Together Retro Game Club: Space Harrier

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This month Together Retro brings you one of the most influential and classic arcade games in the past 30 years. With groundbreaking graphics, flight-stick controls and even a memorable cabinet design, it’s all right here in Space Harrier by Sega.  Created by the legendary Yu Suzuki, this was one of 4 games in Sega’s “Super Scaler” series, alongside other Suzuki-created titles Hang On, After Burner, and Out Run. This was also the first arcade game that utilized a 16-bit processor. GET READY!

space-harrier-screens

Gameplay

Players control the Harrier through a number of multicolored landscapes, utilizing all sorts of different environments. Enemies are both mechanical and biological in nature, as are the obstacles presented throughout the stages which the player must avoid coming in contact with. Despite a lack of any sort of aiming crosshair, the player’s shots are large enough to hit anything in a general square-block area of the player’s current position. At the end of each area, large bosses such as dragons, mechs, and stone heads await, several of them taking multiple hits before finally beating defeated. There are also periodic bonus stages where the Harrier takes a ride on a friendly white dragon and must hit as many trees or obstacles as possible for bonus points.

Ports

By far, the biggest story of this game is just the number of ports that it had, perhaps one of the most widely ported games of its time, despite the inability of many of these consoles and computers to accurately display the arcade’s Super Scaler graphics.

For consoles, the original Space Harrier appeared on:
Sega Master System, TurboGrafx16/PC Engine, Famicom/NES, Game Gear, 32X , Saturn (part of the Sega Ages series in Japan, bundled w/Out Run & After Burner in North America), Game Boy Advance (part of Sega Arcade Gallery w/Out Run, Super Hang On & After Burner), Dreamcast & Xbox (in Shenmue I & II it is a playable arcade port, also appears on Yu Suzuki Game Works Vol. 1 on Dreamcast), Playstation 2 (Sega Ages 2500 Vol. 4 remake, appears on Sega Classics Collection in NA/EU), Xbox 360 & PS3 (on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection AKA Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection outside of NA), Wii Virtual Console, and Nintendo 3DS eShop.

For computers, Space Harrier appeared on:
Commodore 64, PC (DOS), Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, NEC’s PC88 & PC60, Sharp MZ-700, X1, and X68000, and Fujitsu FM7. There was a demo version for the Apple II and a homebrew that appeared on the Atari 8-bit family of computers.

In case you’re interested, here’s a YouTube video that goes through nearly all these ports can be found 

Legacy

There were several other offshoots and sequels to Space Harrier. A 3D version was on the Sega Master System and also made its way onto Playstation 2 & Playstation 3.  Space Harrier II was released on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and also appeared on some of the aformentioned computers and eventually onto Wii Virtual Console. An arcade-only sequel came out in 2000 known as Planet Harriers.  An unreleased mashup of Space Harrier and Fantasy Zone went unreleased on the PC Engine, called Space Fantasy Zone. Finally, to capitalize on the popularity of Typing of The Dead in Japan, Sega released Typing Space Harrier to Windows PCs in 2000. Numerous other Sega games reference  Space Harrier to this day, such as Bayonetta and Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed.

Discussion

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