SEGA’s catalog is quite literally littered with spectacular characters and franchises that either never took off or never made it to the west. We each have our favorites and one of mine is a little game for the Genesis called Ristar, a glowing example of SEGA’s mascot aspirations that was unfortunately unable to find an audience.
Back in the early Genesis days, SEGA was looking for their Mario killer. After Alex Kidd failed to save the Master System from being anything more than a speed bump to the NES’s growing monopoly, SEGA knew it needed a mascot that could capture the imagination (and money) of gamers. As we all know, they would eventually come up with Sonic the Hedgehog. Along the way, however, they created some other concepts, including a bunny that could throw things at enemies. This concept would percolate within SEGA for years, until it was finally released in 1995 as Ristar.
All Sonic fans are familiar with the work of Yuji Uekawa. He has been the franchise’s primary character designer for nearly two decades now, taking the reigns in 1996 with Sonic 3D Blast. He’s most notable for completely redesigning Sonic and his friends for the new millennium in Sonic Adventure, and has played a pivotal role in the character design of most Sonic and Sonic Team titles since then.
Before Sonic though, Uekawa had Ristar. He was Ristar’s lead character designer, designing all of the characters in the game including Ristar himself. Unfortunately, there is no art book for Ristar, so we had to rip the designs straight from the Japanese version of the manual, which is filled with beautiful illustrations of Ristar and other characters, as well as a few nice instructional comics and backgrounds. We’ll also be including the sprite artwork from the credits.
The character artwork was taken from SEGA Retro’s Ristar manual scans. The sprite artwork was ripped by Dr. Schnaps. The various bits of trivia and character information can be sourced to Ristar Cluster. Enjoy!
Planet Sonata is probably my favorite stage in Ristar. The first stage has you carrying metronomes to song birds and gradually activating the instruments for the stage’s background music. It all culminates in the stage’s boss fight, which attacks you to the rhythm of this theme! Planet Sonata is a perfect example of what makes Ristar special: it’s creative, unique, and introduces gimmicks and elements that are then discarded for the rest of the game in favor of other gimmicks.
If the early stages of Ristar don’t grab you, I would encourage you to at least try to stick around until Planet Sonata
I’d like to welcome you to Ristar Week! This week we’ll be focusing on Ristar’s depressingly short run as a video game star, looking back on the character’s two games. Sonic Team’s star-faced hero never got his due back when he first came around. Debuting just a few months after the release of the 32X and just a few months before the US debut of the Saturn, Ristar came out at a time when the Genesis was no longer a console SEGA was interested in selling. As a result, Ristar was ignored and became a cult classic. This week, SEGAbits will be giving Ristar his long overdue respect.
First, though, a little history lesson.
This may not surprise you, but I was a Game Gear kid. While everyone else was bringing their Game Boys to school, I happily chugged away on my full color backlit power house, playing Sonic Triple Trouble, Lion King and Lucky Dime Caper. So when I heard the 3DS was going to have its own handheld centric Virtual Console, I was stoked. Finally, some of my favorite games from childhood would be available to play on a modern screen!
So far, SEGA’s selection of Game Gear titles have been pretty solid, with only a handful of mediocre Sonic games ruining what is an otherwise fine selection. Yet, there are still some spectacular titles missing from the line-up, titles which should be given their due before SEGA calls it quits on the Virtual Console.
2014 truly is the year of the SEGA console, as both the Dreamcast and the Genesis will be receiving new games from several talented indie developers. Indie developer WaterMelon Games, the creator of Pier Solar for SEGA Genesis and soon to be released on the Dreamcast, is currently at work on a new RPB (Beat ‘em all, with elements of an RPG) entitled Project Y. Apparently, screens from the game have been leaked on Twitter. WaterMelon Games has yet to confirm whether or not these screens are real, but if they are, this game is looking to be a real beaut!
I really wanted to feature a track from an Ecco game this week. I thought about featuring tracks from the Genesis or Dreamcast games, but I’d really like to save those for something else later in the year. So I’ve decided to go with something from the SEGA CD!
The Ecco series is renowned for its amazing, atmospheric soundtracks and the SEGA CD tracks from Spencer Nilsen are no exception. These tracks are absolutely beautiful and go so far as to sample sounds from actual aquatic animals to compliment the game’s atmosphere. The quality of this music should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Nilsen’s work on SEGA CD. He was the same man who produced Sonic CD’s spectacular soundtrack.
To make up for a few weeks of inactivity, I’ve decided to feature another track from the game below. It’s too short to warrant its own Tuesday Tune, but serves as a nice compliment to Motion E. It’s called “The Machine”. Check it out below the fold.
There can only be one winner, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also have stuff for the people who got second and third place. Above is one of the many entries sent into us by SEGA Nerd’s Kopke, aka Manuel Garcia Melgar. This awesome depiction of Hotsuma from SEGA’s criminally underappreciated Shinobi PS2 was one of several entries that nearly won him the grand prize. Here’s the one that came the closest. Please click it to see it in its full resolution glory!
Check below the fold for Manuel Garcia’s silver winning entry, as well as our bronze winner, Chase Svent!
Sean Tagg’s Lego Outrun cabinet!
We received some awesome entries over the course of this contest, but this one was not only among the first we received, by the entry that consistently remained in the top three even as other entries slowly began to trickle in. In the end, this piece gets the gold medal because it hits all of the right notes: it is not just passionate, but also creative. When I think of art, I don’t typically think of LEGO, but it’s impossible to deny that this is not only something that is most definitely art. This took a lot of time and patience to put together. Sean had to find all of the right pieces and place them in all of the right places, and that takes some dedication.
Congratulations, Sean! We did get some other excellent entries, including one that very nearly took the Grand Prize. We’ll be making announcements regarding second and third place winners, as well as the two additional runner ups, within the next few days.
Check out this contest announcement if you want to find out what he won!
The onset of a new year will inevitably brings new experiences. Though a healthy amount of fear for new experiences never hurts, do not let it control you. Embrace the experiences of the coming year and embrace the challenges that you will face. Do not fear failure, because nothing is worse then simply refusing to try.
And if you are having an especially bad day, play a Dreamcast!