Space Harrier II



Johnny Quest grows up and moves to Space.


That woman dragon creature is filled with longing.




GENRE: Shoot-em-up

RELEASE DATE: 10/29/88 – (JP), 08/14/89 – (US), 09/90 – (EU)


The original Space Harrier for the arcade was a technological achievement of the highest order, a super-scaler tour-de-force, with a cabinet that thrust you completely into the game’s disturbing wastelands. The Master System version, however, was severely compromised, despite including all of the levels from the arcade. Slow framerates and excruciating difficulty were just two of the port’s issues. Sega decided they would make matters worse with Space Harrier 3-D, also for the Master System. The 3-D effects were revolting and the five frames-per-second action redefined the word “slowdown.” It was clear that the Space Harrier series and the Master System were like coffee and Mexican food, an obviously deadly combination, made all-too-clear after the fact.


Space Harrier II (UE) [!]004

I never did like space oysters.


Enter the Mega Drive and the launch title, Space Harrier II. This sequel doesn’t expand beyond the original’s formula. The game is still a pseudo three-dimensional rail shooter. You still play as the Harrier. You still have a tight bodysuit (this time, it’s bright red!). You still fly through the sky/run on the ground, shooting decapitated heads, robots, and gigantic frogs. And yet, thanks to the Mega Drive’s eight additional bits of power, the scrolling almost matches that of the original arcade. The graphics are just sharp enough to convince you that, yes, the arcade looked about this good. The framerate isn’t perfect, but Space Harrier II moves along far smoother than the Master System ports.


Space Harrier II (UE) [!]003

“Your grape lifesavers mean nothin’ to me, ya hear?! Nothing!!!”


Despite Space Harrier II looking, playing, and sounding more or less like the original, there are a couple interesting new features here. You select from any of the game’s twelve stages at the beginning of the game and play through them from that order. All of the stages have balanced difficulty. Even if you start with stage seven or eight, the game provides more or less the same amount of challenge the entire way. Play through the twelve selectable stages and the final thirteenth stage unlocks. There, you fight the Dark Harrier, an evil alter-ego who doesn’t believe in your red bodysuit wearing ways.


Of course, there are no continues, just a handful of lives. But there is an Option Menu, accessed only by holding ‘A’ at the main screen. Here you can change the difficulty, turn on Rapid-Fire, play a Sound Test (I advise against this – the muzak makes it sound like you’re walking through a Sears, not devil-may-care shooting everything in sight), or choose inverted controls. Option Menus would become common fixtures in the 16-bit era, but Space Harrier II is such an early release, I’m surprised to see one here – even if it is ‘hidden.’


Space Harrier II (UE) [!]002

Ah yes, the voodoo orb priestess of Eternia Dystopia.


Perhaps Space Harrier II works so well on the Mega Drive because the game was designed from the ground up for the console. There was never an arcade version, just the Mega Drive release and a handful of computer ports for the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, etc. It would have been nice if Sega had spiced up the Space Harrier formula a bit – perhaps with additional weapons, longer levels, game-changing power-ups. Overall, though, I was content with playing a reasonably decent version of the series on a home console. Space Harrier II may not innovate, but it’s polished and that’s enough.



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0 thoughts on “Space Harrier II

  1. B- sounds about right. If I were grading it. You might be being a little generous. I certainly liked this game. But to me , it didn’t really change the game much for the original. Except for the graphics and music. But out of the launch MD games, this is probrably the best one. Something always felt a little off with this game to me. Maybe I liked the first games music way better.

    Also the boss in your photo is the flat woods monster!

    Kind of an urban legend thing , supposedly an extraterrestrial that was seen etc, like the Moth Man or Chupracabra. How someone from Japan saw this is beyond me.

      1. That flatwood monster boss looks terrifying. I wonder if it was also the inspiration for the vessel queen (?) boss in the incredible Etrian Odyssey IV?

  2. Also I like how the MD art is one continuous picture wrapping around the box. While we only got half the picture. But at least it’s a huge improvement over the SMS boxes. Plus it keeps some of the grid pattern that I always liked. I thought the branding of the Genesis games was good like that, with the black grid pattern with actual nice artwork.

  3. This was an impressive but shallow game. Huge sprites and trippy/psychedelic graphics blew my mind back in 89. People seem to hate on it nowadays because it didn’t have “true scaling” effects and whatnot, whatever to those people. No way a home console could do those things at the time.

    The few voice samples are crisp and clear. And I didn’t find the music to be that awful. Typical Sega fare for the day, like the rest of their sprite scalers.

    They changed up the bonus rounds from the original and not sure which I like better. Instead of riding on the back of a dragon and wrecking shop, you stand on the back of some jet thing and shoot as many things as you can.

    I imagine the game was rushed to meet deadlines for the sorry-ass launch in Japan.

    1. Shallow is an appropriate word, but I wouldn’t expect much more from a Mega Drive game circa ’88.

      And yeah, forgot to mention the bonus round ’cause… I guess it’s forgettable? Never did like Space Harrier bonus rounds.

      1. I liked the original bonus rounds. I’d pretend it was like the never ending story or something yelling Falco! Yea ok I’ve said to much.

  4. Good review and I agree with most of your points. The game’s lack of true scaling sometimes still leaves you with a feeling of an unfair death, but the game is forgiving enough to complete with practice.

    I tend to start around stage 9 and get the harder levels completed first.

    It is a bit tough going back to this one after playing Space Harrier on 32x and Saturn but once you adjust it’s still a good time.

    1. I think that is the main complaint, that while the Mega Drive was touted to bring home the arcade. Space Harrier 2 still didn’t replicate the original Space Harrier arcade game. But it is still very good for a console. But Space Harrier arcade would take another half decade at least to recieve an arcade quality port.

  5. Lol you know that the SMS Space Harrier had an option menu in it too? Kind of odd seeing you mention it here and not in the other review.

  6. To be honest for some reason this game has managed to stay under my radar until now. When I started reading this review I was a bit surprised that a Space Harrier game would be a launch title for a new home console. But then I thought about it again and remembered that for many people the original Space Harrier, despite being so bad, was a popular game on the SMS because it at least made you feel like they were giving you a taste of the arcade at home. So imagine if after playing that choppy game for however many years you demo this version and suddenly you realise just how more powerful the Mega Drive/Genesis is compared to the SMS and now you want one. Well done Sega. Well done.

      1. The first MD game I saw running was Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts and it blew my impressionable young mind. At that point I didn’t have a console of my own – I was coming from an Apple II and a few goes of Super Mario and Kung Fu at a friend’s place, so I could scarcely believe my eyes. I imagine Space Harrier II would have had a similar impact.

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