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Why Ristar Died With The Sega Genesis

Cut content is one of the more fascinating aspects of game development, offering gamers an inside look into the early brainstorming that goes into the creation of their favorite titles. Most of the time, that content never sees the light of day, but in the case of the Sega Genesis' "Sonic the Hedgehog," something special can rise from the ashes.

That special something was "Ristar," a 1995 platformer developed by the same minds behind "Sonic." In it, the titular character — a walking, talking star — travels the seven planets of the Valdi System to save them from a space pirate named Kaiser Greedy. Much of the game's foundation was originally meant for "Sonic." As development progressed and developers wanted the game to be faster-paced, however, they created the character Sonic and pivoted from that foundation.

For many that played it, "Ristar" was a worthwhile experience. Additionally, knowing it came from the cutting room floor of "Sonic" surely piqued the interest of fans of the Sega staple. Despite the positive reception, a sequel never came to be, and the decision was largely based on when it was released.

Ristar was just too late into the Genesis's life cycle

According to legendary game developer Yuji Naka, Sonic was originally going to be a rabbit. In the game, Sonic — who likely would have had a different name — would use his long ears to pick up objects. Once the game got faster, Naka continued, the team needed a character to reflect that, and instead of long rabbit ears, they gave Sonic the ability to roll into a ball and slam into enemies — much like Samus from "Metroid." In "Ristar," those ears were changed to the titular character's arms and were used for combat and traversal.

When the game was ported to the Nintendo Wii in 2006, IGN's Lucas Thomas gave it an 8/10. He commended its visuals, saying the game "tapped into the full potential of the Genesis to render each of these realms in a spectacular, vibrant palette." GamesRadar even ranked it 41st in its list of the 50 best Sega Genesis games, saying it was "worthy of standing next to Sonic and Mario."

Unfortunately, the fun mechanics and love the game received weren't enough to overcome the fact that it was just released at the wrong time. As GamesRadar noted, the Sega Saturn was on the horizon, and players were more focused on that as opposed to new games for the Genesis. After many "add-ons" for the Genesis, players were excited about finally getting a new Sega console.

Still, "Ristar" has been brought back to multiple platforms — including iOS — so it's clear Sega also has love for the game. Due to its 1995 release, however, it just slipped under the radar.