In the mid-1980’s Sega was the king of the arcades. Led by the legendary Yu Suzuki and his Sega AM2 development team, Sega’s machines included classics such as After Burner and OutRun. In 1985, Sega released a unique, first of its kind game called Space Harrier.
While Space Harrier is essentially a rail shooter at its core, graphically and technically it was very impressive for the time. Its engine was able to scale sprites at fast speeds on a moving background, mimicking a 3D effect. The speed of the game was high in comparison to most games during this era, which introduced a level of control not yet seen - the joystick being pressure sensitive, allowing the player more control. The icing on the cake was the distinctive arcade cabinet, increasing the immersion.
Being a popular title, Sega ported Space Harrier to just about almost every system under the sun. Curiously, Sega licensed the game out on rival systems, such as the PC, Commodore 64, PC Engine/Turbo Graphix 16 and even the NES. On the home front, Space Harrier hit the Master System, Game Gear, Sega Saturn and even the ill-fated 32X…yet inexplicably missed Sega’s best selling console, the Mega Drive/Genesis.
Space Harrier also made a interesting cameo of sorts in Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue series, with the complete game being fully playable in the game’s arcades. Part I was on the Sega Dreamcast, while Part II was both on the Dreamcast and original Xbox.
Sega also released various collections that include Space Harrier, such as the surprising competent Sega Arcade Gallery (Game Boy Advance), the ironic Sonic’s Ultimate Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Collection (Xbox 360/PS3/PC) which included the arcade version in lieu of the non-existing Genesis version, and the horrible Sega Classics Collection, which were low-grade 3D remakes. The pictured Sega Ages 2500 - Space Harrier Collection is arguably the best set, with an arcade-perfect port as well as its sequels.
Digitally, Nintendo’s Wii Virtual Console offers the Master System and Arcade editions, while the 3DS Virtual Console offers the 3D compatible version of the arcade.
Space Harrier has one offical sequel, Space Harrier II, released in 1988. The same year saw the release of Space Harrier 3D for the Sega Master System, which story-wise was a sequel to the original.The last entry in the series came in 2001, as an arcade-only spinoff called Planet Harriers.
Bonus katakana: スペースハリアー Supēsu Hariā