Space Harrier
Box Shot
Space Harrier
Platform: Sega Master System
Publisher: Sega
Designer: Sega
Genre: Shoot-em-up
Players: 1
Published Date 1988
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

Sega's greatest asset back in the days of the SMS were its arcade ports. During the mid to late 80s, Sega had a whole slew of great games that were translated to its home platform. Alas, the SMS was really never meant to handle complex things like sprite scaling (something not even the Genesis could do) and some ports could just not be done justice (can you say After Burner?) Space Harrier is probably the best example of an arcade conversion done right.

Space Harrier is a behind-the-back shooter casting you in the role of a flying human being with a very large gun. Summoned to the Land of Dragons, it's your job to save this checkerboard-floor world from all sorts of nasty creatures. The main idea of the game is simply to fly around the screen and shoot stuff. Of course, staying still will get you killed quite quickly by enemy projectiles...I wish I could say you have to be on your toes, but most of the game you'll be spent inexplicably floating above the ground (your character doesn't quite seem to have a jet pack.) There are also other obstacles that must be dodged, like large poles that will get between the Harrier and his destination, causing (you guessed it) death.

One of the standout features of Space Harrier are the funky monster creations. Robots, multi-sprite dragons, one-eyed mammoths, floating droids that vaguely resemble peanuts and other somewhat cool robotic creations. The landscape is similarly psychadelic too...certain levels have a ceiling that closes in and moves very fast, which has been known to give motion sickness (I kid you not.)

Graphically Space Harrier still manages to be mildly impressive. The game moves quite smoothly, and the sprites move fairly well for an 8-bit system without scaling capabilities. Of course, it doesn't move quite as fast as the arcade game, but it's more than suitable. In fact, the horizon perspective doesn't change when you move vertically...in the arcade version, running on the ground made it hard to see in the distance. This actually makes the game a bit easier to play.

There's the famous Space Harrier theme playing throughout most of the game, with the occasional boss themes breaking in (boss battles seldom last more than 30 seconds...most of them just leave the area if you survive long enough) and the bonus level music (you get to ride a dragon and destroy trees!) But despite the lack of variety, I still must say I love the main tune. There's even a few good speech samples ("Get Ready!" and "ARRGHHHH!")

Space Harrier is pure arcade blasting fun, with 18 levels of full button pounding action (there's a code that lets you continue from certain levels, so you don't have to start over every time...it can get quite tough.) While in this day and age, you can get the superior version as part of the "Sega Ages" pack on the Saturn, Space Harrier on the SMS still stands as one of the best titles on the system, simply because it's a ton of fun.