Space Harrier is a third-person rail shooter game created by legendary developer, Yu Suzuki. The game was also published by Sega and originally released in the arcades in October 1985. Since then the game has been released on a number of platforms and spawned many sequels.
It was one of the first arcade games to use 16-bit graphics and Sega's "Super Scaler" technology that allowed pseudo-3D sprite-scaling at high frame rates, with the ability to scale as many as 32,000 sprites and fill a moving landscape with them, along with over 32,000 colours displayed simultaneously on screen. It also introduced a true analog flight stick for movement, with the ability to register movement in any direction as well as measure the degree of push, which could move the player character at different speeds depending on how far the stick is pushed in a certain direction. The game was also an early example of a third-person shooter; it was influenced by the earlier 1982 Sega game Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom, and Space Harrier in turn influenced later 3D shooters such as Nintendo's Star Fox in 1993.
The game takes place in a unique place called the "Fantasy Zone" (no deeper plot is associated with Space Harrier). The Fantasy zone is a place filled with many strange creatures like one-eyed mammoths, alien pods, strange looking dragons, robots and flying mushrooms etc. The main character is a man with a giant gun/rocket that allows him to fly around. He runs along in a pseudo 3D level blasting anything that comes at him.
The game has you moving forward at all times and many enemies will get in the player's way, blasting projectiles and moving along in a certain pattern. The player must also do his or her best to move out of harm's way while shooting at anything that's presented on screen. Most objects are destructible, but some are not. If the player gets hit once, he or she will lose a life. The player starts off with two lives, and an extra life can be gained if the player racks up 500,000 points.
The points will gradually increase as the player keeps moving. More points will be given for every thing that is destroyed by the player.
There are eighteen stages in the game and a boss fight is presented in the end of sixteen of the stages. Two of the stages, stage 5 and stage 12, are bonus levels. The main character will jump on a dragon-like creature and destroy as many objects - trees, stone poles and bushes - as he or she can.
- Stage 1: Moot
- Stage 2: Geeza
- Stage 3: Amar
- Stage 4: Cieciel
- Stage 5: Bonus Stage
- Stage 6: Olisis
- Stage 7: Lucasia
- Stage 8: Ida
- Stage 9: Revi
- Stage 10: Minia
- Stage 11: Parms
- Stage 12: Bonus Stage
- Stage 13: Drail
- Stage 14: Asute
- Stage 15: Vicel
- Stage 16: Natura
- Stage 17: Nark
- Stage 18: Absymbel
Sega Space Harrier arcade hardware
The arcade hardware used to run the game is widely known as the Sega Space Harrier system, or less commonly known as the Sega Hang-On system. It utilized two boards: the CPU (Central Processing Unit) mother board, and the Super Scaler graphics board which handled the game's complex sprite-scaling, with as many as 32,000 sprites being scaled quickly at high frame rates.
CPU (Central Processing Unit) mother board
- Main CPU processors: 2x Motorola MC 68000 (16/32-bit) @ 10 MHz each
- Performance: 3.5 MIPS (Million Instructions Per Second)
- Additional CPU: Intel 8751 (8-bit) @ 8 MHz
- Sound CPU: Zilog Z80 (8-bit) @ 4 MHz
- Performance: 580,000 IPS (Instructions Per Second)
- Stereo sound chips
- FM (Frequency Modulation) synthesis chip: Yamaha YM2203 @ 4 MHz
- Channels: 3 FM channels, 3 SSG (Software-controlled Sound Generator) channels
- PCM (Pulse-Code Modulation) chip: SegaPCM @ 8 MHz
- Channels: 16 PCM 8-bit channels @ 31.25 KHz sampling rate
- ROM (Read-Only Memory) for PCM audio samples: Up to 16 MB
Super Scaler graphics board
- Display resolution: 320 x 224 pixels
- Colours on screen: 32,768 (15-bit colour)
- Sprites on screen at once: 128
- Sprites scaled in several seconds: 32,000
- Hardware features: 2 tile layers, 1 text layer, 1 sprite layer with hardware sprite zooming, 1 road layer, translucent shadows
There were several different arcade cabinets. The first two were the standard upright and sit-down cabinets, which introduced the use of an analog flight stick that, for the first time, detected movement in 360 directions as well as the degree of push. The first port to feature similar analog stick controls was the version that appeared in Shenmue for the Dreamcast in 1999.
The third was a new type of deluxe cabinet: the "rolling" cabinet. The "rolling" type moved the entire cabinet in the direction the player moved the analog flight stick, left/right and forward/backward, simulating flight movement for the first time in an arcade cabinet. The first port to simulate the rolling type deluxe arcade cabinet was Space Harrier 3D, which utilized the Nintendo 3DS's gyroscope motion sensor, in 2012.
The game was ported to several Sega consoles, such as the Sega 32X, and Sega Saturn. It also found its way to numerous computers and consoles of its era, often with various compromises in quality. The 32X version is one of the earliest ports to match quality with the arcade game, though even it cuts a couple of corners here and there. The Saturn version, released in Japan as "Sega Ages: Space Harrier" is also a pretty faithful version of the game. This version of the game also appeared in the US with two other games on a compilation disc simply called Sega Ages.
The Master System version, Space Harrier 3-D, reduced the graphical quality and speed quite a bit, but still managed to be a recognizable port of the original game. In addition, it featured the use of stereoscopic 3D graphics. It also contains a new final boss fight against two glowing dragon creatures known as "Haya Oh." This new boss fight also appears in the X68000 version of the game. The Game Gear version of the game shares some of the basic quality issues as the Master System release, but contains different levels, an adjusted resolution, and a password system for continuing from later levels.
The game was also featured in the game Shenmue. Space Harrier was located in the "You Arcade" building in the Dobuita area of the game; the player has to pay one-hundred yen to play the game. The "Sega Saturn" version of Space Harrier was also featured as a prize in the raffle in some of the convenience stores. The Sega Saturn version can be played on Ryo's Sega Saturn that is located in his living room.
A polygonal remake of the game was made as part of Sega's Sega Ages series in Japan. The polygonal version of Space Harrier was released outside of Japan in the form of Sega Classics Collection.
The flying furry creature in the bonus stages is very similar to Falkor, the flying dog-dragon from the 1984 film The NeverEnding Story.