Space Harrier

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Space Harrier
SpaceHarrier arcadeflyer.png
European arcade flyer
Developer(s) Sega AM2
Sega AM4
Elite Systems
Rutubo Games
  • JP: Dempa
  • JP: Micomsoft
Designer(s) Yu Suzuki
Composer(s) Hiroshi Kawaguchi
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Rail shooter, third-person shooter
Mode(s) Single player
Cabinet Standard and sit-down
Arcade system Sega Space Harrier Hardware[3]
CPU 2x 68000 (@ 10 MHz)
Sound CPU: Z80 (@ 4 MHz)
Sound YM2203 (@ 4 MHz)
Sega PCM (@ 31.25 kHz)
Display Raster, standard resolution,
horizontal orientation,
6144 out of 98,304 colors

Space Harrier (Japanese: スペースハリアー Hepburn: Supēsu Hariā?) is a third-person rail shooter video game, developed by Yu Suzuki and released by Sega in 1985. Produced for arcades, the title has been ported to over twenty different home computer and gaming platforms in Japan, North America and Europe.[4] Two home-system sequels followed in Space Harrier 3-D (1988) and Space Harrier II (1988), as well as an arcade spinoff, Planet Harriers, in 2000. A polygon-based remake of the original game was released by Sega for the PlayStation 2 as part of their Sega Ages series in 2003.


Designed by Sega AM2's Yu Suzuki,[5] Space Harrier was one of the first arcade games to use 16-bit graphics and Sega's "Super Scaler" Z-buffering[6] technology that allowed pseudo-3D sprite-scaling at high frame rates,[7] with the ability to scale as many as 32,000 sprites and fill a moving landscape with them[8] along with displaying 6144 colors onscreen out of a 98,304-color palette. Running on the Sega Space Harrier arcade system board previously used in Sega AM2's debut release, Hang-On, the pseudo-3D sprite/tile scaling in the game was handled in a similar manner to textures in later texture-mapped polygonal 3D games of the 1990s.[9] Suzuki explained in 2010 that his designs "were always 3D from the beginning. All the calculations in the system were 3D, even from Hang-On. I calculated the position, scale, and zoom rate in 3D and converted it backwards to 2D. So I was always thinking in 3D."[5]

Space Harrier was an early example of a third-person shooter;[10] it was influenced by the 1982 Sega game Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom, and Space Harrier in turn influenced later 3D shooters such as Nintendo's 1993 release Star Fox.[4] The game utilized an analog flight stick as its controller, with the ability to register movement in any direction as well as measure the degree of push that accelerated the player character onscreen at varying speeds, depending on how far the stick was pushed in a certain direction.[11]


Arcade gameplay of Space Harrier as the player is seen fighting a cyclops mammoth.

Space Harrier is set in the "Fantasy Zone", a surreal world composed of brightly-colored landscapes adorned with checkerboard-styled grounds. The enemies are unique, featuring prehistoric animals, Chinese dragons, flying robots, and alien pods. The eponymous player character is continuously propelled through the levels as players dodge enemy fire while shooting back with fireballs via the character's underarm cannon that doubles as a jetpack-like device, enabling the character to fly. The character graphics are sprite-based, though the level backgrounds are pseudo-3D.[7] The game features digitized voice samples; at the start of gameplay, players are greeted with the spoken line, "Welcome to the Fantasy Zone. Get ready!"[4] It has a total of eighteen stages, all lasting less than two minutes in length and containing a boss at the end that must be destroyed in order to progress to the next stage. Two stages—the fifth and the twelfth—are bonus stages in which the player boards a friendly white dragon who smashes through the landscape in order to collect bonus points. The eighteenth level is a boss rush containing seven of the game's bosses encountered up to that point. After the game is completed, "The End" was displayed in large text before simply reverting back to the title screen.

The 1986 Master System port of the game included an exclusive final boss, a powerful twin-bodied fire dragon named Haya Oh (named after then-Sega president Hayao Nakayama),[4] and contained an original storyline and ending that were not in the arcade version.[12]


The game was translated to various home computer systems and consoles. Among the home versions, the ports for the Sega 32X, with Space Harrier packaging art by Marc Ericksen for U.S. and European distribution (not shown), the Sega Saturn and the Sharp X68000 (the latter being a Japan-only) are considered to be the most faithful to the original arcade version. The game is also playable on the Dreamcast (within Shenmue, Shenmue II and Yu Suzuki Game Works Vol. 1) and Xbox (within Shenmue II). It is included in Sega Arcade Gallery for the Game Boy Advance and the enhanced Japanese Sega Ages vol.4 PS2 remake is included in the Eur/NA Sega Classics Collection (a compilation DVD including other games from the same era that were remade for modern audiences) for the PlayStation 2. The art for the 1994 Sega 32X and the Game Boy Advance release in North America and Europe (not shown) featured full color art by illustrator Marc Ericksen.

Space Harrier II for the Mega Drive was released for Nintendo's Virtual Console on December 18, 2006 while the first Space Harrier for the Sega Master System was released in Europe on October 17, 2008 and in North America on November 3, 2008.[13] The arcade version was released on the Virtual Console in Japan on March 26, 2009, in the PAL regions on May 29, 2009 and in North America on June 15, 2009.[14]

The arcade version of Space Harrier is available as an unlockable game in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. While the port's emulation is accurate to the arcade original, there are off-pitch voices and music in the port's sound emulation.

A port of the game was developed for Nintendo 3DS via the Nintendo eShop, featuring stereoscopic 3D and widescreen graphics.[15]

Sega Superstars Tennis features a minigame based on Space Harrier. Bayonetta also features a level section inspired by the game as well.

The main theme of the game is remixed for Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed and used as the soundtrack for the course Race of AGES, a track that is a representative of Sega as a whole. The game also features Ryo Hazuki from Shenmue as a playable character, driving a Space Harrier sit-down arcade cabinet during air-based portions of a race.

Space Harrier Complete Collection includes the arcade version of Space Harrier, its Sega Master System port, Space Harrier 3-D, and Space Harrier II. Also included as an Easter egg is the Game Gear version of the game. It was released for the PlayStation 2 as the 20th volume of Sega Ages.


Review scores
Publication Score
3DS Mega Drive PC Master System TurboGrafx-16
AllGame 4.5/5 stars[16] 2.5/5 stars[17] 4.5/5 stars[18] 3/5 stars[19]
CVG 35/40[21] 78%[22] 89%[23]
Crash 77%[20]
Famitsu 90%[24]
GamePro 4/5[25]
GameSpy 9/10[26]
Sinclair User 5/5 stars[27]
Your Sinclair 9/10[28]
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 9/10[29]
The Games Machine 87%[30] 92%[31]

Computer Gaming World reviewed the Sega Master System version in 1988 and called Space Harrier "the best arcade shoot-'em-up of the year ... as exciting a game as this reviewer has ever played".[32] The game was runner-up (described by Computer + Video Games magazine as commended) in the category of Game of the Year at the 1986 Golden Joystick Awards.[33]

Reviewing the 32X version, GamePro commented that, though Space Harrier is an old game, it has straightforward controls, solid sound, graphics that are closer to the arcade version than any previous port, and is also free of the slowdown and sprite flicker which hampered the action on previous ports. They concluded the game to be "a nice trip down memory lane" and scored it 4 out of 5.[25]

Complete series[edit]


  1. ^ "Virtual Console: Space Harrier (Arcade version)". Sega. Retrieved January 6, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Virtual Console: Space Harrier". Sega. Retrieved January 6, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Sega Space Harrier Hardware". Retrieved August 5, 2006. 
  4. ^ a b c d Kalata, Kurt (December 8, 2013). "Hardcore Gaming 101: Space Harrier". Retrieved August 11, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Mielke, James (December 7, 2010). "The Disappearance of Yu Suzuki: Part 1". Retrieved August 11, 2016. 
  6. ^ John D. Vince (ed.) (2003), Handbook of Computer Animation (p. 4-5), Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-1-4471-1106-1
  7. ^ a b Fahs, Travis (21 April 2009). "IGN Presents the History of SEGA". IGN. p. 3. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  8. ^ Bernard Perron & Mark J. P. Wolf (2008), The Video Game Theory Reader 2 (p. 157), Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0-415-96282-X
  9. ^ Gorenfeld, Louis (May 3, 2013). "Lou's Pseudo 3d Page". 
  10. ^ Workman, Robert (September 27, 2011). "Top 10 Sega Franchises That Deserve Platinum Treatment". GameZone. Archived from the original on October 16, 2013. 
  11. ^ Buchanan, Levi (5 September 2008). "Space Harrier Retrospective". IGN. p. 2. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  12. ^ "Space Harrier Master System manual" (PDF). Sega Retro. Retrieved August 11, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Two WiiWare Games and One Virtual Console Game Added to Wii Shop Channel". Nintendo of America. 2008-11-03. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  14. ^ "Mario Calculates the Time Needed to Catch Toasted Rainbows in Space". Nintendo of America. 2009-06-15. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  15. ^ "Sega to bring classic titles to 3DS, starting with 3D Space Harrier. First screens here". GamesRadar. 2012-11-21. Retrieved 2014-03-24. 
  16. ^ "Space Harrier - Review - allgame". 14 November 2014. 
  17. ^ "Space Harrier - Overview - allgame". 14 November 2014. 
  18. ^ "Space Harrier - Review - allgame". 15 November 2014. 
  19. ^ "Space Harrier - Overview - allgame". 14 November 2014. 
  20. ^ "Archive - Magazine viewer". World of Spectrum. Retrieved 2014-03-24. 
  21. ^ "Issue 63 (pages 14-15)". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 2014-03-24. 
  22. ^ Computer and Video Games, Complete Guide to Consoles, volume 1, page 71
  23. ^ "File:CVG UK 090.pdf - Sega Retro" (PDF). 
  24. ^ "3D スペースハリアー [3DS] / ファミ通.com". 
  25. ^ a b "ProReview: Space Harrier". GamePro. IDG (69): 58. April 1995. 
  26. ^ "Classic Review Archive - Space Harrier". 8 April 2008. 
  27. ^ Taylor, Graham (December 1986). "Space Harrier". Sinclair User, p. 36-37. Retrieved March 24, 2014. 
  28. ^ Smith, Rachael (March 1987). "Space Harrier". Your Sinclair, p. 30. Retrieved March 24, 2014. 
  29. ^ Semrad, Edward (May 16, 1987). "'Harrier's' big memory has its good, bad sides". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved September 30, 2015. 
  30. ^ The Games Machine, issue 17, page 25
  31. ^ "File:TheGamesMachine IT 001.pdf - Sega Retro" (PDF). 
  32. ^ Worley, Joyce; Katz, Arnie; Kunkel, Bill (September 1988). "Video Gaming World". Computer Gaming World. pp. 50–51. 
  33. ^ "Golden Joystick Awards". Computer + Video Games. World of Spectrum (66): 101. April 1987. Retrieved March 24, 2014. 

External links[edit]