The first time I played a game in the Space Harrier series was when I played the original arcade game on Shenmue for Dreamcast. It was a fun time with awesome music! A couple years later, I picked up the sequel on the Wii virtual console. Having not played the game for close to a decade, I decided it was time to revisit Fantasy Land!
The story is simple – in the year 6236, Harrier (the main character) receives a distress call from Fantasy Land, which has been overrun by monsters. Like a boss, Harrier decides to travel to Fantasy Land to single-handedly destroy every last bad guy. Thus the game begins!
This is an arcade shooter game utilizing a 3rd person perspective akin to Star Fox without all the polygons. You take control of Harrier who can either run on the ground or fly through the sky towards a forever distant background, all the while shooting your gun at endless slews of enemies and dodging pillars and building! The game is simple and fast initially, but it can soon become overwhelming when the screen becomes covered in enemies, lasers, and obstacles. One of the tricks is to dispatch the enemies while they are still in the distance so they cannot run into you later on – but this is easier said than done in the later stages.
There are some drawbacks to the gameplay though – firstly that it really simple with very little sense of progression. I don’t remember seeing any upgrades at all – you are stuck with the same measly laser the whole game. There also aren’t any power bombs or anything else to spice up the gameplay when you feel overwhelmed by enemies. I had fun with the game initially, but it’s quite repetitive and looses some of its luster after long playing sessions.
There are a ton of different stages, but they all follow the same formula. Destroy enemies, avoid obstacles, and kill a boss at the end. There is very little apart from the numbers and types of enemies that distinguish each level from each other apart from some aesthetics like different coloured sky. A cool feature the game does provide is that it allows the gamer to select which stage to start on, so that even if you aren’t very good at the game (like me), you can still experience all the different levels.
Each of the levels ends with a boss. These bosses are bizarre but also simple in design – often only being composed of a few colours. I found some bosses to be quite challenging with different patterns to their behaviour. Others – especially the first few – follow very simple patterns and are quite easy to dispatch. While I enjoyed the boss battles, some of their designs were just a bit too weird for me.
In terms of graphics, this game has not aged well. The main character is quite small on the screen, and the enemies and bosses are a bit too simple for my liking. The game does run well in constellation. The game also uses some cool scrolling to demonstrate a sense of speed as Harrier runs toward the never-ending horizon.
The music also also a bit of a letdown – especially compared to the original. The boss music is particularly strange (have a listen in the video below). The main level music loops continuously throughout the game apart from the boss battles and gets really old fast. The sound effects are also hard on the ears. Every time you die you hear “Ahhhhh!” – it sounds laughably bad. Overall, the music and sound effects are subpar.
In summary, this is an arcade shooter that feels old, and sounds even older. The game is fun in short bursts, but the repetitive gameplay and subpar music prevents me from giving it a strong recommendation. If you have a couple bucks lying around, give it a shot, but don’t expect it to become your new favourite Genesis game! I give this game a final score of 6/10.
Final Score: 6/10