Space Harrier exceeds even Gauntlet in terms of ultimate arcade credibility. It presents state of the art - even psychedelic - graphics in a landscape utterly strange. Abstract and yet tremendously believeable. The coin-op machine features incredible hydraulic rams which twist and turn the cockpit in which you sit according to the movements of your joystick. The result is an incredible sensation of movement and a big adrenalin high.
What happens when you try to do that on a Spectrum? Surely it must be the most difficult conversion imaginable.
Elite has the licence for the game and the Spectrum version is a remarkable technical achievement.
It manages to do a fair impression of the strange grid - like landscape of the original which scrolls towards your figure, seemingly animate objects in three dimensions - the Chinese dragon is excellent - and most significantly, do the whole thing at speed and without an abundance of attribute clash.
The original game has seventeen levels, the Spectrum version has 'more than ten' Most of the elements of the original are retained: frogs, rocks, the peculiar looking mushrooms, and of course the swirling, tail-twisting oriental carnival dragon.
The remarkable dragon, first seen in the second screen is constructed from a dozen or more segments, each drawn in a kind of outline form and carefully positioned and animated to give the impression of movement firstly out of the distance and also along its length.
The best aspects of Elite's conversion are the central figure and the weird tilting landscape. Your man is large and fully detailed and does a particularly effective tumble when toppled by a roving mushroom, brick or similar object. The floor tilt - when the whole landscape seems to change in perspective - is recreated lovingly.
So is this a rave review? I have some doubts. For five minutes I thought this game was definitely classic material. After ten I wasn't so sure After fifteen I had real problems. The hitch is the gameplay.
It is quite possible to score vast amounts and get through a lot of screens (I did four, no trouble) very early on just by positioning yourself just off centre and stabbing the fire button as fast as you can I felt, not being once of those arcade wizzes who always get the high score on anything on the first attempt, that I did too well. The sense of challenge was already beginning to wane and I felt that there really wasn't really very much strategy to be developed.
For a while, it is astonishingly thrilling and I dare say other magazines will give it all sorts of mega awards.
I think that it may not have much staying power.
Reviewer: Graham Taylor
An impossible conversion surprisingly well done, the problem may be in the gameplay. The graphics are terrific.