I was in 7th grade in 1985. One of my friends had one of those “arcade birthday parties” that year — you remember, the ones where each kid got one coke, a piece of cake, and a little cup of tokens? Unfortunately for my friend, only 3 kids (instead of twenty) showed up. Fortunately for us, the tokens were then split four ways instead of twenty. What seemed like an endless supply of tokens were fed into two machines that day: Gauntlet, and Sega’s Space Harrier.
Sega recently updated Space Harrier’s graphics and has released it as volume 4 in their Sega Ages 2500 series (a reference to the games price in Japan, 2500 yen). Currently the Sega Ages collections have only been released in Japan, so you’re going to need a Japanese Playstation 2 (or some other less scrupulous method) to play this game elsewhere.
As with all the other Sega Ages releases, while the graphics and sound have been revamped, gameplay is essentially the same. You control a guy with a big-ass gun — the basis of many an exciting video game. In Space Harrier, your gun also has a rocket in the rear, giving you the option of flying around the screen or just running really really fast along the ground. This gun packs a hefty punch, and you’re going to need it, because straight ahead are eighteen levels of things that want to kill you. Flying “into the screen” so to speak, Space Harrier was one of the first games to be marketed as “3D”.
I actually had to look up that last fact, as I have to admit I’ve never made it past level three. One of the most frustrating parts of the game for myself is that you can’t see through your own guy. Had Mr. Space Harrier been designed using a wire frame, like the character from Punch Out, I think this game would have been a lot easier. As it stands, I often seem to get shot out of nowhere, due to the fact my butt was blocking a big missle from view.
The control system is so easy that most children should be able to pick up and play the game. The left analog stick controls your character, while the square button shoots. That’s it. The complexity of Space Harrier is delivered through it’s level design and it’s barrage of enemies, not the control system.
It’s been over fifteen years since I played Space Harrier in an arcade, so I honestly can’t remember what the music and/or sound effects sounded like. On Sega Ages Volume IV, the game isn’t that sonicly impressive. Simple sound effects and repetitive music cycle throughout gameplay.
After playing Space Harrier for an hour or so, I’d have to say … this game doesn’t seem that exciting anymore. Shoot, move, shoot, move, shoot … that pretty much sums it up. In 1985, quickly moving 3D graphics alone may have been enough to earn our quarters, but in 2003 it just doesn’t cut it anymore. The graphics and sound aren’t updated enough to make the game exciting any longer, which leaves the game to stand on it’s gameplay — which doesn’t seem that exciting any longer either.