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Video Game / Space Harrier

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"Welcome to the Fantasy Zone! Get ready!"

Space Harrier is a 1985 Sega shooting game set in the Fantasy Zone, the part that is the land of dragons.

The player controls a man with blond hair, red jacket, blue pants and a jet pack doubling as a laser cannon, who fights alien creatures while zooming towards the horizon at blisteringly fast speeds over highly colorful landscapes.

The original arcade game was built on a version of the powerful "Super Scaler" hardware Sega had introduced in Hang-On and would use again in After Burner and Thunder Blade. Considered to contain extremely cutting-edge gameplay for its time, the game was met with universal critical acclaim, but was criticized by some for its Nintendo Hard difficulty. Cited by many as the game that first popularized the third-person and rail shooter genres later adapted by titles up to and including Nintendo's Star Fox, Hideki Kamiya of Capcom and PlatinumGames fame has cited it as a major inspiration for going into video game development.

Two console sequels were produced in the late 1980s: Space Harrier 3-D, which used the Sega Master System's SegaScope 3D system, and Space Harrier II, one of the launch titles for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Later in 2022, a new version of Space Harrier II would appear on the Mega Drive Mini 2 developed by M2, containing updated graphics, remastered and remixed audio, and smoother scaling as a hypothetical "what if" scenario, where the Mega Drive could pull off authentic Super Scaler graphics. A new Mega Drive version of Space Harrier was also included as a bonus, playing identically to the arcade version while also containing extras from the Master System version, such as the story elements and the additional final boss, Haya-Oh.

In 2000, Sega attempted a reboot with Planet Harriers, a Panzer Dragoon-like game featuring an all-new cast; this was an Arcade Game that never made it to consoles.

The game has an enduring legacy, being featured as a Game Within a Game in several other Sega games; both Shenmue games as well as Yakuza 0, Yakuza 6, and even Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise all have playable ports of Space Harrier, and Sega Superstars and Bayonetta also feature minigames based on it. Several other Sega games pay homage to it one way or another as well.

The game is also available for download on the Nintendo 3DS via the Nintendo eShop, in the form of 3D Space Harrier. Unlike Space Harrier 3-D, which requires special glasses for the 3D mode, 3D Space Harrier utilizes the 3DS's native 3D capabilities to achieve a 3D display without the need for external peripherals. Another remaster of the game on Nintendo Switch, as part of the SEGA AGES lineup, was released in 2019, featuring motion controls and a new KOMAINU Barrier Attack mode.

On June 1st, 2022, Yu Suzuki announced a Spiritual Successor titled Air Twister for Apple Arcade. It was released on June 24, 2022. The game was then announced for PC, Play Station 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X And S and is set to release on November 10, 2023.

Welcome to the list of tropes! Get ready!

  • Ambidextrous Sprite: When flying, the harrier's weapon switches between the left and right grip. This is system-dependent, thus you won't see the weapon flip in the Master System version.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: An operator toggle grants the player infinite lives for the first 60 seconds of gameplay, allowing new players to get used to the workings of the game without going from Press Start to Game Over in record time.
  • Anti-Grinding: KOMAINU Barrier Attack mode in the SEGA AGES port disables the "gradually earn points just for playing" mechanic, preventing the player from squeezing out points just by drawing out boss battles.
  • Arrange Mode: The SEGA AGES port has KOMAINU Barrier Attack mode, in which a pair of dogs provide a shield to the Harrier that protects him from being knocked down by environmental objects. However, the shield will not protect him from enemies or their attacks and if either of the dogs gets hit by enemies, they will enter a brief stun state during which the shield will be unavailable. This mode also disables the system of giving the player a continuous stream of points just for playing.
  • Artifact Title: Why is the game called Space Harrier when you play as a human? Originally, the game was envisioned to control a fighter jet, but was changed to a human due to memory limitations of arcade hardware at the time. The title and the cockpit-like arcade cabinet are all that remains of the original design.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Many of the bosses in SHII have limited targetable areas. The biggest example is the Binzbean, a One-Hit-Point Wonder that can only be destroyed when it opens up to shoot.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In Space Harrier II, The Hero has defeated his Evil Counterpart and peace is restored on Fantasy Land. However, there is a chance that another evil being like the Dark Harrier will rise to threaten the peace in the galaxy, so our hero resolves to keep fighting.
  • Bonus Stage: Stages 5 and 12 have you leap onto a friendly dragon and score points by flying into everything in sight.
  • Boss Rush: The eighteenth and final level (Absymbel) is solely a parade of seven previous bosses, except that they now have names. According to Word of God, there was supposed to be a Final Boss after Valda's rematch, but it was cut due to time constraints. However...
    • True Final Boss: Certain console and handheld ports (barring straight-up emulations of the original) rectify this by adding in the intended Final Boss - Haya Oh, a pair of twin flaming dragons who are about as fast as the incoming obstacles in the tunnel stages while moving and attacking you in extremely frustrating looping patterns.
      • In the Master System version, once you reach Valda a castle scrolls in from the side of the screen. The instant you beat him, the castle crumbles, the background turns red, and you fight Haya Oh.
      • In the 3DS version, you can only fight Haya Oh if you have cleared the entire game up to Stage 18 on one credit, or if you beat all the bosses without dying. If the conditions are met, the background will immediately turn red and Haya Oh will challenge you.
      • In the SEGA AGES version, Haya Oh is revealed as the final boss in the default mode of the game. After beating it, the game unlocks the ability to play with more arcade-perfect conditions (infinite continues, no Haya Oh boss at the end) and adds its theme to the music player mode (thus keeping the boss's presence a surprise from those who check the sound options before playing).
      • In the Genesis Mini 2 version, Haya Oh is available by default, with an extra bit of fanfare used to signify his oncoming presence in an attempt to recreate the Master System version. Because the arcade version had no floating castle sprite which crumbled to the ground, the stone pillars from Stage 2 appear after defeating Valda to create the feeling of castle ruins falling from the sky as the music dramatically stops. Once you pass all the pillars, the background turns red and Haya Oh appears. These same pillars appear again after defeating Haya Oh, and as usual they can kill you if you run into them, serving as one final Kaizo Trap.
      • In the PS2 remake, this is how Haya Oh is fought instead. If you keep shooting after defeating Valda, you will be transported to Stage 19 and play 4 more stages until Stage 22, where Haya Oh will appear.
    • In Space Harrier II, after you complete all 12 stages, you face a rush of the stage bosses, followed by the unexpected appearance of the Dark Harrier.
  • Captain Ersatz: Trimuller, the first boss from Space Harrier II is a stand-in for Gamera, right down to looking just like a giant tortoise monster and its spinning movement. There's also the MS-09(r Rick) Doms from Mobile Suit Gundam who appear to harass our hero.
  • Collision Damage:
    • You will lose one life if you run into an enemy or an environmental object, except for shrubs that will simply stun you for a second.
    • During the Bonus Stages, you can do this to the environment, crashing into objects safely to build up your bonus score.
    • In KOMAINU Barrier Attack mode in the SEGA AGES version, as long as your shield is active you can destroy environmental objects by running into them, even ones that can't be destroyed by shooting at them.
  • Cyclops: One-eyed woolly mammoths.
  • Dracolich: The boss Valda is a skeletal snake-like dragon. Salpedon is basically the same thing except he's more like two Valdas stitched together (including having a head on each end).
  • Dragon Rider: You get to ride the good dragon Uriah during the bonus stages and the ending.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Dark Harrier from Space Harrier II, who's got the same abilities as The Hero. Bonus points because he's the Final Boss.
  • The Flatwoods Monster: The Flatwoods Monster is the boss of Stage 02: Fors Yard in Space Harrier II. It is known as Paranoia and upon approach is encircled by ten red orbs resembling its head. These orbs serve as a barrier and need to be taken out before Paranoia can be harmed. In the meantime, Paranoia shoots fireballs at the protagonist and sometimes there's a flash of facial features on its head.
  • Fungus Humongous: Giant psychedelic mushrooms in stages 3 (Amar) and 10 (Minia).
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: In SHII, the Dark Harrier is unmentioned in the game’s instruction manual and appears completely out of nowhere as a surprise final boss fight.
  • Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: The main portions of the stages feature challenging combat against hordes of enemies as you try to avoid crashing into objects on the ground, but the bosses are a fair bit easier and many of them can be blasted away within 5-10 seconds. The only time this is averted is when Haya Oh is included as a Final Boss.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • The "music" that accompanies many of the more bizarre bosses in the game.
    • The horrible blaring siren that heralds the arrival of the blue and red-colored robots is most definitely this. And you will hear it a lot, especially towards the latter half of the game.
  • Made of Explodium: The frickin' trees, bushes and rocks explode when shot, for cryin' out loud!
  • Mercy Mode: In the original, a dipswitch setting grants the player infinite lives for the first 60 seconds of the game.
  • Odd Name Out: One of the bosses is just named "Barbarian", while all the other bosses have nonsense words as names. Also counts as Non-Indicative Name, as the boss is this weird flying creature with a bunch of flying jellyfish things orbiting him, and thus isn't a barbarian (in the normal sense of an uncivilized and violent person.)
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Hit an obstacle or projectile, and you lose a life. (Exception: Some obstacles just slow you down as you plow through them.)
  • Ramming Always Works:
    • How the bonus stages work. You hop on your companion dragon and destroy as many things as you can by flying into them.
    • KOMAINU Barrier Attack mode in the SEGA AGES version lets you destroy objects, even those that are otherwise indestructible, by ramming into them as long as your shield is up.
  • Shared Universe: With Fantasy Zone.
  • Segmented Serpent: The dragons.
  • Sinister Geometry: Animated icosahedra called Binzbeans.
  • Shows Damage: The dragon-like bosses (Godarni, Squilla, Salpedon and Valda) all change color as they take damage. The former two start out green, then turn yellowish, then finally red before they die, while the latter two start out greyish-white, then pinkish, and then finally red.
  • Sound of No Damage: Hitting pillars and the wrong side of dragons causes a "tink" sound, with the projectile bouncing off randomly.

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