Space Harrier for the Sega 32X – Mini-Review and Let’s Play

Space Harrier on the Sega 32xSpace Harrier for the Sega 32X console is a port of a classic arcade third person 3D shooter.  Originally developed by Sega Enterprises in 1985 the game hit the arcades and was well received and praised for it’s innovative visuals and play style. The design is largely attributed to the imagination of Yu Suzuki, who has been involved with dozens of Sega’s greatest hits, such as After Burner, Out Run, Virtua Racing and many more.

The 32X wasn’t the first time home console gamers were greeted by this game, it had been ported many times before. The first port was for the Sega Master System in 1986 and was eventually ported to nearly a dozen other consoles, including the Famicom.  The most recent version is probably the Nintendo 3DS port which was released in 2013.

A quick bit of history on the 32X: The Sega 32X was an add-on for the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive outside of NA) released 1994.  It was designed to increase the capabilities of the aging Genesis hardware by adding some newer 32-bit CPU and GPU technology. While impressive compared to the Genesis itself, it may have come too late. With only 40 games released for it worldwide, it was discontinued in 1996.

Space Harrier for 32X is often considered a “near-perfect” port of the arcade.  All versions prior to this one were cut down in many ways, some of which barely resemble the arcade version. The 32X version’s graphics are bright and colorful with large sprites and tons of scaling happening on the screen.  The game runs wonderfully with no slowdown or other discernible problems. The world you are playing in is a fantastical world filled with wild looking enemies and other static objects to avoid.  Each level ends with some sort of boss fight and the bosses are even more impressive.  Many of the bosses take up a large portion of the screen which makes the battles really exciting.

In Space Harrier, you play as Harrier (or Harri in some versions). Harrier equipped with a jet pack and a laser cannon and is out to save his world (Dragon Land) from the evil creatures that seem to have or will destroy everything.  The story isn’t all that fleshed out, but that is OK, we are mostly here for the action.

The controls are really simple.  You use the directional pad to move around the screen and the A, B and C buttons are all the same blaster attack.  There aren’t really any power-ups, your best bet is to become really good at maneuvering around enemy fire and static objects, like pillars.  If you fly to the bottom of the screen, your character will run along and can hit shrubs and other ground objects.

Audio is great and as far as I can tell it is the same as the arcade. The music is exciting and gets you pumped up for the action. Each zone seems to have it’s own theme, though I didn’t make it all the way through to confirm that.  Even if the songs repeat, they are great. Boss fights have their own music.

This is a screenshot from the 8-bit Sega Master System version of Space Harrier.

This is a screenshot from the 8-bit Sega Master System version of Space Harrier.

The gameplay has been mentioned through out this review, but to recap it, you fly through the world at breakneck speeds and have to avoid enemies, their fire and other obstacles. It is simple and fun.  My one gripe I have with the game is the lack of continues. You are given the option to choose between 3 or 5 lives, but no chance for continues. In the arcade, you would have been able to insert a few quarters to keep your run going (I think…) so it feels a little off. Even a few continues would have been much welcomed. Of course, this can all be overcome with a bit of practice and eventually the levels become easier.

Overall, Space Harrier is a great game. There isn’t a ton of depth to it, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It makes for quick action to jump into and just have a fun time.  The visuals, audio and music are all excellent and bring you right into the arcade experience at home. The 32X version is probably one of the best to try, so if you want a nearly arcade perfect version to try at home – give this one a spin!

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  1. I love the fact there’s a cheat code to access the arcade service menu! it really is a good port, isnt it? Important at the time too. Looking back, it seem’s rediculous that, almost a decade on, the 32x waa the first proper home port of the game (in the West, at least)

    For a console so regularly derided, the 32x has a surprising amount of good/interesting games

    • Playing this game sort of made me sad that the 32X failed so miserably. Like I said in my Let’s Play video, if they had dropped the 32X a year or two earlier than they did, it probably would have been a much bigger hit. It was pretty powerful, compared to the Genesis (obviously) and even the SNES. It just came a little too late for people to care.

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