My time with Space Harrier was almost exclusive to the Sega compilations that included it. The pseudo-3D, odd perspective, and action were definitely unique. But the home console ports I played in my early years of games were nothing compared to what the arcade original offered.
This big sit-down cabinet features a control stick you’d typically see in an arcade flying game (or maybe Atari’s Star Wars game). Using that in place of a console controller’s D-Pad is far superior, making it a lot easier to fly around the screen. And I have to give a shout out to any sit-down arcade cabinets! They’re a bit more special than other games, and let you feel a little more immersed in the experience.
Perhaps the biggest loss from arcade to console are the visuals. Space Harrier is a fast game. Because of that there are tons of things happening on screen. Big sprites, lots of colors, and fast moving animations make this game stand out compared to other shooters. Not to mention the camera angle: placed behind the player it causes enemies to fly toward the screen. I’m not sure if this was a gaming first, but I know it was my first time playing a game in that perspective!
I really like the Space Harrier cabinet itself. There’s really no reason to have the player take a cockpit like position to play the game, but Sega threw that in there anyway. And the iconic dragon enemy on the side art makes the cabinet instantly recognizable from across the room!
Before visiting Galloping Ghost I cannot recall finding another version of this fairly popular game out there. Sadly with arcades being a thing of the past I don’t think anyone will really remember these types of games in the years to come. So if you come across this one-time gem of the scene, drop a few quarters and enjoy yourself!
*Played at Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfiled, IL 2019