While Sonic Team is best known for NiGHTS into Dreams, Phantasy Star Online and, of course, the Sonic the Hedgehog games, there is one game that nobody seems to remember. That game is Ristar, a 2D platformer that was released for the Genesis and Game Gear. Despite being crushed by Sonic Team's bigger name efforts, Ristar is a solid game that deserves to be rediscovered ... even if you have to do that on the Game Gear!
The basic plotline behind Ristar is that an evil being known as Kaiser Greedy is taking over a solar system. The various inhabitants of the corrupted planets call for a great hero, who has been captured, and end up with his son, Ristar. Yeah ... I know, it's kind of a lame storyline. Still, it's better than saving a dream world from Nightmarians.
Anyway, one could say this game is a mild Sonic clone. However, instead of depending on jumps and the spin-dash to destroy your enemies, Ristar has you grabbing and crashing into your enemies, climbing across obstacles, and swinging on poles to send you speeding into the sky. Swinging on poles is also how you end stages, and move to the next area.
The graphics in Ristar are a mixed bag. Whereas the characters look slightly toned down from the Genesis game, the backgrounds in the game have suffered a major downgrade. All in all it's not terribly impressive stuff, especially if you've experienced its 16-bit counterpart.
The sound in Ristar also suffers a bit. The Genesis' Ristar definitely has some catchy tunes, quite a few of which make it to the Game Gear version. However, these tunes are also downgraded, not retaining much of the impact from the original Genesis version. The sound effects also take a turn for the worse, in the sense that most (if not all) of them are completely missing. Those remaining are either lesser sound effects or the standard ones usually heard on the Game Gear.
As for replay value, it's kind of iffy. It's the usual problem with most platformers, after you're done, YOU'RE DONE. You may want to come back to it someday, but probably not in the same month, or even the same year.
All in all, this version of Ristar is decent. It's pretty fun, and if you're a big fan of platformers and don't mind graphical or audio limitations, Ristar for the Game Gear would make a pretty good addition to your collection. Otherwise, I'd say, if possible, try to get the Genesis version (or just buy Sonic Mega Collection, in which the Genesis version is an unlockable game).