Image from the Mega Drive Version
['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal '90s systems. This week's column profiles Sega's platforming game: Ristar, released in 1995 for the Genesis.]

The Shooting Star

Pretty late in the Genesis' lifespan—after the Sega CD and 32X, and just before Saturn was released—a little-publicized game was released: Ristar. The concept for Ristar came from Yuji Naka's leftover ideas for Sonic the Hedgehog. Originally, Sonic was to be a rabbit that could reach out and grab things with his ears, but as the speed of the game increased, a new animal was needed in its place.

While Naka was not part of the team itself, lead designer Mitake Takumi—a designer previously for Sonic CD and later for NiGHTS into Dreams—stared to create Feel. The game didn't have a rabbit, but it did have a black blob wearing a star-like mask with two predominately ear-shaped points. Feel was never released, and most of the ideas and designs carried over to Ristar with only a small makeover.

Use those arms little star
Greedy Galaxy

Ristar is woken to save the galaxy from Greedy, who has corrupted all its leaders—no subtleties of symbolism there. Most of the gameplay in Ristar involves either grabbing something, headbutting it, or using it as a handle. When grabbing, Ristar will stretch his arms out like rubber bands and grab hold of pretty much anything on screen. As a result, jumping is only mildly helpful, and moving Ristar can be somewhat complicated. The first two levels are just a warm-up, but you need them to get use to the controls.

After becoming familiar with the way Ristar works, its ingenuity begins to show. Before climbing ladders, you have to grab them. To attack enemies you need to grab them first, then headbutt them. But after spending some time just running into or bumping off of enemies and the environment, you start swinging around on them.

The more you master the controls the deeper the game becomes. Testing your skill on a cliff, using your arms to get higher and higher, will usually reward you with hidden items or areas. New paths become clear after you learn how best to interact with the environment. The pace of the game becomes more organic and less linear; you feel like Tarzan swinging freely around in space.

Notice anything similar?
Unexplored Space

Place a new mechanic in something very familiar, and the game is completely different. Most areas and elements of the game don't fall too far from the tree of Sonic the Hedgehog. The artistic aesthetic is almost identical in the designs of environments and backgrounds. The game also has play mechanics similar to Dynamite Headdy. Yet as similar as these things are, they feel original when navigating them with Ristar's spandextrous arms.

From the music to level design, everything is high quality, which is expected in a game that arrived late in the system's history. The best thing about it is that even if you don't feel like pulling out your Genesis—or, god forbid, purchasing another system—the game was hidden in the Sonic Mega Collection, available for all 3 current generation systems. You may already have this classic sitting on your shelf.

[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer's Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first person writing. His work has been featured on,, Chatterbox Radio, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]*blink*blink*