Monday, August 17, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Space Harrier II

Retro Game of the Day! Space Harrier II

Space Harrier II was released by Sega for their Genesis system at it's JPN launch in 1988 (and in America likewise in 1989 -20 years ago - ulp!) Based on the popular arcade original, this was supposed to be one of the early titles to showcase the 16-Bit monster's raw power, blowing away the competition - how did it fare?

Compared to the preceding games available on the manufacturer's 8-Bit hardware, this was certainlya huge step-up. While still quite a departure from the raw power of the original arcade model (with tons of advanced scaling features), SHII still showcased a fancy graphical prowess not before seen on a home console. Everything was big, colorful, and intense to look at. The action moved fast, and the music - though quite goofy-sounding - was definitely not tinny like the Master System versions. A sharp, clear digitized voice sample prompted you to "Get Ready" each time you prepared to attack after losing a life.

The game itself is rather simple, always has been - you fly "into the screen" and shoot creatures, monsters and robots, taking down bosses at each round's end. No power-ups, just blast away with your standard cannon and avoid, avoid, avoid. Occasionally you'll strap onto a hoverboard and play through a bonus round (no death), but that is about all the variety you get, except for different variations in checkerboard colors..

Again, though this was impressive, it was still a shadow of the arcade. Though things looked nice and felt smooth, control-wise - the scaling effects were quite limited and in fact faked, so there was never any real feeling of "oh my God!" when first playing this new title on a new system, unlike say, F-Zero some years later upon first opening up a SNES. However, despite the drawback, the game remained fun and my friends and I were eager to see the game through. Personally, I believe I made it all the way to the last boss before eating it - my buddy Josh was made of stronger stuff than I, and he finished the whole thing that New Year's Eve as we waited for the ball to drop..

Overall, Space Harrier II was a worthy launch title and a decent companion to Altered Beast in the original Genesis Launch Lineup. It's got a little stale with age, but for a quick pick-up-and-play burst, it can still hold it's own!

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