Considering its heavy reliance of 3D scaling you might think that Space Harrier would not work as a Sega Master System game. Let's face it, Sega's 8-bit system may have been more powerful than the Nintendo Entertainment System, but it wasn't strong enough to support most 3D applications. But despite some jerky scaling and a few other problems, this port of Space Harrier manages to bring most of what was fun about the arcade experience home.
Space Harrier is an arcade game in the truest sense, there is almost no rhyme or reason for what you're doing, it's just one action-packed level after another. You take control of this speedy white guy who wears a red shirt and blue jeans. Oh yeah, he can fly and packs an extremely large gun ... I should have mentioned that, I bet it's important. But in true arcade fashion, the flying, the gun, and the bad clothing choice are not explained.
This flying gunman's journey will take him on a tour of 18 hostile worlds that all tend to look the same. You will be able to tell the levels apart from their unique color palette and unique enemies, but strip that away and you are doing nothing more than running on a flat checkerboard surface towards what appears to be a one-color horizon. Either that or in the future every planet will look like Los Angeles.
The world comes at you at lightning speed which means that a large part of Space Harrier requires you to dodge the on-coming obstructions. Not only will you have to shoot down attacking enemies, but you'll find yourself avoiding everything from floating rocks to large pillars. At the end of each level you will be forced to square off against a large boss enemy, most of which can be defeated in the same mindless way.
Unlike most games that give you the choice between continuing or calling it quits, Space Harrier requires you to put in a special code to simply keep going. Even with the code you are only allowed to continue a certain amount of time, which leads one to wonder why the continue option was hidden in the first place. Despite this one set-back, Space Harrier puts up quite a fight. You likely won't get through all 18 levels in the first time through, which gives this game a bit more replay than a game of this genre usually has. Some may find the levels to be too similar and simply lose interest, but if you're a fan of space shooters then this is the game for you.
Space Harrier does have a few flaws that keep it from greatness, but if you can overlook repetitive game play, similar level designs, and a few cheap deaths, then you are just the person Space Harrier is looking for. If you own a Master System and love 3D shooters, then there's no reason for you to delay picking this game up right now!