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3D Space Harrier (3DS) artwork

3D Space Harrier (3DS) review

"Get ready!"

If you went to an arcade in the 1980s and asked someone to name a 3D game, there's a good chance they'd say “Space Harrier.” It wasn't the only 3D game of the era, but few games were as impressive as it was. The game is a Star Fox-style shoot-em-up (or rather, you might say, Star Fox is a Space Harrier-style shoot-em-up) set in the surreal “Fantasy Zone,” filled with mutant wooly mammoths, robots, mushrooms, fighter jets, and skeleton dragons. It’s all blazing fast and beyond flashy with an iconic soundtrack. Who wouldn't want to experience a stereoscopic 3D remaster of that?

In fact, the Master System version of the game is one of a handful of games for the system that took advantage of a primitive pair of active shutter 3D glasses to give it a 3D effect. It makes perfect sense that Sega chose Space Harrier as the first game in their 3D Remaster line on the 3DS.

Space Harrier is one game that's improved immensely by the 3D effect. In addition to simply looking nicer, depth of field is a real boon where gameplay is concerned. With a dozen enemies and projectiles flying at your face at once, the ability to intuitively tell which objects are about to kill immediately and which are about to kill you a second or two in the future is key. Personally, I've always had a lot of trouble with Space Harrier. I've always had fun with it, but I've never lasted very long. With this version, though, I feel like I can hold my own better than ever before, and the 3D is just part of that.

The controls have also been given a going over to take advantage of the touch screen. You can still play it the traditional way, of course, with the circle pad for analog control like nature intended. There's even an option to set the maximum vertical range your character can travel to best fit your own experiences with the arcade machine (different machines let you go higher or lower, depending on how much abuse the analog stick has taken). If you'd like, though, you can simply control your character with the touch screen. Your character on the top screen will move to wherever you're touching on the bottom screen, firing rapidly as long as you hold your stylus to the screen. Whether you prefer this control scheme or the classic one is a matter of personal preference, but this new way to play is certainly welcome.

The perks don't stop there, either. Extra care has been taken to emulate the arcade experience as accurately as possible, to the point where M2 have even added optional arcade machine noises and a tilting screen. Certain versions of the arcade machine included a seat that would move around as you moved the control stick, simulating the movement of the camera on screen (that must have been nauseating for some people). Your 3DS isn't quite a massive arcade machine, but this is as close as most people will get to replicating that experience at home. Of course, arcade accuracy hasn't stopped M2 from adding the final boss from the Master System port of the game. Haya-Oh is waiting somewhere in there, but good luck finding him. He's hidden away pretty well.

Not all of the additions are major ones. The standard options are all here. Difficulty levels, starting lives, rapid fire speed, and even screen size (this version can fill the whole 3DS screen if you want it to). You can even start the game on any level you've already accessed, and it keeps track of your high scores for each level, as well as your overall high scores. Once your game ends, you're able to save a single replay, letting you re-watch your finest hour or most shameful moment at your leisure.

3D Space Harrier includes everything you could want from a port of Space Harrier, short of a free sit-down arcade machine to set up in your home. Players with modern sensibilities may prefer to play something along lines of Kid Icarus: Uprising or Star Fox 64 3D instead, but fans of those games shouldn't pass up the opportunity to experience one of the games that started it all, now in glorious, glasses-free 3D.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (December 13, 2013)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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