Space Harrier Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1987 Also On: None

Awful. Despicable. I hate this game. I hate this game with a passion. Space Harrier was one of the first pilot games for the Master System and it had prominent mention on commercials and early posters displayed Harrier, the main character, near the front blasting away. Till this day it is beyond me why anyone pretended or pretends this game is good. It is clearly one of the worst games ever created and certainly does not deserve any mention whatsoever save a space on the “never play unless threatened with a gun” game list. Interestingly, for some deranged reason, this title is normally on many Master System fans’ “Top Ten” lists. I believe it’s more of a nostalgic or psychotic issue, because there is hardly anything here anyone in their right mind would call “good.” It’s time to set the record straight and end it there. Space Harrier sucks.

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Now, I can’t just throw that out there without giving reason, right? Don’t worry, I sat down and thoroughly listed everything wrong with this game. I gave myself a bit of space in a notebook, and used all of it up. To begin, let me speak about the graphics. First, though there is some detail, you’ll notice something awkward about the main objects moving about, aside from Harrier. For some reason, they were placed onto square blocks. Thus, you have the character, say a giant head, placed onto a square. I guess this was an attempt to suggest depth, but you can clearly see the outline of said square on numerous occasions. It looks awful. They use this to try to make the dragon bosses appear to have segments, but it’s just a mess because you can make out the dimensions of each block. When they breathe fire, it’s just terrible, you can hardly tell what’s coming at you, it looks like they just threw some colors together and said “ah screw it.”

Second, Harrier himself moves choppy, it looks like he has a permanent limp. He doesn’t move his gun when he fires and the shots just magically come out of somewhere on his chest. Third, there is little variety. Enemies are used repeatedly throughout the entire game, and even some of the bosses have elements taken from other characters or are duplicated in one way or another. Projectiles are reused constantly and there are in fact only three used throughout the whole game, one of which is only for the bosses. Even further, every enemy that dies explodes into the same nonsensical pile of vomit as every other one. Would have been better off to just have them disappear instead of using this worthless graphical mess.

Fourth, there is no real background to speak of, just an endless, constantly moving checkerboard with different colors now and then. That’s it. Combine this with numerous, blocky obstacles and get ready to stare into the eyes of the beast himself. This game just looks dreadful the entire way through. The title screen is okay, but that’s just to trick you into playing a few rounds until you puke. Have a wastebasket handy.

Next we come to the music. Okay now, I’m not that harsh, and I’m honest. I’ll admit when something is good. The soundtrack is pretty decent overall, though repetitive. If it weren’t for the game length I would have scored a bit higher in this category. Actually, I may have just said forget it and gave higher marks, but the sound effects are annoying. Harrier has this annoying yell that gets old fast and certain blasts and such are reused over and over. The soundtrack almost raised the score a bit, but the effects just bring it right back down. This game never fails to keep on sucking.

And here we move on to the gameplay. Wow, can it get any worse? Can it? I don’t think so. It’s not a bad idea really, it was done pretty well on the NES in 3D Worldrunner, but here it just doesn’t work. Harrier keeps on running forwards and you have to dodge obstacles and shoot whatever gets in your way. There are no extra-lives, no power-ups, nothing. Just run and shoot and keep on shooting some more.

Perhaps that isn’t so bad, until you try it. Good luck hitting and/or dodging anything. Because of the terrible, blocky graphics I mentioned, you oftentimes seem to be farther away than you really are and get hit by everything. Your shots seem to not strike when they appear they would. Sometimes, after blowing up a ground obstacle you can destroy, the blast left over hides a creature behind that’s coming straight for you. I found you’re pretty much not going to make it far in this game unless you stay in the upper right or left corner, moving occasional to dodge projectiles or some enemies. The collision detection is almost missing entirely. There were so many instances where I swear up and down I wasn’t even moderately close to an obstacle and managed to get hit. Sometimes, I didn’t even know what exactly hit me.

You only have three lives and no continues, unless you use the cheat, which gives you three. Thanks. Too bad there are eighteen levels of hell to go through. You’ll be lucky if you make it to level nine. If you do, you’ll find it suddenly so ridiculous that there’s a good chance you’ll bury your Master System with Space Harrier still in it. A sea of enemies swamps you on some levels and if you make it out alive, don’t think you’ll have the same opportunity again. The bosses are pretty easy and pathetic. In fact, get this, you don’t even have to kill them. That’s right, wait long enough and they just disappear. Some don’t even fly off the screen, the game just seems to skip and you go to the next level.

They tried to break up the agony with two bonus levels, but they aren’t any better. You ride this god awful looking furry, blocky blob and have to, wow, listen to this one, hit trees. Why? If you happen to hit only five and no more, you get to see this ship come out and get a million points if you hit it. Good luck not hitting more than five trees, not going to happen. You can’t see where you’re going or what’s coming, not to mention the stupid fuzzy oaf doesn’t seem to move right.

Each of the eighteen levels are grueling. The first three or so are okay, until you see how much this game repeats, and then it gets annoying. In fact, I had to cheat to beat it and it was tiresome even with infinite lives. I couldn’t wait until it ended; it repeats so much later on you’ll just want to die. The ending is a text blurb that’s huge, but unfortunately even speed reading you’d be lucky to get it all in because the screen shifts too fast. To top it all off you still rack up points while the credits are rolling? What? Isn’t the game over? It’s like they’re giving you points for not killing yourself already.

Space Harrier wasn’t exactly creative, even for it’s time. It was first in the arcade and just as bad as the home version. It’s just another forwards scrolling shooter. Sega failed with After Burner, so why they decided to try something similar with this piece of garbage is beyond me. Even further, why they decided to throw this onto the SMS is even more of a mystery. Probably killed it’s reputation in the early days. I even remember a friend of mine getting a Master System and this game, he never bought another one after that. No joke. I would place a bet that this game was one of the reasons the SMS failed in the states.

I beat this title the other day and will never come back to it again, save when I give my children lessons on life and include this in our “why the human race sucks” category. Or perhaps the “life sucks get used to it kid” typical parent talk. It would fit in there because it doesn’t deserve any other mention save a constant bashing to spread the word on the terror it brings out of the mind. If it were shorter, maybe, but it takes too long to get through it, even cheating. However, you could just set the cheat and let the game go, since you don’t exactly have to do anything. The bosses just disappear, so just turn it on and come back in like an hour and you’ll see the ending.

Space Harrier is awful. It doesn’t deserve any amount of interest because it sucks. It’s one of the worst games I’ve ever played. I thoroughly enjoy suck, if it sucks right. But there are some games that just suck so bad they’re not even enjoyable. This is one of those games. It’s so bad on so many levels that it nearly defies imagination. Just look at how much I wrote up there, I couldn’t believe it myself and I probably didn’t cover everything.

Graphics: 1.5
Sound: 3
Gameplay: 0
Creativity: 2
Replay Value/Game Length: 0
Final: 1.3
Written by Stan Review Guide

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