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Space Harrier II (Genesis) artwork

Space Harrier II (Genesis) review

"Space Harrier II is eerily similar to Space Harrier. In fact, it is more along the lines of a Space Harrier Remix than it is a sequel; it brings nothing new to the table and basically just rearranges the composition of the first game. Be that as it may, it's still Space Harrier in play, which amounts to fantastic, visceral shooting in its purest form. "

Space Harrier II is eerily similar to Space Harrier. In fact, it is more along the lines of a Space Harrier Remix than it is a sequel; it brings nothing new to the table and basically just rearranges the composition of the first game. Be that as it may, it's still Space Harrier in play, which amounts to fantastic, visceral shooting in its purest form.

The Game

The premise of the LEGENDARY SPACE HARRIER DUOLOGY is simple: you're the space harrier, a man out to destroy an evil race of aliens. You're aided by your powerful gun which can allow you to hover; thus, the term ''Harrier.'' Gameplay is behind-the-back, forward scrolling, and the Space Harrier just never stops running and flying forward unless he's killed. It is this persistence, for me at least, that nails it down.

See, I just dig the fact that the Harrier is such a man of action. He runs forward, shooting crap, and never stops until he dies. And when he dies, you hear his voice beckoning you further with ''GET READY,'' and you're tossed right back into the fire. This dedication to action makes me really identify with the Space Harrier.

That, and the gameplay, even though not really a sequel, is still as playable as it gets. The behind-the-back nature gives a sense of speed and impending collision that other types of shooters must strive harder to get. This here is a non-stop shooting-type affair, and when paired up with that heightened sense of. doom, it gets very intense.

Just... not as intense as the first one.

Not by a wide margin, mind you. In fact, relatively slim. It IS noticeable, though, especially to anyone with regular access to the first (that's me). See, the original ran on an arcade board (and later, the 32X) with as much memory as was needed; the Genesis' Space Harrier II was an early code conversion on a nubile machine. The result is a game that runs a little slower than the arcade predecessor and generally not as smooth. Again, the margins here are slim, but they exist.

And plus, if you own the first (me again), you'll be disappointed in just how similar the two are. Most of the monsters and bosses and obstacles and everything are all found in the first; they're just jumbled up and put back in in different places in the second. While it certainly makes a great game on its own, it makes for a disappointing ''sequel'' that it is just the first game mixed up and running less efficiently.

That's not to say it's a throwaway, though; Space Harrier II IS a great game. Hell, with a foundation this solid, it would take monumental nerve to screw this up. Running forward, flying around the screen, shooting and dodging; these basic principles are what form any great shooter and Space Harrier games keep it real. In fact, they wouldn't be touched until years later with the Panzer Dragoon games; the gap between was large, but sadly, this underpopulated genre was not missed by many.

The Delivery

Space Harrier II differs most here; it doesn't look as good as the first. I'm not trying to harp, but it is noticeable: the Harrier moves around less fluidly, the animations are not as smooth as the first, and the faked ''scaling'' of the enemies and obstacles is not as natural as the first. This in no way creates an eye sore, it is just immediately noticeable to any veteran of the two. The color selection is a little on the smaller side, but this also gives the game a bit of a darker mood than the first; sort of a coin toss for me here.

...And also noticeable is the familiar music. It's great music; it's just the same, or sometimes similar to, tracks from the first game. The tracks really are ambient and appropriate, some really great sci-fi type videogame tracks. They're just not the first time you've heard them. See a theme here? Space Harrier II was a ''get this game out now'' game, and what it has to separate itself from its progenitor is basically nothing.

The Truth

The lesson to learn from all of this is that Space Harrier II is a great game if you don't have a copy of Space Harrier. Hell, if you've played either, you've practically played both. It's just an inferior game to the first, despite having exactly the same design concept. It is this concept, though, that saves it- while it might not have been executed as well, it's still done at a high enough level to commend the game on its own. Space Harrier II's gameplay is great, and is a great example of what made the idea so brilliant in the first place. It just isn't going to be played if you can play the first.

The Box Art

Here's a toss up. The case itself looks ok... better than most early Genesis boxes. Nothing striking, just a sort of rendering of a typical ground design, with the Harrier in the middle and one of the cooler bosses behind him. The cartridge sticker, though seems to have the ''widescreen'' version of this art, and it adds so much more! This extended picture has another boss and its fire, and some of the pillars you must dodge. The concerted look of it all is far beyond most designs of its time; I wish Sega had found a way (or even cared) to get this on the case.

ethereal's avatar
Community review by ethereal (March 14, 2004)

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