Space Harrier

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Space Harrier (スペースハリアー Supēsu Hariā?) is a third-person rail shooter video game, released by Sega in 1985, originally as an arcade game. It was developed by AM2 and produced by Yu Suzuki, responsible for many popular Sega games.

Using Sega's "Super Scaler" 16-bit graphics technology, the game produced pseudo-3D sprite-scaling at high frame rates,[2] with the ability to scale as many as 32,000 sprites and fill a moving landscape with them,[3] along with 6144 colors[4] on screen out of a 98,304 color palette.[5] It also introduced a true analog flight stick for movement, with the ability to register movement in any direction as well as measure the degree of push, which could move the player character at different speeds depending on how far the stick is pushed in a certain direction.[6] It also featured a hydraulic cockpit arcade cabinet,[7] which moved in the direction the player moved the joystick.[8] The game was also an early example of a third-person shooter;[9] it was influenced by the earlier 1982 Sega game Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom, and Space Harrier in turn influenced later 3D shooters such as Nintendo's Star Fox (Starwing) in 1993.[10]

Running on the Sega Space Harrier arcade system board previously used by Hang-On, the pseudo-3D sprite/tile scaling in the game was handled in a similar manner to textures in later texture-mapped polygonal 3D games of the 1990s.[11] Designed by Sega AM2's Yu Suzuki, he stated that his "designs were always 3D from the beginning. All the calculations in the system were 3D, even from Hang-On. I calculated the position, scale, and zoom rate in 3D and converted it backwards to 2D. So I was always thinking in 3D."[12] The game's success established Suzuki as the leading arcade game designer at the time.[8]

Space Harrier later saw ports to many home game systems. Space Harrier's release on the Sega Master System home console is particularly notable, as there were two versions: one was a port of the arcade game, while the other, entitled Space Harrier 3-D (1988), was actually a sequel. The game also spawned the sequel Space Harrier II (1988) and the spin-off Planet Harriers (2000).

Gameplay=[edit | edit source]

Space Harrier is set in the "Fantasy Zone", a surreal world composed of bright colors and a checkerboard-styled ground. The enemies are also unique, featuring prehistoric animals, Chinese dragons, and alien pods. The player is forced along the levels, running or flying around enemy fire, while shooting back with fireballs via the character's under-arm cannon (which doubles as a rocket-esque device allowing the character to fly). The character graphics are sprite-based, though the level backgrounds are pseudo-3D.

The arcade version of Space Harrier used digitized voices. When starting the first level, for example, the player would be greeted with "Welcome to the fantasy zone; Get ready". After defeating a boss, the player was assured that "You're doing great".
Like After Burner, Space Harrier was among the first (perhaps the very first) arcade game to feature a console in which the player sits, and which moves according to the joystick movement. There is also a non-moving sit-down version and a standard upright version.
The arcade version has a total of 18 levels, each containing a boss at the end. Three exceptions are the bonus levels (5th and 12th), and the 18th level, which is a boss rush containing some of the bosses encountered up to that point.

The 3-D Battles of World Runner by Square bears a strong resemblance to the game.

Ports[edit | edit source]

The game was translated to various home computer systems and consoles. Among the home versions, the ports for the Sega 32X, with Space Harrier packaging art by Marc Ericksen for U.S. and European distribution (not shown), the Sega Saturn and the Sharp X68000 (the latter being a Japan-only) are considered to be the most faithful to the original arcade version. The game is also playable on the Dreamcast (within Shenmue, Shenmue II and Yu Suzuki Game Works Vol. 1) and Xbox (within Shenmue II). It is included in Sega Arcade Gallery for the Game Boy Advance and the enhanced Japanese Sega Ages vol.4 PS2 remake is included in the Eur/NA Sega Classics Collection (a compilation DVD including other games from the same era that were remade for modern audiences) for the PlayStation 2. The art for the 1994 Sega 32X and the Game Boy Advance release in North America and Europe (not shown) featured full color art by illustrator Marc Ericksen.

Space Harrier II for the Mega Drive was released for Nintendo's Virtual Console on December 18, 2006 while the first Space Harrier for the Sega Master System was released in Europe on October 17, 2008 and in North America on November 3, 2008.[13] The arcade version was released on the Virtual Console in Japan on March 26, 2009, in the PAL regions on May 29, 2009 and in North America on June 15, 2009.[14]

The arcade version of Space Harrier is available as an unlockable game in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. While the port's emulation is accurate to the arcade original, there are off-pitch voices and music in the port's sound emulation.

A port of the game was developed for Nintendo 3DS via the Nintendo eShop, featuring stereoscopic 3D and widescreen graphics.[15]

Sega Superstars Tennis features a minigame based on Space Harrier. Bayonetta also features a level section inspired by the game as well.

The main theme of the game is remixed for Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed and used as the soundtrack for the course Race of AGES, a track that is a representative of Sega as a whole. The game also features Ryo Hazuki from Shenmue as a playable character, driving a Space Harrier sit-down arcade cabinet during air-based portions of a race.

Notable ports

  • Space Harrier Complete Collection. This collection offers the arcade version of Space Harrier, Space Harrier II, the Sega Master System version of Space Harrier and Space Harrier 3D. Also included as an Easter egg was the Game Gear version of the game. It was released for the PlayStation 2 as the 20th volume of Sega Ages.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Arcade version[edit | edit source]

The arcade game was well received upon release. It became one of 1986's chart hits in the arcades.[16] Computer and Video Games magazine reviewed the arcade game in its March 1986 issue, after reviewer Clare Edgeley played it at the 1986 ATEI (Amusement Trades Exhibition International) show, along with the arcade version of Super Mario Bros. She stated, "Perhaps the games to steal the show were" Space Harrier along with Shrike Avenger (1986), praising their hydraulic cockpit cabinets that "twist, turn and move" in the same direction as the joystick, making them "the most realistic" simulators "to date". She praised Space Harrier's "excellent graphics" for being "all in 3D with amazing technicolour landscapes" and a "multitude of objects" on screen, as well as "the sounds of the battle" output by "large speakers" where "you could almost lose touch with reality". She also praised the gameplay for being "exciting" and "very fast" paced, as well as the continue feature, but stated the game can be "very difficult."[7]

Clare Edgeley gave the arcade game a retrospective review in the February 1987 issue of Sinclair User, where she noted it had one of the first hydraulic arcade cabinets she had seen, along with 1986's Shrike Avenger. She stated that Space Harrier's "fabulously colourful 3D graphics" and "the movement of the sit-in cabinet were, and still are, breathtaking", noting "the seat-belt" and "turbulent" ride which "hurls you up, down, left and right" and tilts "the cabinet in a roll in whatever direction you push your joystick", concluding the game to be "great fun."[16]

Home conversions[edit | edit source]

 Reception (Ports)
Review scores
Publication Score
Computer and Video Games 70% (C64)
68% (ZX)
40% (CPC)[17]
CRASH 77% (ZX)[18]
Famitsu 34/40 (3DS)[19]
Sinclair User 5/5 stars (ZX)[20]
Your Sinclair 9/10 (ZX)[21]
The Milwaukee Journal 9/10 (SMS)[22]
Entity Award
Golden Joystick Awards Game of the Year (Runner‑Up)[23]

The home conversions were also well received. The game was runner-up in the category of Game of the Year at the 1986 Golden Joystick Awards.[23]

The Milwaukee Journal in May 1987 gave the Sega Master System version a positive review, rating it a score of 9 out of 10. The reviewer Edward J. Semrad described the Master System version of Space Harrier as "the latest innovation" and "the most powerful cartridge ever made for any computer or game system." He concluded it "sets new standards in audio, graphic detail, memory and price ($40 list)."[22]

Computer Gaming World in 1988 called Space Harrier "the best arcade shoot-'em-up of the year ... as exciting a game as this reviewer has ever played".[24]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Complete series[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Sega Space Harrier Hardware. Retrieved on August 5, 2006
  2. IGN Presents the History of SEGA: World War, IGN
  3. Bernard Perron & Mark J. P. Wolf (2008), Video game theory reader two, p. 157, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0-415-96282-X
  5. Sega's 16-bit arcade color palette: 15-bit RGB high color depth (32,768 colors) and 1-bit shadow & highlight that triples up to 98,304 colors. [1] [2] [3]
  6. Space Harrier Retrospective (Page 2), IGN
  7. 7.0 7.1
  8. 8.0 8.1
  9. Top 10 Sega Franchises That Deserve Platinum Treatment, GameZone
  10. Space Harrier at Allgame via the Wayback Machine
  13. "Two WiiWare Games and One Virtual Console Game Added to Wii Shop Channel". Nintendo of America. 2008-11-03. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  14. "Mario Calculates the Time Needed to Catch Toasted Rainbows in Space". Nintendo of America. 2009-06-15. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  15. Sega to bring classic titles to 3DS, starting with 3D Space Harrier. First screens here. GamesRadar (2012-11-21). Retrieved on 2014-03-24
  16. 16.0 16.1
  17. Archive - Magazine viewer. World of Spectrum. Retrieved on 2014-03-24
  18. Archive - Magazine viewer. World of Spectrum. Retrieved on 2014-03-24
  20. Archive - Magazine viewer. World of Spectrum. Retrieved on 2014-03-24
  21. Space Harrier. Retrieved on 2014-03-24
  22. 22.0 22.1,103131
  23. 23.0 23.1 Archive - Magazine viewer. World of Spectrum. Retrieved on 2014-03-24
  24. Worley, Joyce; Katz, Arnie; Kunkel, Bill (September 1988). "Video Gaming World". Computer Gaming World: p. 50. 

External links[edit | edit source]