The game takes place in the seven-planet Valdi System (also known as the "Vadji" System according to the back of the European box). An evil space pirate, Kaiser Greedy, has made the planets' leaders obey him. The inhabitants of Planet Neer (Flora outside Japan) pray for a hero before Greedy's mind control snatches them. The desperate prayers reach the nebula of the Star Goddess, Oruto. She awakens one of her children, Ristar, with the sole purpose of granting the wishes of the innocent people. He must stop Greedy and the brainwashed leaders of each world in the galaxy, to restore peace to the galaxy.
In Mega Drive versions outside Japan, Oruto is not seen. Instead, Ristar has a father figure, the Legendary Hero, who is a shooting star that protects the Valdi System. Rather than Oruto awakening Ristar, the Legendary Hero was kidnapped by Greedy, and it is up to Ristar to rescue his father as well. However, Oruto is still seen in the Game Gear version.
Ristar is unable to jump as high as most platformer protagonists do, but his jumps have a bit more hang time, meaning he stays in the air longer. By pressing the grab button, Ristar will stretch his hands forward, grabbing whatever is ahead of him. The player can make his hands go in any one of eight directions by combining the attack with any direction on the control pad, except downward while on the ground. When Ristar grabs an enemy, he will continue to hold it until the button is released, causing him to collide with the enemy and destroy them. He can also grab walls and obstacles this way and it is possible, albeit time-consuming, to climb walls by continually grabbing diagonally up a wall. It is possible to get on top of walls via this method, but it is rather difficult because of the timing and reflexes needed to keep Ristar from plummeting. This move can be used in a variety of ways, such as grabbing a mid-air enemy to swing across gaps, or holding onto an enemy to avoid getting pulled in by a current.
Ristar's health is shown as four stars in the upper-right corner of the screen. Taking damage removes one star. When all four are gone, the last star falls on Ristar's head and he loses a life. Stars can be found throughout the levels, which replenish his health. These and other items must be picked up manually with Ristar's attack. A gold star restores one hit point, while a silver star refills health completely. A tiny icon of Ristar adds an extra life to the total.
Source: Wikipedia, "Ristar", available under the CC-BY-SA License.