I'm sure most 80's gamers can recall their first brush with the arcade Space Harrier - it was like looking into the future. The silky-smooth sprite scaling coupled with the excellent sound and futuristic feel made this an instant coin-op classic.
The game was ported to the 8-bit Master System and PC Engine, as well as numerous other home formats, but Sega's 16-bit Genesis/Mega Drive - launched in 1989 - got an exclusive sequel. While Space Harrier II doesn't quite live up to the grand reputation of its arcade predecessor, it's still a pretty faithful translation of the experience, considering how soon it arrived after the coin-op made its debut.
The gameplay is sort of similar to Nintendo's SNES shooter Star Fox but much less advanced. The hero of the game can fly around the screen, run on the ground and shoot all the baddies which swarm towards him. There is a feeling of 3D as you are running into the screen, although this is actually achieved via a clever use of pattern on the ground, and the generally smooth sprite scaling. To add further challenge, you will need to avoid the trees and walls which hurtle towards you.
Space Harrier II certainly has a pretty intense feel to it but the gameplay gets repetitive very quickly; swarms of enemies following predictable patterns and fly at you or from behind you. Usually a few shots takes them out, the boss fights are not really much more intricate that shooting a dragon or a giant head floating about the place. The levels show some imagination, but generally all that changes is the colour scheme and the enemies. The action remains the same throughout.
It's worth noting that this was one of the very first Genesis / Mega Drive titles and when compared to other similar games which came later it should come as no surprise to realise that Space Harrier II is as shallow as a puddle; there is no real feeling of immersion in the environment and this game gets boring very quickly. Hardcore Sega fans might find they can forgive the lightweight nature of the game, but everyone else is advised to pass up on this.