Space Harrier II Review


Date Released: 29 October, 1988
Date Reviewed: 8 August, 2010
Players: 1 Player Only
Length: 25+ Minutes
Replayability: Moderate



Space Harrier II is the sequel to the well known arcade title Space Harrier. It was a launch title for the SEGA Mega Drive when it first released in Japan in 1988, and again a launch title when the console was released in other markets. It was developed by the highly regarded AM2 team within SEGA and designed by Yu Suzuki, head of AM2.


Like the first game in the series, Space Harrier II is a 2D shooter with a frontward perspective. It uses scaling technology to create a sense of 3D gameplay and on-rails movement. It is also an arcade game just as the first. The game features such arcade standards as a leaderboards, a score system, the ability to gain lives with set amounts of score, a set number of credits, as well as simple action-focused gameplay. It is designed to be easy to pick up and play, but takes some time to truly master. The game is generally praised for being very unique, as only a few other titles created later have copied this style of 2D shooter.

The structure of Space Harrier II is rather similar to other titles of the time. The game involves stages – a total of 13 – in which the player battles through waves of enemies and obstacles until he or she finally reaches the stage boss. Once completed, the player then moves on to the next level, and so on until finished; gathering points along the way through combat.  Each level has its own visual level theme, as well as some different enemies and objects. To add variety, some stages have roofs over the top, in addition to some being bonus stages where the player can take no damage. Once completed, the ending of the game explains the entire Space Harrier story and shows each of the games in the series to familiarise players who have never experienced Space Harrier games before.

Story originalreviews

The game details Space Harrier II as being the third battle Space Harrier has been engaged in; Space Harrier being the first and Space Harrier 3D being the second. In the year 6236, Fantasyland is attacked by enemy forces and you are teleported into battle to save the 214th Sector. Once you battle through the 12 regular stages, you then must face off with the leader of the enemy forces in stage 13; after the battle, the rest of the story is explained, which can be considered rather ‘dark’ for such a colourful game.

[ iPhone Version ]


The gameplay of Space Harrier II is very unique. Besides the basics of 2D shooters seen in video games since their beginning, such as moving and shooting, in this game you move over the entire screen facing towards the enemy. This creates a fake 3D space with actual 3D gameplay on a 16-bit system. The spaces of the playing field are like checker board blocks, and your bullets along with the enemy projectiles follow these squares. Movement is completely free and firing can be done manually or with rapid fire (semi-automatic); reloading occurs instantly when a bullet leaves the playing field or hits an enemy/object. During a bonus stage, Space Harrier rides a surf board and cannot take damage. During these stages, the player is free to slaughter as many enemies and clams as he or she can to gain a large score, as well as earn lives.

Enemies generally attack in waves and patterns and only take a single hit to take down. However, the player must use tactics and swift movements to dodge enemy attacks and unleash their own attack. Just like the enemies, it only takes a single hit to take down Space Harrier, although he has a set amount of lives and can earn more (dependant on difficulty setting chosen). Objects, such as trees, can also kill Space Harrier, but smaller ones such as rocks only trip him for a few seconds. Some objects in the playing field are invincible, therefore they must be dodged. There is also a single enemy dragon in the first stage that takes several hits to take down (this dragon is the level 1 boss in the first title, although weaker here). Bosses too take many hits to take down and some are timed based, while one other has a weak point that takes a single hit.



Being a launch title, the music in Space Harrier II is technically poor due to lack of experience with a new sound ship with the developers. Sound effects sound bad generally and the music can seem awkward. Sometimes pitches can even get stuck in game for several seconds, creating an annoying and prolonged noise. However, the game does feature some nice tunes that fit into the theme of the Space Harrier franchise. Almost every boss also has its own theme music, as well as there being several over world themes throughout the game.

[ Arranged Version, 1988 ]



Graphically the game features high-quality sprites and colouring that distinguished the new Mega Drive/Genesis from the last generation of 8-bit hardware. While it can be overly bland compared to some later 8-bit games, for 1988 it was well above the graphics of most home console video games. The scrolling, however, was not on par with the arcade prequel. It was much less smooth and visually appealing to look at, but it did function and provided for some intensive high-speed sights. Overall it was a good showcase of the ability the new console had and it suited Space Harrier well.

Special Notes

The music in Space Harrier II was created by Tokuhiko Uwabo, otherwise known as Bo. He worked on many of SEGA’s popular franchises during the 80s and 90s and became famous within the SEGA fan community for his work in sound directing and composing. Some of his other sound work includes: Alex Kid in Miracle World, Phantasy Star, Zillion, Fantasy Zone, Sonic 3 and Knuckles, and Streets of Rage.

Space Harrier 2 also features a hidden options screen. To access it press the A-button during the title screen. Here the player can set the game difficulty, enable rapid fire, listen to the music of Space Harrier II, as well as reverse the controls like the arcade original.


Space Harrier II may not be one of the most stunning games on the Genesis/Mega Drive’s library, but it is one of the first great games to grace the system. As a launch title it holds up extremely well and is still enjoyable to this day. Anyone who likes arcade shooters or the Space Harrier franchise will certainly enjoy this game. With its multiple difficulties, it is easily accessible to both children and adults.


Format(s): Mega Drive/Genesis, Arcade, Wii, iPhone,  PC, various other home computers.

The game varies depending on the platform it is played on. For examples: the iPhone version uses touch-screen controls while several of the home computer versions feature different features or overall different qualities all around.


One Response to “Space Harrier II Review”

  1. Website Round-Up: SEGA Characters, Retro Reviews, Sonic Fans and Bootleg Consoles Says:

    […] I can’t think of it without hearing “Get Ready” in my head. Check out the review: here. […]

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