Space Harrier has a curious start – the music gently playing over an animation of the player character waving while astride a giant robot as a one-eyed wooly mammoth looks around. The music is so out of place for the game.
Control is via mouse instead of joystick, and I think this is wise, giving better control of the action. For those who don’t know, it’s a 3rd person game where you’re running (and flying) into the screen shooting wave after wave of enemies.
Clicking to start, the colourful graphics hit you straight away – a world away from what the 8-bit machines offered. The music is pretty decent by chiptune standards, and there are some lovely (if low quality) sound samples – screaming when you die and saying something like “smash dragon” when you restart. Animation is smooth despite flinging a lot of sprites around (helped in part by the ground movement being driven by palette swapping rather than actually moving bits), and the game is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s shallow of course, repetitive in its way, and devilishly hard, but all those are things you expect of a coin-op conversion, where the objective is to get the next player up as quickly as possible.
Stage two is something of a pain in the arse with the indestructible pillars and I’d imagine a lot of people saw game over for colliding with one.
One interesting thing is that the game credits P. Cuisset – I recognised that name from Operation Stealth so I googled and it seemed that he went on to become the lead designer at Delphine Software, where he created Flashback. It’s a small world. It seems this was his only game before joining Delphine work, so he clearly landed on his feet.