Space Harrier (Arcades, 1985)
Over thirty years since it’s release, Space Harrier is possibly still the alpha male of the arcade industry too. The premium Space Harrier arcade cabinet (in photo four) was a cockpit, complete with flightstick and surround sound. This thing was massive, it moved and after putting in your 20p you’d hear seven words synonymous with arcade games: “Welcome to the Fantasy Zone! Get Ready!"
Space Harrier is a shooter, of course, but the only skill that really matters is dodging. An onrushing stream of enemies, glowing bullets and obstacles home in on the Harrier's position and the key tactic is simply to keep moving, pulling lazy eights across the screen as you line up shots simultaneously. The problem there is the speed at which the game moves. It only has one gear, and it is fast as hell. Most games I have an accurate memory of. Every time I play Space Harrier, and it's a personal favourite, the speed blows me away one more time. It is a monster.
A couple of sequels were released three years later, SH3D on the Master System and SH2 as a Mega Drive launch title followed by Planet Harriers (photo five) in 2000. Developed by Amusement Vision rather than AM2, it differs from all other games in the series as it has four selectable characters, you have health bars and enemies can be locked onto. In all honesty it doesn’t feel like Space Harrier but it’s great fun. Hopefully one day it will be released on console, as a GameCube version was all but finished before the team scrapped it to work with Nintendo on F-Zero GX and AX.
As for the future, no sequel is needed. Ever. Just keep re-releasing it so people can experience one of the greatest games ever made. Would be nice if Sega have licenced it, along with other AM2 classics, to Yu Suzuki for inclusion in Shenmue 3 though.
Oh, and yes, that is Opa-Opa. Confused me as a child that he wasn’t in a game that loudly declared was set in the Fantasy Zone. So he’s there because of that. Plus he’s fun to draw.
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