Backlog Burndown #12 – Space! Harrier!

Space Harrier II, SEGA, Backlog Burndown

Greetings Backloggers! An eventful PAX South kept me from completing anything, although it did convince me to move one game to the “Retired” list. However, this week I’m back to checking another SEGA classic off the list.

Space Harrier II was the 1989 console sequel to the 1985 3rd-person rail-shooter Space Harrier. Following the same formula of a jetpack equipped, gun toting superhuman taking on a series of enemies in a weird fantasy setting, SHII was also an early showcase for the musical capabilities of the SEGA Genesis.

Space Harrier II, SEGA, Backlog Burndown

One boss fight is a wizard… thing

The game takes place over a total of fifteen levels – twelve regular levels, two unnumbered bonus levels, and a final thirteenth level that pits the player against all of the previous level bosses, plus an additional nemesis. How Long To Beat put the time to complete at a half hour, while my personal playthrough clocked in at an hour and a half.

A lot of the difficulty for this game comes from a total lack of save points, checkpoints, or even Continue options. Beyond configuring the difficulty (Easy/Medium/Hard) making progress is only possible through luck and practice. Fortunately, all of the more recent re-releases have incorporated save options to prevent the kind of controller breaking frustration of my youth.

Space Harrier II, SEGA, Backlog Burndown

Some enemies are mecha

From a technical standpoint, the game did an excellent job of using the technology of the time to convey speed. While occasionally disorienting, the alternating checkerboard pattern of the floor is excellent at showing how fast Harrier is moving. The ground-based obstacle patterns, while difficult, also don’t contribute to nearly as many cheap deaths as some of the other rail-shooters that have appeared in this column already.

Worth playing? Sure. This is one of the early Genesis classics, a North American launch title, and was an early showcase of the Genesis’s speech vocalization systems. As previously mentioned, it features a classic Tokuhiko Uwabo “Bo” digital soundtrack that showed off the Genesis’s music abilities as well. Played with a bit of modern sensibility, it’s an easy one or two hour playthrough that will leave you with a sense of accomplishment when you’re done.

Space Harrier II, SEGA, Backlog Burndown

Some enemies are demons

Backlog Verdict: Yes!

Previous Backlog Count: 1,142

Current Backlog Count: 1,140 – Completed Space Harrier II and retired Armada 2526: Gold.
A note on Armada 2526. I don’t abandon games lightly, that’s the whole premise of this column. I also have a deep love for 4x games, of which Armada 2526 is one. The problem is that it has an insane difficulty curve which makes it tough just to get through the tutorial, much less any of the scripted missions or a free-for-all session. After pouring eleven hours into it, I hadn’t successfully completed anything. Sometimes it’s better to cut your losses, and this is one of those cases.

Backlog Burndown is a semi-regular feature on Marooner’s Rock. Read previous columns in the archives, and suggest future games to play in the comments!

Aaron is proof that while you can take a developer out of the game industry, it’s much harder to take the game industry out of a developer. When not at his day job, Aaron enjoys teaching Axis & Allies to his kids, writing sci-fi stories, playing classic space sims on Twitch, and riding around the American Midwest on his Harley.

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