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Old 01-20-2003, 09:41 PM   #28
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Space Harrier - Arcade - Rating 8
"Welcome to the Fantasy Zone! ...Get Ready!"
Who can forget those words? Yu Suzuki (legendary arcade/game designer/producer/director) was the king of the arcades along with Capcom and Konami during the 80's and is still going strong with such gaming experiences as Shenmue 1 & 2 and Virtua Fighter 4. And if you talk to anybody about the arcades' golden years you're going to hear titles like Out Run(ners), Virtua Racing, Altered Beast, Fantasy Zone, After Burner, Hang On, and the game I've chosen to review, Space Harrier.
The stature of Yu Suzuki in arcade gaming is one that hasn't been equalled to this very day. He is a famous person in Japan: if he took a walk on the street, people would KNOW who he is. He revolutionized gaming in general by being a visionary, and he always stood at the forefront of technological advancements in gaming. One can identify this unique quality in virtually every one of his works -- it is always one in which efficiency and technology work cohesively in order to maintain a quality that can only be described as 'virtuosity in excellence', a startling effectiveness that never wanes and is only exhibited by a select few (including esp. Shigeru Miyamoto).
Onto the game. I remember when I first played Space Harrier in the arcade. It was a magical moment, to say the very least. Space Harrier was innovative (gee, how many times do you hear that word nowadays?), an instant classic in its most bare, broad form. Games back then just didn't play, look, INSPIRE like this. A fully realized 2D-3D world that has never truly been equalled (though others have tried, such as Square's NES title 3D World Runner, as well as the Mega Drive Cotton game, of which there were only around 5,000 copies made, sadly). One thing I must mention is the freedom of movement. Games back then, particularly shooters, had a greater degree of freedom than today's 3D graphic-fests like Panzer Dragoon Orta. And that's what games like PDO lack... FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT (though PDO is an on-rails shooter and SH isn't; advantage - Space Harrier). Controls are simple yet flawless. You are the hero Space Harrier who must save Dragon Land from the invading forces. You fly/run 'into' the screen with your hero hovering/running in full view of you at all times, and you can shoot anything and everything in sight though not everything can be harmed. The object is simple - destroy all the baddies, avoid getting hit/shot and stay alive. You'll need lightning-fast reflexes later as stages can get to blistering speeds and since you're moving into the screen you have to beware not banging full force into whatever might be sticking out of the ground, as well as enemy fire at the same time.
The graphics vary depending on which version you play. I remember the Christmas when I first played Space Harrier on Sega Master System.... what a wondrous thing to behold that was. Space Harrier has been released and re-released so many times I can't even count. You can even play it in Shenmue at the arcades and at home if you buy the Saturn and the game.
The bosses were the coolest back at that time and are still pretty cool today (the two-headed dragon, when it comes up to the screen and flies away with both heads still focused on the screen just makes me feel strange). Dragons spewing fireballs at you, a strange 'head' with other 'stone heads' circling like a shield, multitudes of mech-like robots flying all over the place firing lightning fast missles directly at you... you get the picture. There are 18 zones total, and the latter stages are amongst the most difficult. The bonus stages are awesome. You ride a white, furry dragon and slam him head-first into everything coming into the screen to rack your score up higher.
The music is great too. From the 80's-style motivational Main Theme, to the up-beat Battle Field which plays in bonus stages, to all the strange, urgent boss themes: Squilla, Ida, Godarni, Syura, Valda, and Stanrey... and of course the ranking and game ending songs Lake Side Memory and White Summer. That's it, but hey, at least these songs have personality unlike the stuff in most games made today. I enjoy it and if you don't like the music, just think, at least they didn't hire Mr. Big to do any of the tracks like they did with that Daytona Remix on Saturn Or, just as bad, you could've been playing this game while having to endure the 80's suffering manifest aurally that goes by the names Winger and Trixter . The sound effects are cool with all the bangs and explosions done well, and of course there's all that cool game speech.
These days revolutionary games are non-existent and developers are taking 3D and doing nothing new with it. Well, back then, Yu Suzuki was taking 2D and making a 3D world with it. How's that for innovation? And, unlike too many of today's games, this game doesn't need no added gimmick like graphic power to disguise any insufficiencies because Space Harrier has character, ingenuity, is an original, and, most importantly of all - it's very fun to play. It definitely wasn't more of the same when it was released; it was more 'virtuosity of excellence' that Sega and Yu Suzuki are so adept at.
FYI, they released a sequel for Genesis, Space Harrier II, which is pretty good, although not quite on the original's level. However, it's still a game worth owning, if you can find a copy.
Until next time...

Break out the nostalgia

Last edited by Icarus4578; 04-29-2004 at 02:35 AM.
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