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02/10/2009

Amiga Games - Space Harrier - Commodore Amiga retro game

Amiga Space Harrier
Another arcade conversion from Elite software who won the rights to convert the mighty Space Harrier from amusement arcade to home systems such as the ZX Spectrum and Commodore Amiga.

Space Harrier had been a total phenomenon in the arcades, the bizarre look and feel of 'The Fantasy Zone' resplendent in fast moving 3D graphics coupled with the cabinet being mounted on hydraulics (in the full motion cockpit version) had given gamers a brilliant gaming experience in the mid 1980's.

The sound effects, in game speech and pumping soundtrack had complemented this classic game perfectly too. It had been one of the first games to use progressive sprites to create the 3D effect - most other arcade games up to this point had used polygons and wireframe graphics.

Amiga Games Space Harrier
Welcome to the Fantasy Zone
SEGA had released Space Harrier in 1985 and it's popularity ensured that it had been converted to 8-bit systems years earlier (ZX Spectrum Space Harrier had been released in 1986).

As was usual for the Amiga - lots of existing 8-bit games were brought out on the machine, sometimes with less than impressive results. Thankfully Elite did put some effort into the Amiga version.

So... Could the surreal world of 'The Fantasy Zone' (complete with the checkboard ground, alien pods, stone heads and flying dragons), be reproduced on the Commodore Amiga? Well...

Pretty much yes. The arcade game had been famous for it's in-game speech, such as 'Welcome to the fantasy zone, get ready!' when you fed your first coins into it - and this (and the fantastic in game music) made it onto the Amiga (whereas on the Speccy they had been omitted).

The music was not quite as good as the arcade original which is a shame as the Amiga was more than capable of it.

This retro game involved your character (the Space Harrier) running or flying in a permanent 3D 'third person view' scrolling landscape. Armed with a powerful gun, you had to blast away the evil nasties that had come to take over the outlandish 'Fantasy Zone'.

The Amiga did animate and create the 3D view really well and the in game sprites and scenery matched the it's arcade parent pretty accurately.

Space Harrier on the Amiga
The Fantasy Zone
Enemies and obstacles would come hurtling towards you, some of which could be blasted out of the way, some of which were indestructable. For instance, rocks would be littered across the ground or could be floating in mid air - and you would either have to shoot them out of the way or weave your way around them if they were 'bullet proof'.

Some of your adverseries would shoot projectiles at you which you had to avoid at all costs, ranging from egg shaped energy bolts to faster moving fireballs.

Collision with any enemy or projectile would result in the loss of a life. Big enemies such as flying dragons (which weaved gracefully through the air) or huge floating stone heads would appear and would take multiple hits from your gun before being blasted away.

At the end of each level there would be a boss alien (sometimes more than one) to duel with (such as two headed dragons!), and it could take a while to wear them down and dispatch them.

The game was spread over 18 stages (which were all strangely named such as 'Moot', 'Minia' and 'Geeza') including some bonus stages.

If you made it to a bonus stage (bonus stages were a staple of arcade games back then) then you would get to sit astride a friendly floating chinese style dragon and plow your way through the landscape (such as trees) to earn thousands of bonus points.

At the end of the bonus stage your harrier would hop off the dragon which would fly off into the distance and disappear. It would be back to normal action again in the next level.

Later stages produced even more strange creatures such as one eyed wooly mammoths, giant robots, F-14 style fighter jets and large bulbous squids. Having fast moving enemies of this scale in the game was quite impressive.

Later levels were tough to negotiate with a barrage of enemies and obstacles to avoid, and sometime a 'roof' would come down over the landscape limiting the height at which your harrier could go to forcing you to zip around the screen like a maniac as you dodged trees, rocks, metal poles, crystal type objects and huge flowers. The 3D effect on these levels was pretty cool though.

Making it to the end of a level and destroying the boss was quite rewarding on later levels.

If you had quicker reflexes than Jackie Chan then you would make it to the end of the game, which matter of factly informed you that it was indeed 'The End'. But don't worry, as 'many more battle scenes will soon be available'.

This Amiga Game was not so hyped up as it was a little bit 'old' by the time it came out on the Commodore machine. Still, Space Harrier went on to do well (as it was a very popular arcade game) and sold plenty of copies. It could have been a bit better really, but it was still playable and captured the feel of the original well.

We here in the land of Amiga Games reckon that Space Harrier represents a time when arcade machines were losing their status as being at the cutting edge in terms of graphics, sound effects, music and sheer scale.

The gulf between the home 16-bit systems was growing smaller and it was possible to convert these classics to machines like the Amiga well (if the effort was put in!)

The Amiga version of Space Harrier is still playable and fun, and the developers created the levels and creatures accurately - not to mention the fast gameplay, the superb 3D perspective effect and responsiveness of your in game hero (if you used the mouse as a controller). The version we got for the Amiga could have been a little better, but you know it ain't bad.

This classic arcade game for the Commodore Amiga is worth another look after all these years.

We recommend getting hold of the real Amiga hardware - but if not then download an Amiga emulator and download Space Harrier. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

Please see our other Amiga retro game reviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys

GENRE: Arcade Game (Rail shooter)
RELEASE DATE: April of 1989
RELEASED BY: Elite Software
DEVELOPER(S): Richard Frankish, Jeff Spangenberg
PRICE: £24.95 - UK

Our hero flies and takes you on a tour of Moot in this fine arcade game...

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Classic Games and Amiga Games

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