Case Scan - Click for Larger
Space Harrier is one of the most famous games in the world. It was a true showcase title
as to why Sega are the premier arcade developer.
In it’s time the game was a revolutionary jump in terms of graphics. Space Harrier literally
bought a new perspective to games which had previously only been accustomed to 2D.
It’s fast action gameplay, smooth psychedelic graphics made the game an instant success
and ultimately went on to have a huge impact on the arcade scene. Now some 17 years
later new versions are being released for modern platforms.
The source for this article is based upon the Saturn version contained within the Sega
Ages Vol 1 which also contains After Burner and Out Run. It was released in Europe in
Space Harrier was created by Yu Suzuki in 1985 of team AM2 and ran on the System16
arcade board which at the time was one of the most powerful boards in the world.
The specification of the system included dual Motorola 68000’s and a Sega custom
designed VDP for sprites games as well as various sound processors for the FM
synthesised music and effects. The term for these systems was “Super-Scalar”
Technology. Space Harrier was the first game to employ the technique. It was the effect
used before the newer modes similar to Mode-7 to make the sprites appear smaller and
larger. Super-Scalar was less elegant than future techniques yet is created the desired
effect - by using several versions of the same sprite to represent it at different distances
from the viewpoint of the player a, a sense of forward motion could be achieved. In the
case of Space Harrier continuos and forward.
This was in a series of games based upon this technology. Others included Out Run,
Afterburner and Buggy Heat. The same system board was also used for games like Enduro
Simple ports of the game began to appear. One of the first conversions out of the arcades
appeared on Sega’s 8-Bit Master System. The undertaking was quite ambitious on Sega’s
part due to the fact the Master System had no where near the power of the arcade
machine. Whilst the conversion could not capture the smoothness and the speed of the
arcade machine it did still manage to make a good challenging game.
Other simpler ports appeared for a huge range of home computers and consoles making
Space Harrier probably one of the most ported games of all time.
It was not till the advent of consoles like the Mega Drive 32X and Saturn that a perfect
port of the arcade could be achieved.
After years of attack from the demon Absymbel the protective shielding around
Dragonland has been breached. Dragonland’s defences were no match for the invading
army and now the land is under Absymbel’s reign.
You character is Harri - he is the last sentinels that defend Dragonland. Whilst evading the
advancing forces he sees that their firepower has destroyed most of the surrounding
terrain. Whilst contemplating the destruction he observes something metallic and shining
that has been unearthed in all the chaos.
Curiosity makes him investigate - a Jetpack! but this was unlike anything he had ever seen.
He knew the mythology of knights who once defended Dragonland who carried such
powerful yet ancient machines. Jet packs also allowed these warriors of the past to run
and fly and terrific speeds. These also apparently had some sort of weapon - a huge laser
mounted in the front.
A big bright button on the side of the Jet Pack obviously had some sort of important
function. Harri pushed it. Whoa! He felt himself lift off the ground. At first the experience
was frightening but the simple use of this machine made the sensation soon turn to
He soon realised however, that he was not the only one flying. In the distance a formation
of aircraft appear in the horizon. Their speed suggests that they are not friendly sentinel
craft but Absylian. They change course and approach him. A new battle is about to begin.
As Harri, you will engage the enemy forces in each of the provinces of Dragonland
starting with Moot. Absymbel will send stronger and stronger forces to destroy you. Can
you make it to the capital and retake Dragonland from the demon Absymbel?
Space Harrier is an incredibly simplistic to play and therefore makes the game easily
addictive. Harri runs or flies across a chequered floor with the aid of his jet pack and laser
cannon under his arm on a pseudo “face-on” 3D perspective landscape. Enemies and
objects appear in the distance and get larger until they pass you. Most stages will be open
landscape, however, some will have a chequered ceiling also giving an underground feel.
The mode for progress in the game is dodge and shoot; dodge the weapons fire from
incoming enemies, the various pilons and pillars which litter the landscape, the larger rocks
on the floor and shoot down as many enemies as you can. The pace in which a stage will
progress and enemies come at you is also variable. For the most part you will stay at one
speed, however, in some sections and entire stages, your speed will be double. On these
stages sometimes the best strategy is simply to avoid.
The D-pad moves Harri around the full area of the screen. When touching the floor he is
on his feet. Above the floor the low gravity allows him to remain in the air and fly.
Whether you are running or floating your speed is the same.
Buttons A,B and C on the control pad are fire. Holding any button gives rapid fire but this
is very slow. The best approach is to continuously press a single button for rapid fire.
Your fire will also home to a certain degree. If you shoot to within a small area of an
enemy it should find the target, however, do not rely on this.
Buttons X,Y,Z, L and R have no function. The NiGHTS 3D controller is compatible with
On screen you will have your points, hi-points, the stage you are on and how many lives
you have left represented by small harrier figures.
Your score begins counting up as soon as you start running and continues until game over.
More points are earned as you destroy enemies and objects. More points can be earned in
the Bonus Stages. Points earn extra lives though not many.
Most of the enemies that approach you can be destroyed with a single shot. Some,
however, some need to be hit at certain times whilst very few are indestructible. You will
know this as your fire will bounce off as like with pilons etc. Each enemy that appears is
accompanied by a signature sound and each type of projectile launched at you will have a
signature sound. This is handy when there is too much on the screen to see what is going
on! There will also be a sound when an enemy fires at you.
You can die by being hit by an enemy, this be by a projectile or collision, or by running
into a stationary object such as a pilon or creature on the floor. Most floor bound
creatures along with small rocks can be destroyed unlike pilons. Harri will trip over some
of the smaller objects that are on the floor. Whilst this does not harm you is does make
him unresponsive for a second or two which is a long time in Space Harrier.
In a standard game you will begin with 3 lives. When all those lives are lost you will return
to the title screen via the high score’s board if you are eligible. Upon game over you
maybe able to continue from a stage. See about the bonus stage below.
A stage falls somewhere between 1 and 2 minutes of gameplay. You will battle waves of
creatures before encountering a boss creature at the end. Boss creatures will require
several hits before they are destroyed. As you damage them they will change colour. The
weak spot is the head. When the creature is red it is close to destruction.
A bonus stage is the opportunity to collect points which in turn gain extra lives. When you
reach a Bonus Stage you will fly on the Uriahan Wind Worm. When riding this creature
use the D-Pad left and right to direct it to destroy objects. The more objects you destroy
the more points you collect.
You can continue if you have reached a Bonus Round before loosing your last life. You
can continue from the stage directly following the bonus stage. This translates into being
able to continue from round 6 and 13 if you have already passed them in a game. This is
only relevant to the game you are playing now. It is not saved when you exit. The option
for this will appear on the title screen.
The game comprises of 18 stages in total; 16 stages of combat and 2 bonus rounds. The
game ends upon completion of stage 18 - Absymbel which is a collection of most of the
bosses in a different order to how they appeared in the game.
The Saturn version sports a few tweaks over the original arcade machine which are all
conveniently placed on an options screen. This is accessed on the title screen. The
available options are:
Level - You can select the difficulty of the game.
Player - The amount of lives you start the game with
Trial Time - Select either On or Off. With Trial Time on, for the first 60 seconds of the
game you will not loose any lives even if Harri is killed.
Bonus Player - Set the amount of points that are needed before you receive an extra life. 5
or 7 million.
Music Test - Select tunes from the game. Press A,B or C to play.
Up/Down - Toggles normal or reverse mode for Up and Down on the D-Pad.
Ranking - Press A or C to view the top 99 scores for the game. Press B to return to the options screen.
Sound Mode - Switch between Stereo and Mono sound.
You can return to the title screen at anytime during play by pressing A,B,C and Start
together. Pressing it again will return you to the Sega Ages select screen.
One of Space Harrier’s trademarks was the bizarre names for each of the stage or
provinces of the game. You can see some more screenshots on this page.
Stage 1: Moot
Stage 2: Geeza
Stage 3: Amar
Stage 4: Ceiceil
Stage 5: Bonus Round
Stage 6: Olisis
Stage 7: Lucasia
Stage 8: Ida
Stage 9: Revi
Stage 10: Minia
Stage 11: Parms
Stage 12: Bonus Round
Stage 13: Drail
Stage 14: Asute
Stage 15: Vicel
Stage 16: Natura
Stage 17: Nark
Stage 18: Absymbel
Space Harrier Theme [MP3 160Kbit]
Welcome to the Fantasy Zone [MP3 160Kbit]
Get Ready! [MP3 160Kbit]
To make the game revert to arcade mode wait for the title screen, then press A, C + Start
on Controller Two.
You can access the arcade diagnostics screens by holding X, Y, Z and Start in controller
one. There you can change difficulty etc. Only works when the game has been switched to
There are 3 types of arcade cabinet for this game. There is the traditional upright standing
console, the fixed sit down and the full motion cockpit. The control panels on each
machine have backlit instrument gauges. The same branding appears on each of the units
they being a dragon, the harrier character and the racing stripes.
The game is emulated perfectly using the System16 Emulator version 0.82. Below version
0.80 lacks emulation for the sound chip and as such most rom sets will not contain the
sound roms but they can be obtained.
Version 0.79 and 0.80 of the DirectX version emulate the game with no problems.
The game can also be played using MAME.
Space Harrier is probably one of the most converted and ported titles ever. This port of
the arcade version (this one) has appeared on a dozens of consoles and computers. The
Sega versions are below.
The final release of the original Space Harrier came in a collection called Yu Suzuki’s
Game Works for the Dreamcast in 2001. The game is also incorporated into Shenmue as a
Space Harrier - Master System and Game Gear
The first console port of the original arcade game. Quite a playable considering the power
of the machine compared against the arcade board. This was later ported to Game Gear
also which had the addition of a password system for stages.
Space Harrier 3D - Master System
A separate version of Space Harrier that was on Master System only. This one was
designed to work with the novel 3D glasses for that leaping out the tv feel.
Space Harrier 2 - Mega Drive
A sequel which was produced as a launch title for the Mega Drive in 1989. Space Harrier
2 keeps everything pretty much the same yet with only 13 stages and reduced difficulty
the game is inferior to the original.
The story is Harri responds to a distress call from fantasy land and departs to do battle
against further waves of enemies.
Space Harrier 32X
An almost arcade perfect port for the Mega Drive 32X. This was released along side
After Burner. Can also be played in any 32X emulators.
Space Harrier - Gameboy Advance
Space Harrier appears as part of the new Sega Arcade Gallery. The package contains
Afterburner, Outrun and Super Hang On.
Planet Harriers Page
3DAGES has released a new version of the original version of Space Harrier for the
Playstation 2 under the Sega Ages 2500 series. Check it out here.
The Space Harrier Absymbel
It was an excellent website documenting all the various incarnations of Space Harrier across multiple systems. It also has the sound tracks to download. It has since gone offline but viewable through an archive.
An enormous archive website devoted to arcade machines. There is a wealth of
information relating to the System 16 arcade cabinet in which Space Harrier runs and the
Hikaru arcade board on which Planet Harriers runs. Well recommended.
You can also download a copy of the System16 emulator from there.
Back to Sega Saturn Feature
Back to Sega Main Index
Return to Homepage
Return to Sitemap
Return to Top of Page