Exploring the 32X, Part 1 – Space Harrier

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So, for some reason you have found yourself curious about the 32X. Perhaps you are a game collector who has an affinity for the obscure, or maybe you’re a Sega fanboy who just needs to own everything ever made by your beloved company. Likely you have already read some blurbs about the game selection being awful and that the commercial failure never lived up to the original expectations. Surely, the internet must be wrong. There is no way this system can be as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Can it? Well, I for one plan on finding out. And what better place to start my journey than with a game that, at the time of it’s 32X release, already had a stellar reputation.

When Space Harrier was first introduced into the arcades in the mid 80s it looked something like this.

After the initial release, the game was ported to an absurd amount of systems. Twenty-eight different systems by my count, but perhaps even more. Space Harrier is even playable within the legendary game Shenmue for Sega Dreamcast! Why, you ask? Because it’s fantastic, that’s why. And Sega wanted as many people as possible to be able to play this gem. And what luck, the 32X version happens to be known as the port that most closely represents the original arcade game.

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Yu Suzuki, creator of Shenmue, also designed Space Harrier.

For a retro gaming experience, Space Harrier is the full package. The music is enticing and fast, which excellently accompanies the high speed game play. The visuals are vibrant and the 32X, with its GPU capable of producing 32,768 colors, displays the neon Fantasy Zone beautifully. The game had previously been ported to the Sega Genesis and the NES, but neither had the hardware capable of fully representing the artwork of the original, and the Sega version in particular was quite choppy, to say the least. With the 32X system’s tandem 32-bit processors you can fly around the screen at breakneck speeds firing your blaster without a hint of slowdown or lag.

I break this bad boy out every time I have someone over who has never played a 32X before for a few reasons. Mainly because this game is so simple to pick up. You can move about the screen and fire the cannon, that’s it. The bright colors and great soundtrack throw the player into an imaginative, fun universe, that keeps you coming back for more even if the game seems impossible to beat. Don’t let the simplicity of the control scheme fool you. Dodging the many obstacles and projectiles is really the hardest challenge and the intensity ramps up as you progress through the levels. The game is a challenge.

Game difficulty too much for you to handle? Give yourself some extra continues by entering this code.

1. With the system off plug a second controller into the system, then power up.

2. When the SEGA logo appears, hold A + C + START on the 2nd controller.

3. Start a game while still holding the 2nd controller buttons, then release and viola, extra continues.

Here I am whipping through the first level of the game. This iconic cut from the game’s soundtrack really sets the mood of the game and stands out as an excellent taste of what Sega was offering back in the company’s heyday.

I feel that starting 32X newcomers off on a solid gaming experience like this is crucial to the system. There are inarguably a few duds that came out for the system, but Space Harrier is no dud. This is a must own for any 32X collector.

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