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Space Harrier II (スペースハリアーII) - Genesis, Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, Windows, PlayStation 2, Wii Virtual Console, iOS (1988)
Space Harrier II was one of the first titles for both the Mega Drive and Sega Genesis when released in their respective territories. The game was planned by Kotaro Hayashida (creator of Alex Kidd) rather than Yu Suzuki.
Not much has changed from its predecessor, other than offering 13 new stages, along with a handful of new enemies. The coolest of these are a three-headed turtle, a winged tiger, and the penultimate foe, the Dark Harrier. Boss fights are heralded with a darkened playing field and some lightning cracks in the distance - one of the few new special effects. You can choose your starting level at the outset, although you still need to conquer all of the stages to beat it.
The dragon bonus stages are gone, and are instead replaced with levels where you ride on top of a jet. It's pretty much like a regular level (except you're invincible), which is underwhelming. The new main theme, composed by Tokuhiko Uwabo, is actually pretty catchy, even though it doesn't quite hold a candle to the original. Some of the sound effects are also a bit odd, as if the programmers hadn't quite mastered the Genesis' sound chip.
Although the 16-bit hardware was able to replicate other arcade titles like Altered Beast, the lack of any scaling meant that it still wasn't quite capable of delivering an arcade-like experience. The scrolling is definitely smoother than the 8-bit ports of the first game, and the horizon view actually changes as you move up and down, but it's still choppy and ultimately somewhat clumsy. When it was released, this was acceptable, but with the numerous quality ports of its predecessor now available, Space Harrier II is really not up to par.
Although Space Harrier II was originally released on the Mega Drive, it was ported to numerous computer platforms in Europe. The quality of these ports is about the same as the ones developed for the original game. The Amstrad version has filled-in sprites but the speed is slower. The Atari ST and Amiga ports are very close to the Mega Drive version. The music conversions by Matt Furniss are quite excellent.
In 2000 Sega resurrected Space Harrier with a completely new arcade game, Planet Harriers. This update plays much more similarly to Panzer Dragoon than any of the old Space Harrier titles.
The stages are fully defined, rather than blank landscapes, through the scrolling is rather slow. The jet-equipped main character can dash and spin around the screen, all while aiming a targeting reticule. Weapons include both a regular shot and a lock-on laser. You can earn gold to buy life replenishments, lock-on fuel (to increase the number of enemies you can target at once), barriers, and additional power bombs. The game was also distributed in two-player sit-down cabinets. If playing with another person the two players can share energy and increase each other's life meter.
Due to technical restraints the original Space Harrier was reduced to checkerboard patterns. Now with more powerful hardware, Planet Harriers expands extensively on the universe. The graphic designs mix futuristic sci-fi landscapes with gorgeous and luscious environments, including forested canyons and ice caverns. The final stage takes place in hyperspace, against the backdrop of several colorful galaxies. It's never quite as trippy as the old games, but it's still classy. Unfortunately there are only five stages in total.
It also has a rather strange sense of humor, which manifests in the playable characters. The new Harriers include Cory, a nurse with a gigantic syringe; Nick, a baseball player; X, a rock star with a guitar; and Glenn, the "normal" guy. Opa-Opa from Fantasy Zone is available as a hidden character, and he also shows up during gameplay to resurrect players when continuing. The exaggerated running animations while on the ground are also quite comical
It's all rather weird, but it keeps some elements from the older games, seeing as the first-level boss is a multi-headed dragon. The final boss is also incredibly cool, as it's composed from a series of cubes that take on different forms, similar to Seven Force in Gunstar Heroes. In addition to shapes like guns and grenades, it'll occasionally turn into the Dreamcast logo.
Planet Harriers runs on Sega's Hikaru board, which also ran Cyber Troopers Virtual On 4 and Star Wars Racer Arcade. Most of the music is, unfortunately, largely forgettable electronica. It's a pretty cool game which, alas, never saw a home release. There were rumors of Dreamcast and GameCube ports, but unfortunately nothing ever came to fruition.
Space Harrier and Fantasy Zone were always sort of related - both had cracked out character designs, both referenced the same world (the "Fantasy Zone", of course), even the high-score themes are similar. So someone took the natural step and combined them into one mega game, Space Fantasy Zone. All of the levels and bad guys are favorites taken from both games, and some of the Space Harrier baddies have been given cutesy makeovers.
The gameplay is exactly like Space Harrier, although you have a shield meter and only one life. Shooting enemies will give you gold, while taking out whole waves yields even more money. In between stages you can buy tons of different power-ups at a store cleverly named "Weponalds", including several kinds of speed-ups, power shots, extra weapons, shields, bombs, and options. You can also spend your time poking the chest of the store clerk, if you feel so inclined, or order a smile.
The graphics capture the pastels of the original game, although since the PC Engine can't handle scaling, the movement isn't as smooth as it could be - it's about on par with Space Harrier II for the Genesis. The main theme is a combination of the famous songs from both games, although the rest of the music, alas, is disappointingly banal.
It's fun, although a somewhat short game (only nine short stages, compared to the 18 of the Space Harrier). But the biggest tragedy? The game never saw an official release - it was on release lists, it was advertised (with designs by famous artist Satoshi Urushihara), but it was ultimately canned. No one knows why for sure. Thankfully, a beta version was leaked to the internet, so it can easily be played.
However, be careful of bootlegs being sold online. Some fans have created replications of what the package should have looked like had they been released, but these are not authentic.
Following Sega's masterpiece Typing of the Dead, itself a spin-off from House of the Dead, someone decided it would be cool to combine Space Harrier with a typing tutor. So it's much like watching someone play a game of Space Harrier, except when enemies pop onto the screen, you need to type some Japanese words (in Romaji) to shoot them down. Type too slowly and you'll get killed. Quick single letters will also occasionally pop up.
Space Harrier in Bayonetta
The 2010 Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3 title Bayonetta, developed by Platinum Games and published by Sega, is filled with all manner of classic Sega fan service throughout. During an early cutscene in a car, one of the songs from OutRun is played on the radio. Chapter 08 has a section on a motorcycle, which is tangentially similar to Hang-On, and also plays a song from After Burner.
In Chapter 14, Bayonetta and her crew hop onto a missile, where you then proceed to play a minigame which is exactly like Space Harrier. In the cutscene that introduces this segment, Bayonetta proclaims, "Welcome to my fantasy zone. Get ready!", before taking off over the sea. The enemy sound effects and patterns should be familiar, and the music is, of course, an arrangement of the original Space Harrier theme song. One of the boss creatures you fight in this section is even a long-bodied dragon.
Space Harrier Book
In the early 1990s, Scholastic published a series of books called "Worlds of Power", which were novelizations of various Nintendo games. There were similar publications in Japan, going under the label "Famicom Bouken Game Book", published by Futabasha. Though most of these titles were based on games for Nintendo systems, there were several based on Sega properties. Since the official backstories of many games are vague, many were embellished and invented by the book author. The books are similar to the Fighting Fantasy book series, where the reader makes decisions at certain points, which tells them to turn to different pages. There is also a simple role-playing system where each of the story's protagonists have different skills, and dice rolls are used to resolve conflicts with enemies or other similar scenarios.
The Space Harrier book is subtitled "The White Dragon Hero", presumably referring to Uriah. The unnamed hero looks a bit like J.J. from Zillion and is aided by a woman named Joanna, who communicates from a home base. In addition to his pistol, the hero also fights with a sword.
Dragon Land stage in Fantasy Zone X68000
The X68000 version of Fantasy Zone featured an exclusive hidden level based on Space Harrier called Dragon Land. To reach it, you need to break the radar down into numbers. Starting at the right side, count 1, 2, 3, etc. In each level, the first pod you need to destroy corresponds to that numbered pod on the radar. For the first level, you have to destroy the #1 pod first, second level destroy the #2 pod first, etc. Instead of just dropping a regular coin, they'll drop a letter. If you collect all seven, it'll spell out HARRIER. When you beat the seventh stage, you'll be taken to Dragon Land.
Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed
Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U and PC, an absolutely brilliant racing game, features a number of characters and stages based on classic Sega properties. Even though there is no Space Harrier stage, the theme song of the final level, "Race of Ages", is based on the Space Harrier theme. There is a holographic statue of the Harrier in the stage, as well as a flying dragon.
The Japanese Sega Master System BIOS features a Space Harrier reference. If you turn on the system without plugging in a cartridge, you're treated to a screen with a scrolling checkerboard floor, with the Space Harrier theme playing.
Space Harrier Vocal Theme
In a 1989 issue of Beep! magazine, one of the Sega staffers revealed that the company had written semi-official lyrics of the main theme of Space Harrier, and which were sung at a company party. At some point, the song was sung by Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, better known as the vocalist behind the legendary Daytona USA themes. A video of this was recorded and uploaded to the internet. For a long time, this song was not officially available on any album, until it was added as a bonus track in the Space Harrier II Complete Collection digital release. It can be purchased on Amazon or iTunes. The lyrics, in both original Japanese and badly translated English:
Yume o hagukunda sora o aoginagara
Haato o tsutsumikomu machi ni wakare o tsugeru
Aa iku man-kounen no hate toki ga hanarete ite mo
Aa ashita no futari no yume wa uchuu no yami o koeru
Move in a sky Shooting a shot
Dreaming a moon and you get a living again
Nurture the dream while looking up at the sky
Say goodbye to the city that pierces the heart
Ah, at the end of ten thousand light years, despite being seperated by time
Ah, the dream of the couples of tomorrow, cross the darkness of the universe
Move in a sky Shooting a shot
Dreaming a moon and you get a living again
Space Harrier Hacks
The X68000 version of Space Harrier was easily hacked by amateur gamers, resulting in a number of variations with different sprites and sound effects.
Some of these include Rumic Harrier, with characters from Rumiko Takahashi manga like Urusei Yatsura and Ranma ½; Otaku Harrier, where all sprites are now mecha from famous anime; Street Harrier, starring Ryu from the first Street Fighter but also featuring lots of other Sega icons (during bonus stages Ryu does a handstand on the After Burner jet, and the spinning diamonds are now tumbling OutRun cars); and Harrier Desse, which stars a flying squirrel, steals many enemies from Dragon Quest, and is otherwise cartoonishly bizarre.
Additional Hacked Version Screenshots
Compilations - Space Harrier II ~Space Harrier Complete Collection~ - Playstation 2 (2005)
In 2005, Sega released the Space Harrier II ~Space Harrier Complete Collection~ as part of the Sega Ages 2500 series. Included are emulated version of Space Harrier for the arcade, Master System and Game Gear (the latter of which is hidden - just highlight "Mark III" in the selection menu and hold Right until the Game Gear option appears), as well as Space Harrier 3D and Space Harrier II. The emulation is pretty good, although not perfect - there's a bit of slowdown in the arcade version (which appears in other ports as well); there are some weird sound effects in Space Harrier II, especially during the explosions; and there's odd redrawing issues with Space Harrier 3D. Despite these glitches, they're about the same quality as you'd find on a PC emulator. There are plenty of options to change display resolutions, at least, if upscaled and filtered graphics bother you. Also included are sound tests, artwork galleries, and a perfect runthrough of the arcade game. The manual also includes interviews with some of the original staff. There's also a demo of an error message built into the BIOS of the Japanese Master Systems. It may not be as robust as many Western released retro compilations, but it's a must have for any Space Harrier fan.
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