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Space Harrier

Alberto 'Kazuya'
Icon during the best times from SEGA Arcade, the playable approach but especially its graphics, fascinated several generations. Welcome to Fantasy Zone!
Space Harrier

About the game

By the mid-80s, Sega's Arcade department was engaged in the realization of a series of titles that would forever change the world of videogames, becoming all of them great successes for the company. Leading the team, a genius named Yu Suzuki. The first game to be released was the legendary Hang-On in July 1985. If the graphics already surprised many fans, especially due to the applied scaling effect, with Space Harrier the bar was widely exceeded. Never a shoot'em up had been presented in a third person point of view. Behind this revolutionary conception there was a deep study of how to reach the user.

Unlike other representatives of the genre, Space Harrier had no plot. All the efforts were put into conceiving artistically, and then at a graphic and sound level, a fantasy world where the player was free to imagine the reasons that had led him to the fantastic, psychedelic and dream world called Fantasy Zone. The bet, though being very risky, went very well. The title was ported to almost 20 systems during the last three decades and has become, on its own merits, a cultural icon for both Sega and retro lovers.

First stage is a friendly user entry to gameplay mechanics. That's Fantasy Zone!

Graphics and sound

The work of Yu Suzuki was launched in December 1985 using a very sophisticated hardware for the time. The benefits that the Sega Space Harrier Hardware offered to the developers were two Motorola 68000 CPUs at 10MHz and a palette of 98,304 colors including 6144 simultaneous on the screen, apart from other processors to help the sound. The result was colorful fantasy worlds with huge sprites on the screen, very detailed moving at a devilish speed, a characteristic that was increased with the revolutionary pseudo 3D effect of scaling. The soundtrack, composed by Hiroshi Kawaguchi, offers simple melodies appropiate to the action apart from the famous 'Fantasy Zone' that welcomes us in the first stage.

Gameplay

Simple, direct and addictive. Thus it can be summarized the gameplay of Space Harrier. The title belongs to the third-person rail shooter genre. The user controls Harrier during 18 stages, all of them filled with enemies and characteristic final bosses while having a perfectly balanced difficulty Playing is simple, finishing it is more demanding, the last levels being a real challenge to avoid being defeated. During our trip in Fantasy Zone we will not have power-ups that improve our shot or shields to avoid damage. Therefore, success depends on our reflexes and knowing the particularities of each world, both obstacles and enemies.

The enemy variety and their design level is very good. The sprites are enormous.

Once the user knows the gameplay mechanisms, the challenge becomes even greater, trying to improve one game after another and reaching better scores in a frenetic pace as few have seen in a shoot'em up. As a note, obstacles are as important as enemies because sometimes we can use them as a shield for the enemy shots. On the other hand, our character can interact on two levels: running or flying. An ingenious touch that enriches the player's strategies.

Conclusion

Space Harrier was a title ahead of its time. Becoming an icon during the best times from SEGA Arcade, the playable approach but especially its graphics, fascinated several generations and set the standards in the following successes of the company. However, it is curious that it never had a sequel to the technical level of the original Arcade. Both Space Harrier 3D and Space Harrier II, destined to Master System and Mega Drive respectively, were far from the graphic power of the arcade version. The last hope was lost with Saturn... so it's fair to say that our beloved Space Harrier is unique. A masterpiece that shone in 1985 and still flashes.

8 | VERY GOOD