Saturday, May 17, 2014


You know what I REALLY hate, giant ghostly dragon heads!...There's one right behind me...isn't there?

Gold all up in my Chicken Leg.

Here we stand at the precipice of an important moment in this blog and this quest. This is the birthplace of a Sega franchise. A big one at that, one many people closely associate with the console itself. Now its true that pretty much everything we’ve played so far has been a sega game and many have been part of a sega franchise. What makes this one unique is its lack of obscurity and its continuing, albeit somewhat diminished, presence as a sega staple. The most recent Golden Axe game came out on the PS3 and Xbox 360.

The Genesis itself would get three games in this series, though the last one only saw a brief release in the US through an online service. And sadly, the best installment of this series never saw a console port. But we will get to these things later. Along with installments on the Master System, including a zelda clone, and game gear Golden Axe is definitely a staple of Sega and is closely identified with the Genesis.

How well does it hold up though?

Firstly let me say beat em ups are one of my favorite genre. In single player or multiplayer, they are one of the most addicting and enjoyable experiences I’ve had with video games. So by genre alone, I already have a softspot for this one.

That said I wouldn't call Golden Axe my favorite. Another sega beat-em-up franchise claims that place in my heart. But this one is certainly a worthy starting point and in many ways a great introduction to the genre.

You play as one of three warriors - the thunder wielding dwarf Gilius Thunderhead with your might axe, the amazon Tyris Flare, or the barbarian warrior Ax Battler. Your mission is to rescue the King and Princess from the clutches of the invading Death Adder, who has killed your friends and family. Each of you has a slightly different balance of abilities. Gilius is the strongest but his magic is the weakest. Tyris has the strongest magic, and Ax is balanced. In addition each of you has a gamut of spells powered by blue “jars” (they call them jars they are clearly bottles). Gilius uses lighting, Tyris fire, and Ax has earth related powers like quakes. The animation on this is very cool for a very early Genesis title.

My favorite magic animation in the game.

The difficulty level can be just a bit cheap at times on single player, which is why I recommend starting off by increasing your health bar in options before your first venture and if you want to master the game reduce it back to normal once you get some crowd control strategy’s down. Crowd control is really the kick to these early beat em ups.

If you wait a bit at the title screen you get to see these really awesome sketches.

One of the major selling points of the Genesis version of the game is that it featured a bonus level and new ending not found in the arcade version. This new last level is interesting- multiple pit falls could be the end of you or it could work to your advantage depending on your skill. However, the new end boss, Death Bringer, is a very cheap fight and even when I’m at my best it's usually a game of just having enough lives left over to kill him before he kills me.

If I have any other complaints its that the tactics in this game can sometimes get monotonous. Jumping attacks have to be used a bit too frequently compared to standard moves. But the worst is a running lunge attack performed by double tapping in the direction of movement to run, and then slamming the attack button which will cause the character to headbutt or flying kick etc. depending on who you are playing as. Its actually a cool technique. The problem is for some of the boss fights this is the only safe way to dispatch them, and performing this technique over and over can be repetitive.

Overall I enjoyed my time with Golden Axe. Its not my favorite beat em up on the console by any stretch but its a great place to start and the campy silly Conan the barbarian flavor makes it an enjoyable adventure, especially with a friend. I look forward to watching this series evolve over the course of its future installments.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


It so IS camouflage! We go to a lot of bright blue and orange places!

I hate it when that happens. Chillin on the couch and tiny muscle men open up your chest cavity with a rocket launcher. Ugh. Mondays...

Often times the beauty of an arcade cabinet is in its unique creativity. While there are some standard forms we see often in terms of their layout, most machines that are not multicarts like an SNK Neo-Geo unit are designed to play just one game. The artwork and design of the cabinet can therefore be curtailed to match that game specifically, making an arcade cabinet a work of art before you even start to play it. But one of the most interesting ways this can be implemented is in the control scheme.

A home console generally has a standard controller used for 90% or more of its library. It comes packed with the console, and you probably keep it plugged in all the time. Other controllers may be released like light guns and such but for the most part, you stick to that standard controller design. Arcade cabinets however can change how a game is played in any way the developer wants, and many cabinets have taken advantage of this, like the stationary machine gun on Operation Wolf, or the centipede trackball.

Forgotten Worlds was an arcade cabinet with a unique design, similar to those seen in games like Ikari Warriors. The game plays as a shoot em up, where you control a human being with some sort of jet pack like propulsion, carrying a gun. A satellite also follows you that fires special weapons. What made this shooter unique in arcade’s was that you could twist the control stick to change the direction of fire. While the game was mostly horizontally scrolling, you could - and in fact needed to - fire in many different directions to clear enemies off the screen who would leap on you from everywhere.

I personally like how plain metal the twisting knobs are. It gives them the same gritty DIY feel as the game.

Now the problem with arcade cabinets that have unique controllers is they may lack something in translation when they are brought over to home consoles. Virtual On for example used a twin stick design that wasn’t implemented on home console controllers prior to the Playstation 1 Dualshock analog controller. As a result its Saturn port suffered in the controls department.

Forgotten World’s easily could have suffered from this same problem, the same way that Ikari Warriors on NES did. It does not, however, much to my delight. In fact this is such a simple concept that I don’t understand why I should provide leniency to similar games that lack this option.

While it takes some getting used to and it isn’t the default setting, Forgotten Worlds gives you the option to simply have firing the gun be automatic. And why not? Rarely is there a time in a shmup when you won’t be firing. So why bother needing to press a button to do it if your just going to hold it down anyway? Instead the B button is left alone under this option, and A and C pivot the character clockwise and counterclockwise. Again this takes some getting used to and possibly an adjustment to the speed in which this happens (which is also in the options menu) but its such an obvious move its hard to fathom why many top down shooters that also used this scheme in their cabinets didn’t implement this in their home ports. Clearly I’m excited about this. I spent over five hundred words now talking about it.

So how does the rest of the game fair? Pretty well! The bosses are interesting, the game play is solid, and their is a pretty unique risk versus reward shop system for buying upgrades to your weapons and armor. I also love that there is a health bar. I know this would make the genre much less “hardcore” but having these at least as an option more frequently would make shoot em ups much more enjoyable and accessible to me.

My favorite boss! Unfortunately it is an early one and they aren't all this epic.

The story revolves around two guys fighting to free the world from some recently arrived possessive god like entities that have taken over the earth in the distant future. As such the game really focuses on multiplayer…..and here is where a few flaws come in.

Firstly, the difficult of the game on single player gets very steep. I mean very steep. Near impossible. With the picoting motion you can make to fire in every direction, its clear at certain points they wanted one player to fire in one direction, while player two fires in another - something you jsut can’t do with one player so grab a buddy….But once you DO grab a buddy, this otherwise epic shooter turns into a rental.

Many of these classically hard arcade action games had respawn codes to make the game easier by basically bringing your lives up to infinity. But they were just that - codes. Technically secret, albeit not so much now in the age of the internet. But Forgotten Worlds just skips over the middle man here. When you are playing a two player game, if either player dies simply pressing start will respawn them instantly. This not only makes the game incredibly easy to beat in one session, it eliminates the need to even upgrade any of your gear. Standard shot and no life upgrades will still see you through as long as you press start each time you croak.

My rule with most games is if the manual or the game itself says I can do it it is not cheating. Playing at lower difficulty perhaps - but cheating is reserved for exploiting secret codes, glitches, debug modes, or external hardware and software like a game genie. Not only does the manual say you can do it, but the freaking game will offer this ability to you as a power up.

For a large chunk of in-game currency you can buy the ability to do this in a single player game. It even describes the power up as granting you 2nd player ability.

This is so easy to exploit though its not even worth the cost. You can play on two players by yourself, just pressing start on the other controller quickly when the second character dies, and exploit the hell out of this to complete the game.

Of course nothing is forcing you to do this - but its just one button. If you wanted to you could of course take your hits and die like a man rather than using this clearly naturally granted ability. None the less, this does take a lot of the challenge and risk out of a game of Forgotten Worlds. Which otherwise, is a solid and unique shooter from Sega’s very early Genesis lineup.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Never judge a game by its clam shell. This is some deceptively cool looking box art. 

 The depressing black and white mess of a title screen is a much better depiction of what you are about to experince. 

If this continues much longer you’re going to start to wonder why I claimed I love the Genesis so much. I promise you though it gets better and we are almost out of the woods. This is, thank God, our last launch title. Wikipedia if you change the lineup one more time I swear to God I will kill you and your whole family, which I imagine includes It feels like I am earning the right to play games I actually enjoy, especially as many of my favorites and games I’ve always wanted to try come later in the Genesis life span. The further down the line we go the more games I like will pop up. But I have suffered plenty and the next few games we review are going to be good ones – or at least I am going to try my very best to pick them that way.

But right now we have no choice but to look at one of my most hated games of all time. You don’t even need to read further, I wouldn’t blame you. Super Thunder Blade is absolute dismal crap. This is the most annoying gnat that ever had the audacity to call itself a game I have ever played. I know what you’re thinking. It looks like Space Harrier. Space Harrier is best game of the century compared to this abomination.

Everything I said was wrong with space harrier is increased about two-hundred fold. The lack of animation frames that make bullets and obstacles impossible to dodge, the repetitive flying in a circle, it’s all here and then some. You now also get really bad controls likely meant to guise as realism, the worst level designs I’ve ever seen, and a broken version of a vertical shmup mixed in.
Helicopters are a big effing deal in the 90s. I’m not totally sure why this is but we definitely had a love affair with them. You’ve never seen to many helicopter games as you will see in the 16-bit era. I certainly haven’t seen any sense. When was the last time a helicopter themed game was even released on a console? This generation? I don’t think so. If it was it sure as hell was not popular. But we got tons of them on the Genesis and Super Nintendo and a lot of them were actually really good! I can think of four off the top of my head right now that were great fun. But this game is truly unplayable.
Just fly in circles, shoot, and pray. Thats it. Fifty bucks please. 

Like Space Harrier Super Thunder Blade is a rail shooter and the two games appear to be running on the same engine. Super Thunder Blade just has dismal controls, stupid features, and terrible level design. The controls feel delayed; every move you make is slow and clumsy. I think what they wanted to do is make it feel like what they imagined flying a real helicopter was like. This would be fine in other games but this isn’t a realistic game! You’re shooting down F-14’s and giant sci-fi battle tanks the size of sky scrapers! There isn’t anything realistic about it so this doesn’t add to the suspension of disbelief it’s just annoying.

Space Harrier had tight controls and even it got annoying when it came to obstacles because of the frame rate. Well, the frame rate is now just as bad if not worse only the controls are also terrible and the obstacles take up much larger portions of the screen.

There is no strategy to the shooting what so ever. When you fire, every few machine gun blasts also shoots off a homing missile. As long as you don’t get shot yourself things in front of you will always be shot down, there is no reason at all to line up your shots.

You'd better get used to seeing this image because you'll be looking at the broken fragments of your chopper a lot. 

The result of all this is a game where it feels like your spinal cord has been severed from your brain. You don’t actually feel like you are playing anything. Whatever happens on the screen, be it a victory or a defeat, does not seem to have any real solid connection to what you are doing with the controller.

And then there are the vertical levels. My God. Half way through each stage it turns into a vertical shooter. Only get this – you can only move from side to side. The chopper stays fixed to the bottom of the screen. It is also supposed to be hitting ground targets and they wanted it to look like the nose of the chopper is pointing diagonally towards the ground. What this actually translates to is a shooter where you cannot move up and down the scrolling screen and your shot only goes out about the length of your ship’s body. How could they have made so many bad decisions? There is no excuse for this! It’s not even technical limitations at play in these levels, the designers actually consciously choose these decisions and thought they were good ideas!

I sincerely want to know what made them think this was a fun addition. 

This super scaler stuff (the tech behind games like space harrier and thunder blade) does not seem to be fairing very well on this console so far. The whole time I was forcing my way through this mess I kept thinking of the poor Japanese, whose only launch titles were this and Space Harrier II. No Altered Beast. No Thunder Force. Can you imagine? Abysmal Crap and slightly less annoying crap. No wonder the Mega Drive would never do as well there as here; it had its poor legs broken right from the start.

Well it’s over. We’ve finally made it out of the launch titles which mean I now have a lot more choices about what to play next. It wasn’t the greatest launch and even the good games were a pale shadow compared to what was to come. Altered Beast remains my favorite of the bunch but it gets better. Much better. We now move into the rest of 1989. The weeks and months following launch day would see the Genesis start to establish a more solid and diverse library of games. It’s going to be an exciting time and the journey is only just beginning! The launch titles are merely the threshold out the door into the world of Sega Ages! 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I...Thats a nose. Also The baseball is as big as his head, which itself is as big as Godzilla. 

Big batter sprites are a cool feature, but check out the ghostly vistage of the catcher. Nothing in the rules says dead guys can't play baseball. 

Well kids it was bound to happen eventually. I knew that sooner or later I’d have no choice but to review a sports game.

It isn't that sports games are bad or pointless. But there are two things about them that make them a potential hurdle for this project. The first is, get this, ready to have your mind blown? Their target audience is people who like sports. Can you imagine? Now I don’t dislike sports. At best I’d say I’m mostly indifferent to sports. Particularly team sports, spectator sports. Watching other people exercise has rarely held interest for me. I do have some interest in hockey and boxing but even those I’ve never managed to follow for any length of time.

Be that as it may this project is all about personal growth through classic gaming. I am very much hoping to find many sports games I enjoy and maybe even discover a passion for some sports I didn’t know I had. It’s worth looking at it optimistically like this because god knows there are enough sports titles on every console ever made. I want to try actually mastering some of these sports games…..But I won’t be mastering Tommy Lasorda Baseball. And I would be willing to bet cold hard cash, neither will you.
My current theory is that Tommy Lasorda Baseball is a government artificial intelligence project gone haywire that has infiltrated the public through a Sega Genesis game cartridge. If I had to sum up basically all of my complaints about this title it boils down to an unstoppable CPU rendering the game damn near unplayable.


I suck.

Honestly either one is likely. I really could suck that bad. But I think my story still holds some water because I have played Genesis era baseball games before where I didn't suck with quite this much suckatude. I don’t know all that much about baseball statistics but I’m pretty sure I had picked the best possible team. To start with I wanted to put the game on easy and set the computer up with the worst team for an exhibition match so I could learn how the game was played. 15-0. That was the final score. The CPU never swings on a ball. They never fail to hit. I got two strikes, non-consecutively, the entire game. The few hits I managed to get in never resulted in anything more than a base run and 90% of the time, not an exaggeration, the CPU always caught the ball for an instant out. It was a baseball Armageddon. I was slaughtered. I’d have picked up my ball and went home but after that game, I didn’t have any balls left.

The game isn’t “hard”. When I say a game is hard, even “too hard” I mean its got a steep level of challenge. Its like doing complex algebra without a calculator. This game isn’t hard its not playable.
I’d be curious perhaps to revisit this one to see if playing a multiplayer game is a better experience. I’d imagine so. The presentation is actually rather nice and arcade like. I especially enjoy how the ball increases in size on the overhead view, as it flies up towards the birds eye camera. It’s a bit odd how the pitching and batting work, with your player sliding all over the place to line up with the ball or position for a strike. I suppose though this was still a time for a lot of experimentation with this dynamic of the sport, the physical application of which is hard to translate into video game form.

But this is still an awesome effect. 

It is also worth noting that this is our first example of Sega’s famous marketing strategy of celebrity endorsements. This led me to research a bit about Lasorda who I knew nothing about – again not being a baseball guy. Even as a non-baseball aficionado it was an impressive career to read about. I kind of feel like this game doesn’t do him any justice. He was playing for the Dodgers while there were still Nazi’s in Europe for Pete’s sake!

The Dodger’s, the team for which most of his acclimates are accredited, does not actually make an appearance in this game. No MLB team does. This tended to happen a lot as those official licenses are often expensive to come by.

It’s hard to say if I gave Tommy Lasorda Baseball a fair chance or not. I met all my personal requirements for a game but it certainly had more to look into. It is the first example we have hit of a game running on a password system, a common feature to replace less than reliable battery backup, and had lots of stat based features that I didn’t really bother checking out. The reason for this is simple – if the single player campaign is unplayable than there really isn’t an additional mode in the world that can fix the title. It’s a bit disappointing because the game has decent presentation and may even be fun on a two player setting….But there are other baseball games that offer presentation, good multiplayer, and great single player. Most fans who aren’t collecting everything out right will likely be better off going with a later baseball title. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

#5 Thunder Force II

Ok Not even joking? Probably the most bad ass cover art so far. 

 Confused about whats going on? Let me clear it up for you - You're Boned.

For many retro gamers, the "shooter" genre is their bread and butter. I've always found this a bit odd. Mostly because it suggest they had been playing these sort of games for a long time. As a kid I had around 50 genesis titles - and not one of them was a shooter. I think I was vaguely aware that such games existed, but how I am not certain. Even my Genesis playing friends and family did not seem to own any such games. I think I did play one on the NES once, maybe, but it's the most faint and distant of memories now. I didn't come into the genre at all until the retro craze hit. At first I loved these kinds of games...Now I am no longer sure what I think - especially of these Genesis installments. MY  bread and butter was side scrolling action games and beat-em-ups, which may be why despite the lackluster opinion many people have of it, I rated Altered Beast so high.

But I will soon have a more clear opinion of genesis shooters as there are going to be a boat load of them. The first is this launch title - Thunder Force II. I can't tell you this is my favorite shooter, but then again it isn't quite ordinary by shooter standards.

The first Thunder Force is rather obscure and appeared on platforms like the Sharp-X1.....Yeah don't feel dumb I've never even seen one.
Until now!

It was a shooter from an overhead perspective that, unlike most games in the genre, allowed for scrolling in any direction. This sequel follows a similar routine - half the time. Every odd level is an overhead level where your mission is to destroy a series of ground targets scattered about the very large map. The even levels are more standard shooter fair from a horizontal perspective in the vein of Gradius and R-type. This is kind of an odd but interesting evolution of the series. Thunder Force II feels kind of like a half man half ape missing link, as later installments would drop the overhead levels entirely and focus only on the horizontal side scrolling shooter style of game play.

Perhaps this is with good reason. The overhead levels in my opinion are a major pain in the ass! I really wanted to like them. I like overhead other stuff, and they look pretty. They definitely show off the infamous parallax scrolling of the Genesis well. But the way you move....Its hard to describe without you trying it. Understand it is still a shooter. And like all shooters you are always moving. But unlike most shooters in this one's overhead levels you can move in any direction. That means break neck awkward 180 degree flip arounds that are too jerky to be enjoyable. Enemies come at you from nonsensical directions and half your weapons will be useless against ground targets. Add to this the fact that the maps for these levels are, I'll admit impressively, very large, and you're in for a frustrating experience as you run around aimlessly looking for your target with nothing to indicate correct direction of travel except for very good muscle memory. 
Even after locating them, the ground base targets required to complete overhead levels aren't going down without a fight.

The side scrolling levels would fair a bit better. But only a bit. The first one was actually a blast and I really enjoyed it. Later on though, the deaths seemed cheap and the difficulty curve a bit ridiculous. Understand though I am not a bullet hell savior. The most appealing thing about this genre to me is the huge community that has built up around this one style of game-play. The internet is full of forums and YouTube videos of deathless play throughs on insanely difficult settings for even the most obscure shooter titles. It's all very impressive! I'm just not even close to that skilled .
 There is something to be said for tradition. Although there are some cheap deaths the sidescrolling fare was much more enjoyable. Note selectable weapon options on the top HUD.

Truth be told this is probably the most technically competent game I've played so far for this blog. It just isn't quite my thing. That isn't to say I'm passing judgement on all shooters. This one is so unique in some ways that its hard to compare it with others. The weapon switching may appeal to many shooter fans. I think a major problem I have with shooters in general though is that so many of them are focused on that very community I mentioned that they are designed so that if you don't have a perfect run you might as well not play. Dying eliminates all your weapon upgrades and as the game progresses you very quickly find survival may even be impossible with a standard shot alone.

 The overhead maps are enormous! Its impressive on such an early title, but frustrating when you get lost.
Please don't think I'm  a pansy ass whose favorite Genesis game will turn out to be Barney's Hide and Seek Adventure. I told you my bread and butter is side scrolling action - just wait till we get to games like Chakan or Comix Zone and I'll make you eat those words, but I would prefer it if these kind of games gave me one or both of two options:

1. Quit taking away my power ups at death. At least not until I have hit continue. For the hardcore gamer you can make this a toggle switch option, but I'm not a shmup god, I would prefer to finish the game with an average level of challenge. If I must be a shmup god though -

2. Cut out extra lives and continues entirely. I know. One extreme to the other. I actually went into the options menu for Thunder Force II with exactly this in mind but it could not be arranged.

Why? Because in this kind of game extra lives are completely pointless. After the first couple of levels I can't survive without my power ups no matter how hard I practice. The only chance I have at completion is a perfect game. So don't make me waste my time or burn out my reset button. If I die once, just start the game over for me with as little loading time as possible. No extra lives. No continues. No going back to the title screen, just back to the beginning of level 1. "Initiating...ladder...good luck." (or whatever he says at the level start screen. That's what it sounds like to me.)

Ultimately this is a technically impressive game and may even be the best of the launch titles. Had I bought my Genesis on launch day out of the option available here in north America this would have been the best option to companion with the Altered Beast pack in. There are still a couple of launch titles left to review but I think most of you will agree with this sentiment when you try them. It just isn't going to make it into my favorite games list any time soon. It caters to much to the hardcore shooter fanatic - something that if I have any potential to become I haven't reached that point yet and this game isn't going to get me there. But if that describes you well than I definitely suggest giving Thunder Force II a run.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

#4 Space Harrier II

 "Aye! The giant metal snake woman came to this giant checker board with me and that's who she's leaving with, disembodied samurai armor!"

 "I have had over half my animation frames sucked out of me and now I seek revenge!!"

I don’t want to talk about this game. Lets talk about Sin and Punishment : Star Successor! 
 Wii Ages! 

Man, I wish I still had a copy of that game! I should dust my wii off and grab one next time I see it around. I absolutely loved the story and the game play was addicting. I always say with arcade style games that I’m going to try to do a bunch of replays and get a really good score. I almost never actually do this. But Star Successor had me hooked enough that had I not gotten rid of that first wii I definitely would have tried. 

If you haven’t played it, Sin and Punishment : Star Successor is a third person rail shooter with serious attitude released on the wii. It is a sequal to the first Sin and Punishment, which was a Japanese exclusive N64 title before it was released finaly on the virtual console. If I had to compare it to something it would be Space Harrier. . . But that might be part of the reason for this game seeming a bit bland.
 But I thought it was gonna fall into crisis later?

We have to face facts – try as we might retro game reviewers live in the ages they live in. We write these articles because we love video games and even though we might claim to have a favorite classic console I sincerely doubt many of us play our games in a bubble. We might not be 100% up to speed due simply to time constraints but we do, at least occasionally if not frequently, play modern games alongside our retro favorites. If we could play in a bubble it might drastically change our opinions; but unfortunately how well a game stands the test of time will always be a factor a retro gamer must consider.

I bring up Sin and Punishment because while it vaguely has the aesthetic of Space Harrier - rail gun shooter about a guy hovering around jet pack style that can also run on the ground blasting bizarre enemies  with a rapid fire energy weapon - it definitely does not have Sin and Punishments level of involvement, re-playability, or charm. It is an interesting title to be sure – but not one I see myself returning to just for kicks. 
I’ve always felt that the PlayStation 1 along with its competitors was the crossing point to 3D gaming but that crossing point does not necessarily mean older style genres are dead. In general they fall into three categories. The first is genres that are superior in 2D format. In my opinion beat em ups and definitely run n guns fit the bill here. Understanding that my equivalent to a 3D run n gun is the third person shooter, I simply think 2D run n guns were a lot more fun. Then there are games that work really well in either format though the mechanics may be different. Fighting games and plat-formers fit in here. Then there are genres that just genuinely are superior on modern consoles. First Person Shooters, racing games, and though often over looked, rail shooters, definitely fit into this category.
The rail shooter got a second look on the wii and I think to great success, at least in terms of fun if not commercially. 

So enough about the wii and star successor, what about Space Harrier, does it hold any weight? 

Well like many early genesis titles this was sort of an arcade game – only not really. Space Harrier II is actually the console only sequel to the popular arcade game Space Harrier. But it doesn’t feel like any effort was put into making the game a competent home console game as opposed to an arcade novelty. In the Arcades I’m sure the first space harrier was fine. It was big and flashy with interesting controls and the environments then really were fantastic looking. It probably blew the cabinets on either side of it into obscurity. But it doesn’t translate at home because of the nature of the game play. The game is fun for about five minutes. But there are twelve levels followed by a boss gauntlet and a final boss. That’s a long time for a game that literally has you doing the same thing over and over. You just fly in a circle and shoot. It’s the best possible strategy you can implement.

 There would be better strategies except that the frame rate in this game is horrendous and that is its biggest critical flaw.  It feels like there is roughly two frames of animation before a projectile reaches you sometimes. 

The projectile is far away.

The projectile is close.

You're dead.

I'm sure this will turn out fine. 

So flying in a circle is your best shot at survival because when you die there is no health bar. Get hit once and your character plummets to the ground, followed by the “get ready” voice synth you will learn to hate with a passion. Your punishment for death is the fast paced flow of the game play gets broken up. This might be incentive for some masochistic players who loved games like R-Type to want to master this title, but it won’t be enough. Most deaths are not caused by enemies but by running head first into obstacles that skip jump through the terrible frame rate before you have time to react. 

I did beat this game. And I will say this, the ending genuinely surprised me. Mostly because this was an era when just putting “congratulations!” on the screen was considered a legitimate way to end a game. But for all the ways it feels shoddily made, Space Harrier II managed to actually have a story line ending. Don’t beat me up when you see it and are disappointed. I’m not claiming it was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald or anything, but it's there and its got a bit of thought to it. The fight with Dark Harrier, the final boss, even got me excited for it again for a second but the  repetitive gameplay and cheap deaths and frustrating frame rate just kill any chance of me coming back to the game “just for fun.” 

This game might be enjoyable to people who like other rail shooters from the era. It is certainly not the least playable of the bunch….oh... that is still to come…  But for me what it did more than anything was make me realize how much better this genre is now.