Insert Disk collects Space Harrier for the Sega Game Gear.
Today’s retro game review is Space Harrier for the Sega Game Gear. This retro gaming classic thrilled us in the arcades back in 1985 but how would Sega convert this success to the handheld games market? Today Space Harrier on the Game Gear may look dated but retro gamers should look back fondly on what Sega managed to achieve with this portable classic.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Today I’m taking a look at a true golden oldie. It’s a franchise that’s been left behind in the 90’s but brought entertainment to arcade goes the world over. Today we take a look back as Space Harrier for the Sega Game Gear. For those of us born in the 80’s Space Harrier has a very special place in our hearts. For many it would have been one of our first encounters with Sega. Space Harrier was originally a 1985 arcade release. It’s fast paced action, bright colours and sci-fi theme made it a main stay in the arcade for quite some time. So popular was the concept it was eventually replaced by its slicker faster child Space Harrier 2. The nature of the fast action and hordes of enemies meant that Space Harrier could gobble up the coins of children and adult alike. Along with Sega’s Outrun and Afterburner Space Harrier was a true golden age for Sega’s presence in the arcade. But what of the home market? Well it wasn’t until 1991 that Sega ported Space Harrier to the Game Gear, Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Game Boy. Sega had previously released the game on its home Master System console.
Re-creating Space Harrier on a portable machine in the early 90’s was no mean feat. Even from the Master System version it was clear that the game needed to be scaled down further. The sprite count alone was enough to make you wonder if the project was even possible. On top of this the sprites would also have to be made relatively larger as they were to be placed on a modest 160 × 144 screen with just 32 colours. So, what was the end result? Well, as you can see from the footage, it’s a real mixed bag. The game does really well to even resemble the more powerful arcade original. It’s clear that every attempt has been made to make this pint sized version of Space Harrier true to its core arcade concept. In truth I personally think that this conversion is deeply flawed. However, not because of the concept but the hardware available. The game is reasonably tricky to play, the amount of flashing objects due to the sprite count is a huge issue. This leads to occasions where oncoming enemy projectiles will appear right in front of you will little to no warning. You are compensated with a decent amount of lives, continues and a password system though so completing the game is possible.
I’ve personally been a long term Sega collector so I’m proud to show you a mint condition boxed version here. Inside expect a manual as well as a cartridge in a clam shell case. Bonus collecting points if you still have the plastic sleeve for the clamshell case. Overall it’s really good presentation and the artwork is really iconic. In the UK a mint boxed version similar to this will run you anywhere from £20 -£40. In the US it’s a bit of a different story. The Game Gear was never a must have item for many gamers. As such Game Gear collecting is a little more specialist. A loose copy of the game is reasonably easy to pick up for around $5-$10. A mint in box edition though may set you back over the $100 mark. It’s unclear which way the long-term pricing will go in the US. Some Game Gear items are very scarce, especially if you are after a factory or mint condition collectable. On the other hand it’s such a specialist area that there just aren’t the buyers to support the market. We’re still in a collecting phase of finding out the fate of boxed Game Gear games in the US. If you’re a US based collector, let me know as it’s an interesting area to collect for.
So, is Space Harrier for the Sega Game Gear worth collecting? Well, this is the painful part of the show where I give you the power to decide. Personally for myself a mint condition Sega collectable is always going to have a place in my collection. Admittedly it is more for what it is and represents rather than the game play itself. I only have to roll out Space Harrier 2 for the Mega Drive or Genesis to play a far superior version of the game. Space Harrier also appears on the Sega Ages 1 compilation for the Sega Saturn, this is a near perfect arcade conversion. In some ways this misses the point though. The Game Gear served the purpose of going mobile with your games. Back in the day it was like taking an arcade with you as you sat in the back seat of the car, desperately hoping you had enough batteries to feed the machine.
Whilst this version of the game isn’t the fluid experience of the arcade it is certainly a technological triumph. A game that serves its purpose and does provide a real hit of arcade fun.