Monday, 7 April 2014

Space Harrier

Welcome to the fantasy zone... get repetitive.

It does seem that the further back we go in time to gaming, the simpler and slower a game is compared to the modern days of gaming. That's probably more than given as processing powers are a lot more powerful than in the older days. Given that some of the machines in the older days are running around 10 Mega Hertz and the computer I'm writing this on is a 3.4 Giga Hertz machine quad core processor. There's been a little bit of an improvement in the last 30 years or so.
Another late shot after you killed the enemy, but it'll happily float there and show you what killed you.

Likening this to cars, it's like saying a car back in the 80s was running at max speed of about 10 miles an hour and nowadays it can run at 3400 miles an hour. But as was said when someone made this comparison a few years back. It's nice but nobody wants to drive a car that crashes several times a day. Some will likely disagree with me on this, but I'm happy enough cruising around at 120mph thanks very much.

You get to ride a giant cat. Whose fantasy zone is this? It sure isn't mine!

Given that in 1985, you had games like Boulder Dash, Commando, Choplifter and a whole host of other such games that weren't renowned for being fast action-paced games. Space Harrier set a new bar on how to get the most out of the processors within the machine and as such, boosted the idea of arcades being more adrenaline fuelled and frantic.

Moot point, moot level.

In this instance we have Space Harrier, from SEGA doing what Sega seems to do best, making a fast action packed game with very little overall substance or even gameplay. You control FloatyMcPrickman, a blonde haired ass-hat with little real value or personality as he enters the Fantasy Zone (get ready...) with little more than the ability to fly at variable speeds that the game controls while armed with an unlimited supply of energy shots.

Each head needs to be killed, individually. Boss fights are actually more fun than the levels.

Initially, the game looks impressive. It runs fast, you're up and flying and moving around the levels with incredible speed and shooting down trees, bushes, flying robots and other such nasties while avoiding the occasional incoming projectile and the surroundings. Making yourself survive for long enough treats you to the boss monster that surges back and forth while spraying flaming rock balls at you while you try to pepper its head with shots.

Nice to see the grass has been mowed well.

Levels themselves are bright and colourful and showcasing nearly the full spectrum of colours. Though in this it also becomes hard to work out what's an enemy, what's an incoming attack and what is a background/arena aspect that can be avoided or shot down. But the psychedelic experience is what most will remember from a very colourful and very vividly graphic game.

Great... killed by a giant high speed dick-tree-mushroom thing.

Aiming is a bit of a hazard as you can only shoot straight ahead on the perspective plane. If you're in the top left of the screen, you're only going to shoot whatever is in the top left of the field of attack and to hit something that's aiming for you, you're going to have to shoot while on the move rather than strafing or orbiting them. Identifying them is also a problem from a distance, especially when there's a myriad of projectiles hurtling your way and usually you can't see specifically what the target is until it's glaring at you in the face and heading away again while it's invulnerable arse is lovingly displayed to you.

Finally, something mildy recognisable.

That said, the game for the most part is relatively easy if you keep in mind that projectiles are very direct and very exact. The difficulty comes when you've got other things to worry about such as the flight paths of enemies, the oncoming obstacles and the general shift and movement of the arena while you're moving around within it. The further difficulty comes from where you've gotten used to the fact you can shoot the floating rocks and huge trees in one level, then when the next level turns up, you find you CAN'T shoot the large structures and instead fly straight into it like a moth to a flame.... before being blasted by a brick.

I can't imagine the East End of London named this level.

The game does love to taunt you however, namely by showing you enemies and speeding them away before anything happens. Or even worse, when you DO die, whatever it was that hit you just stands there, remaining perfectly poised in showing you THIS IS WHAT KILLED YOU! while the rest of the game carries on around it. Aside from this, there's not much more to the game other than finding out what new sprites await in later levels and how much more difficult they can make the game by hurling more and more awkward enemies at you at regular intervals. Even the bosses start to become recycled and the game continues this way until the unceremoniously defeated final boss happens.

Though few will both spending the cash and time getting to the umpteenth repetitive level.

Later, flying jellyfish. For now, repeated robot sprites.

Having said that, the music is fairly memorable and toe-tapping for each composition contained with the game while the control system is a little overly responsive to movement but whether this is because of the way it plays and feels that it should play or is on the part of the designers to smoke out some more credits, is a harder question to answer. There's a lot of nostalgia factor in this game and those that remember it will do very well to make sure that it stays remembered and ONLY remembered, this is not a game to revisit.
Sometimes the game randomly speeds up, and catches me off-guard... the cheating bastard.