creature in a giant mechanical suit. One of his attacks involves him drilling into the ground, then drilling out of the middle of the arena.
  • 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 10,000 Points: Every 30,000 Points, you get an extra life.
  • 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: Ristar can extend his arms to grab enemies or ledges.
  • Failures on Ice: Ristar isn't as graceful on ice as most video game heroes.
  • Feed It a Bomb: The method of defeating Itamor on Planet Freon is to feed him bowls of spicy soup that the mini-boss brings you, following his defeat in a Snowball Fight.
  • 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.
  • Follow the Money: The Game Gear version has a currency system consisting of spinning stars. For every 100 Ristar gets, he earns an extra life.
  • Free-Fall Fight: Planet Scorch's boss battle against Adahan turns into this once you're halfway throug his health. The falling stops after he's defeated.
  • Gangplank Galleon: Planet Terra in the Game Gear version takes place on a pirate ship. In the Japanese version, this is the second half of Planet Fanturn, as the first half takes place in a Level in the Clouds (which can't be played outside of the Japanese version for some reason).
  • 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.
  • Hard Mode Perks: The gruelingly difficult Super Mode gives you infinite continues so you can have some fighting chance of beating the game on it.
  • Harder Than Hard: Super Mode, which is unlocked by a password. In this mode, you get no extra lives, all health items and 1-ups are turned into gems, and if you take even one hit, its an instant Game Over. On the upside, Ristar gets infinite continues in this mode.
  • Idle Animation: One for each world:
    • In general, Ristar likes to shake energetically. In the Japanese version, he smiles, but in the American release, he frowns instead. He has a slightly less intense frown against main bosses in all versions of the game.
    • In Planet Undertow/Leatow, Ristar goes through some arm exercises, likely warming himself up for swimming.
    • In Planet Scorch/Onaclove, Ristar sits down and fans himself from the intense heat of this level.
    • In Planet Sonata/Neuos, Ristar dances and snaps his fingers to the level's music while looking at the player.
    • In Planet Freon/Elykiki, Ristar builds a small snowman, and is pleased when he finishes. This is actually important to the first half of the level, as Ristar must use this to make snowballs for a snowball fight against the level's miniboss.
    • In Planet Automaton/Rewope, Ristar looks upwards left and right for any airborne enemies.
  • Industrial World: Automaton is an entire planet made out of machines and populated by robots.
  • 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.
  • Level in the Clouds: The first section of the Game Gear-exclusive Planet Terra takes place on giant clouds and rainbows in the sky, but only in the Japanese version, where it is instead called Planet Fanturn. Non-Japanese releases drop this section and has you start the planet out in its Gangplank Galleon, instead, making the entire level shorter as a result.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Greedy, whose Black Hole destroys his palace when defeated.
  • A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away...: Is set in the Valdi System.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Ristar, Greedy, and the planets all have pretty unsubtle names.
    • The English planet names are mostly very descriptive of their theme (Flora is full of plant life, Freon is a frozen planet, etc.). Meanwhile, the Japanese names are formed by taking an English word that also describes the planet's theme, scrambling its letters, and then either remove, add, or replace a letter in it (Neer = Green, Eylkiki = Icicle, and Rewope = Power).
  • Mega Neko: Freon's boss, Itamor, is a big cat in the Japanese version. In the English version, it got turned into an ice monster.
  • Mickey Mousing: Fitting for a music-themed level, the collective miniboss of Planet Sonata Act 1 attacks in sync to the music (with a conductor to help them, to boot). More obvious in the Japanese version only where even the tell that signify which of the three bird statues would attack is in sync with the music.
  • 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.note 
  • New Jack Swing: Tomoko Sasaki, the game's music composer, was strongly influenced by new jack swing's funky sound, and it shows in much of the soundtrack. Highlights include the Bonus Stage theme, both of Planet Freon's themes "Ring Rink" and "Ice Scream", Planet Automation's "Crying World" and the ending theme "Star Humming". Sasaki would continue to use new jack elements in Sonic Team's next game, NiGHTS Into Dreams...
  • 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: Collecting 100 stars or 30,000 points will give you an extra life.
  • 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, Auweck, is singing, the background music becomes distorted.
    • 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.
  • Polluted Wasteland: The last planet, Automaton.
  • Pre-Final Boss: Ristar faces off against Inonis in the Eyebar-555 before the final battle with Kaiser Greedy himself.
  • 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.
  • Race Against the Clock: The Game Gear version of Planet Freon sticks a bomb on Ristar every time he passes through a yellow arch. You have to reach a pool of water to get rid of it before time runs out, or it will explode and hurt Ristar. Mercifully, it's not a One-Hit KO.
  • 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 English version of the game gives him his angry/serious eyebrows at all times. For some, this may backfire and make him look even cuter.
  • Sampling: Some of the chords for Planet Freon's Act 2 theme "Ice Scream" bear more than a passing resemblance to Soul II Soul's international hit song "Keep On Movin'".
  • 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.
  • Snowball Fight: Ristar must defeat the mini-boss of Planet Freon this way. In order for Ristar to create a snowball, he will have to be left alone for a few seconds. After he defeats the mini-boss, it will join his side in the battle against Itamor by bringing him spicy soup for him to throw in his mouth.
  • 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: Unlike his source concept, Ristar can stay underwater as long as he wants without any fear of drowning. 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.
  • Tennis Boss: A variant. The boss of Automaton, Uranium, can be damaged by causing the mechanical claw attempting to grab you to hit it instead.
  • Terrible Trio: Kaiser Greedy, Uranim, and Inonis are implied to be this in the final world, as following Greedy's defeat, they are all seen flying away together.
  • 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, Ohsat, 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. 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.
  • Underwater Boss Battle: The battle against Ohsat in Planet Undertow takes place underwater. Every time Ristar hits him, he knocks him into one of the corks, draining the water level, giving him less room to swim and dodge Ohsat's attacks. Ohsat is defeated when all the corks are knocked out and all the water is drained.
  • 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.
  • Vacuum Mouth:
    • In the Genesis version, during the battle against Itamor, Itamor will attempt to inhale Ristar after freezing him with his ice breath. If Ristar does manage to break free from the ice, he can use Itamor's attack to his advantage, as it makes it easier for him to toss the spicy soup the mini-boss brings him in his mouth.
    • In the Game Gear version, the boss of Planet Terra will attempt to inhale Ristar. Like with Itamor in the Genesis version, Ristar can use this attack to his advantage, as it makes it easier for him to hit the boss with the pillows he tosses at him.
  • Variable Mix: The theme for the first act of Planet Sonata has extra parts added to it the more you progress through the level. Until you get to the level's miniboss. After that, the music turns into a more livelier version of itself.
  • Violation of Common Sense: There's really not much else you can call chucking an oversized metronome at a giant sleeping bird's head.
  • Walk, Don't Swim: Ristar's swimming skills are reduced to this in the Game Gear version. Luckily, he keeps his Super Not-Drowning Skills.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Ristar The Shooting Star


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