Space Harrier (Sega 32X) review
"Space Harrier is a game of unique mold from a time when there were practically no conventions for games. In its day, most genres hadn't been carved yet and games only resembled each other in minimalistic principal similarities. As the lines that defined games became more clear, Space Harrier continued to remain untouched in its simple quality. Space Harrier is a shooter, but it is a groundbreaking and important shooter that would remain unchallenged in its playability and its archetype. "
Space Harrier is a game of unique mold from a time when there were practically no conventions for games. In its day, most genres hadn't been carved yet and games only resembled each other in minimalistic principal similarities. As the lines that defined games became more clear, Space Harrier continued to remain untouched in its simple quality. Space Harrier is a shooter, but it is a groundbreaking and important shooter that would remain unchallenged in its playability and its archetype.
It's a shooter, but not like the horizontal and vertical spaceship marathons we now associate with the word. Space Harrier puts you in control of a man, the Space Harrier, and gives you a view of his back about ten feet removed. The gun in his hand allows him to hover around the screen, or he can run along the ground. You'll be shooting tons of enemies and objects, and dodging them as well, and your vision of it all is extremely up close and personal.
And really, shooting and dodging is the sum of what you can do in the game. You fly into the screen and the forces of evil and inanimate obstacles alike rush towards you, and you weave and attack; the basic concept behind any shooter. The theme here, laying the pattern of your intent impediments, is a fantasy-future-type background. This means you'll be seeing a lot of gruesome alien apparitions, resembling masculine Medusa heads, energy orbs, and otherworldly soldiers.
The enemy design is great. It's great to look back at the earliest days of emerging, competent technology; developers finally were getting the hardware restrictions lifted from their art. The monsters and aliens and other demons you fight are imaginative and beautifully realized. Fighting the relentless streams of the enemy horde is never a dull matter thanks to the brilliant design, and even more thanks to the convention-forming patterns with which the monsters are programmed.
A shooter is nothing if the enemies provide dull resistance. Space Harrier throws its opponents at you with some excellent patterns, with balletic weaving and sudden forward rushes. The rushes are important and especially feverish because of the game's perspective. Enemies come towards YOU as much as your character. This is definitely thrilling, and speaks of much of what makes the whole Harrier experience so rewarding.
It's simply engaging and visceral. The Harrier is a persistent man of drive and dedication. He just keeps flying and running forward. If he gets knocked down, he simply says ''Get Ready'' and jumps back up into the thick of impending doom again. And as you play the game, it gets faster and more unnerving. The constant incoming of the enemy threat is always blistering and this game's intensity is resultantly unmatched. The Space Harrier never lets up, despite the fact that the game begins to ramp in pace very quickly. It's up to the player to keep the cool head that the Harrier represents.
As a visual piece, Space Harrier was once a peerless spectacle, and now stands simply as an aesthetic beauty. The invading enemy force's designs are still intricate, attractive and unique designs, with many being gaming milestones. The ''dragon'' like creatures, from the first boss to the later quarrels with the two headed dragon and the bonus rounds on the giant worm, are works of 2D ingenuity that will forever remain amazing examples of what can be done with the medium. Objects and perspective scroll around effortlessly and the animation solidifies the hastiness with which the game operates. In fact, the only shortcoming Space Harrier can be noted with is its lack of scaling.
In its time of production, hardware scaling in videogames wasn't a reality. This means that sprites have a less smooth, more ''poppy'' effect as they draw in closer to the screen. It's far from ugly, but it is something the 32X could have fixed without much effort. As it is, however, Space Harrier is a faithful recreation of the already gorgeous and vivid shooter. Besides, you'll really lose yourself in the soundtrack.
If you've not heard the music of Space Harrier (or its Genesis ... ''sequel''), you've missed one of the most perfectly matched audio tracks ever laid on a videogame. You know that feeling you get, where you can make an instant connection between the sound and the image of something? That's Space Harrier in a sentence. The fantastic sci-fi setting is perfectly complimented by its ethereal synth tunes.
And it doesn't stop. One of the best things about Space Harrier is the way you can identify with the character and the way he tends to personify determination. That, and this is just simply one of the best shooters ever made, perfectly ported to the easily-ownable 32X. Space Harrier is a game of excellent design, from its characters to its impediments to its theme and back around again. It is a breathless juggernaut of a game that never lets up on you and demands your highest attention and sharpest reflexes. It's a hard game. It's the earliest example of excellence in a genre that had yet to see form or tradition. Space Harrier is one of the best formations of pure gameplay ever, and is indeed a necessity for any lover of shooters or arcade-style perfection.
Community review by ethereal (March 14, 2004)
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