Welcome to the Fantasy Zone: 3D Space Harrier Review

Get ready! For M2's first-class treatment of Yu Suzuki's arcade classic.


Sega's never been shy about making their classic games available to anyone with a retro itch to scratch and a meager amount of savings left. The past few years have seen countless compilations, re-releases, and kid-friendly TV devices meant to pass the glory of Sega's best years on to future generations, and while this approach certainly makes more sense than Nintendo's unbearably slow trickle of content, it’s given many of these games an unfair sense of ubiquity.

Thankfully, developer M2's reverence for classic gaming makes their rereleases of Sega properties more than just obligatory ports, and the team's treatment of the 1985 arcade showpiece Space Harrier presents the experience in its purest form possible, with plenty of options to make things more comfortable for spoiled gamers 30 years removed from its original release date.

If you're not familiar with Space Harrier, it's a fairly straightforward shooter built around a impressive-for-its time attempt at 3D fakery. The game sends your fashionable '80s teen zooming down checkerboard-patterned landscapes with two goals: shoot everything that moves, and avoid everything that doesn't. Space Harrier's premise feels a bit simple even for 1985 -- there's not a single power-up to be found -- but Sega sold this game based on its stunning visuals, and a pricey cabinet which would rock and tilt based on your character's movement. The fact that M2 managed to port this experience to the 3DS isn't all that impressive. However, the various ways 3D Space Harrier allows you to tweak things make this version of Space Harrier vastly preferable to your standard quick-and-dirty arcade translations is.

Of course, the standard difficulty options are here, and they definitely come in handy due to Space Harrier's origins as a money-hungry arcade game. But M2's port makes itself notable through its many unorthodox options -- even if I did have to consult the manual to see what some of them did. 3D Space Harrier allows you to simulate the full arcade experience by tilting the screen appropriately -- framed by the surrounding cabinet, if you prefer -- with the option of adding the sounds of clicking buttons and creaking machinery to the general FM synthesis din.

M2 has also added a great number of concessions to cut down on the pain caused by Space Harrier's often out-of-nowhere deaths; 3D lets you select any finished stage from the outset, and save and load on a whim. 3D Space Harrier's most surprisingly effective addition, though, can be found in its touch screen mode -- instead of feeling like some Nintendo-mandated feature, it actually makes the game surprisingly easier to play, as it turns your blond avatar into an easily maneuverable instrument of auto-fire death with the touch of a stylus.

Even with M2's first-class treatment, Space Harrier remains a shallow game built around dated visual pizazz, and that hasn't really changed. But you're not likely to find a move lavish and loving presentation than Space Harrier 3D, even if the experience isn't meant to last much longer than your quarters would've.

The Nitty-Gritty

Visuals: It's Space Harrier, and about as Space Harrier-y as one would expect. Still, M2 allows player to experience the game in its original aspect ratio, which is appreciated.

Sound: It's just as metallic and crunchy as ever, and the sound effects tend to drown out the kickin' music -- shame there wasn't an option to adjust the sound levels independently.

Interface: Clean, with all of the options clearly presented. 3D Space Harrier could do a better job explaining what some of these variations do, but I guess that's what digital instruction manuals are for.

Lasting Appeal: Space Harrier was never intended to last for more than a handful of minutes at a time, so don't expect anything more than quick, pick-up-and-play action.

You couldn't ask for a more loving version of Yu Suzuki's classic than 3D Space Harrier, even though Sega never intended this game as anything other than a brisk, Reagan-era thrill.

4/5

Tagged with 3d, 3DS Handhelds, eurogamer, music, releasedate, Reviews, spaceharrier.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Read this next

What Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers Has to Say About Today's Real World Problems

Final Fantasy's latest expansion draws on our experiences to tell a fantastic story.

Nihon Falcom's President on Why It's Not Supporting Switch More, Lessons Learned From Ys 8, and Hopes for the Next 5 Years

The state of Nihon Falcom, one of the oldest RPG studios in existence, in 2019.

You'll Have To Play Cyberpunk 2077 At Least Three Times To See How Life Paths Pan Out

Where you come from will affect where you go, and how.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Breaks Series Record For Evo 2019

A huge turnout for Ultimate's debut year.

Devotion Dev Gives Re-Release Update and the News Isn't Great

A re-release isn't off the table, but probably not happening soon.

Axe of the Blood God: Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Dragon Quest Builders 2, Switch Lite, and More!

Kat and Nadia finally have some new RPGs to play. Here's what they think of Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Dragon Quest Builders 2!

More Reviews

Dragon Quest Builders 2 Review

With these hands we will destroy, and with these hands we will rebuild.

Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers Review

Now, this is a story all about how, our life got flipped—turned upside down.

Sea of Solitude Review

I'll send an SOS to the world.

Outer Wilds Review

And tomorrow comes. It’s a world, it’s a way.

More on 3DS

The Wii U And 3DS Both Have The Same Number Of Upcoming Games... One

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Nintendo sticks to its traditions of focusing on families and pretending its older hardware is still viable.

Axe of the Blood God Talks About RPGs Born of Non-RPG Game Franchises

Mega Man X be like, "This 'RPG hero' thing can't be too hard, right? ...Oh no."

Animal Crossing New Leaf Cheats and Secrets

Here's our guide to all the Animal Crossing New Leaf cheats and secrets you can uncover in the 3DS game.

Late Nintendo CEO's Iwata Asks Feature to be Compiled Into a New Book

Satoru Iwata's popular feature will be the basis of a new book.