Monday, December 21, 2009
Once upon a time - Sega made something great. It was called Space Harrier 3D, and in 1988 it was released for the Sega Master System "Segascope 3-D" series.
Space Harrier was already a very popular arcade series in Sega's stock - we've picked apart a further iteration (16-Bit Genesis release) in this column previously. Though that was a higher-tech piece of software, this iteration released prior to that and was a more compelling experience.
Sega developed a unique Stereoscopic-3D system for use with their console, of which a short list of special games would take advantage. Here's how they works - plug the cheap plastic specs into the Power Base (or Control Deck if you prefer), fire up the game, and the system would alternatively flick on or off a dark LCD for either lens - effectively blocking the vision of either your left or right eye, for one second. On-screen, a flickering image would flash in tune with the glasses. So for one second the left eye's screen would be visible as it's LCD was in the "off" state, then the next second the right eye's screen would be visible as the left eye was blocked. Does any of this make any sense?
Regardless, the effect was dramatic. This was a huge jump beyond the Red/Blue 3D effects that were seen in other games. The SegaScope 3-D games were something else! You'd get a true feeling of depth, like you could just reach between your face and the screen and you would almost expect to be able to pluck a game character out of the air.. Not bad for something I picked up for a song at a yard sale, eh?
As for the game itself, this was vintage Space Harrier - very solid, very fun blasting and dodging, with that trademark cheery weird Japanese Calliope music that is so specific on the Master System (that I love so much!). Limited by the technology of this particular platform (as compared to its arcade predecessor), the game was simplified, small, and pastel-colored. Still, it ran as competent a game of SH as the processor was capable of, and things looked nice enough with the usual range of interesting and detailed enemy sprites attempting to blow you out of the sky (kudos for the blatant Tie Fighter rip-offs, and Tomcat Fighters as well!)
In all, I would rank this up there as a "must-see experience," as Space Harrier 3D is certainly one of those games which only the fanboys have ever got their hands on. It's most certainly a treat, as most of the SegaScope 3-D games were, and I look forward to examining some of the others in this column in the future.