(SMS / Master System)

Space Harrier (SMS / Master System)

Game Review

Space Harrier Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

Blow your mind in a fantasy zone

When Sega released the Master System back in the ‘80s the company was facing an uphill struggle against Nintendo’s NES. The NES had the software support and thanks to Nintendo’s nefarious practice of making developers agree to keep their titles exclusive, it left Sega with little in the way of third party support. So the firm naturally relied on its own output – specifically its range of cutting edge arcade licences.

Space Harrier was one such conversion. It was the first home port of the hugely popular ‘super-scaler’ coin-op and considering the humble nature of the hardware it was pretty impressive back then and even now remains one of the better conversions available. Ironically the game was ported to the Famicom (the Japanese NES) with disastrous results.

If you’re not familiar with the general gist of the game then it shouldn’t take long to explain – you fly into the screen shooting enemies and avoiding bullets until you meet the end of level boss. Rinse and repeat. There really isn’t much else to it, and it’s this simplicity which proves to be Space Harrier’s key strength and greatest weakness.

As an arcade game, such directly engaging gameplay is perfect as you’re unlikely to spend more than a few minutes in front of the machine. However, as a domestic release it works less well – granted, it’s still instantly accessible but after a few hours the lack of variety will annoy. Still, this is an amazing technical achievement and although the visuals are sometimes a bit garish, the relatively smooth scrolling and large sprites always impress.


Space Harrier might not be the most deep game in the world but if you’re a fan then this is one of the best ways to play it in your home. Just don’t expect it to hold your attention for very long.

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User Comments (8)



Egg_miester said:

this is still one of the best shooter games from the 8 bit era but with its insane difficultly it is hard to play it for hours in



Omega said:

Oh, yes. The Master System version has a 6/10. Space Harrier II on the Mega Drive has 4/10 and the original arcade version has a 5/10. I think this says it all. You aren't serious about this, are you?



theblackdragon said:

@Omega: the arcade version was reviewed by Sean Aaron, and his review reflects his opinion about the game. As for the other two, it's this game reviewed on this page and its sequel, two entirely (though perhaps not so much in terms of gameplay, since Damien seemed bored each time) different games. Under these circumstances, it's more than plausible for each of these three games to have received a different score here at Nintendo Life.



Omega said:

I agree that Space Harrier II for the Mega Drive can be considered as something different.

But Space Harrier for the Master System is an inferior port of the arcade version. And the arcade game is the original. So, how can the Master System version have a better review score than the arcade version. Sorry, but this just makes no sense to me.



theblackdragon said:

@Omega: Again, Sean Aaron reviewed the arcade version, not Darren. Sean Aaron is a huge retro buff, plays the hell out of old games, and quite possibly would've known the difference(s) had he reviewed all three games, but as it stands, it's two different reviewers and two different viewpoints represented.



Bass_X0 said:

Many people don't see ratings as the opinions of one reviewer and another reviewer, only that its the opinion of NintendoLife. The same game could have different ratings by different reviewers yet there is only one official NintendoLife rating.

However, a Genesis is twice as powerful as a Master System and so a 6/10 rating for a Master System game doesn't make it a better game than a 5/10 Genesis game. The Master System ratings are only comparable to other Master System games, the NES and Commodore 64.

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