Game of the Month February, 2003:

System: Super NES Developer: Hal Laboratory
The Super NES had various features that had not been seen before on home consoles. One such feature was the stunning Mode 7 system, that allowed for quick rotation and scaling of backgrounds, creating almost "3D" effects. It's not wonder that some early SNES game developers wanted to show off this technique with games like Pilotwings and F-Zero, and the lesser-known HyperZone. HyperZone was the first rail shooter to appear on the SNES, several years before the introduction of the Super FX chip and Nintendo's acclaimed Star Fox. At first glace, HyperZone resembles F-Zero with the track mirrored at the top of the screen. Even your spaceship looks suspiciously similar to an F-Zero car. But it's gameplay is true to the shooter genre, borrowing only its look, and the ability to "repair" damage by flying over lighted strips, from F-Zero. Although it's not a great game, it is fun and worth taking a look at.

This is what happens when Tetris strikes back

Warning: Do not fly directly into the sun HyperZone has 8 "themed" worlds, each of which you fly through at breakneck speeds, shooting down enemies that appear off on the horizon, and scale towards you. Every few levels, you will get a new ship. The ship you begin with is rather weak and has no charge shot. But as you "upgrade" to better ships, you'll gain a charge shot, and better ships charge up faster. Each level culminates in a really bizarre boss fight. These bosses include weird-looking spaceships, segmented dragons, and even one-half of a Super Famicom controller! The gameplay of HyperZone is a bit easy, but it took me some time to master it. You aren't given any continues, so once you run out of extra lives, it's "game over". I found that each time I played it, I got a little farther until I was finally able to beat it. Now I can loop the game several times without coming close to running out of lives.

There is no doubt in my mind that HyperZone was most likely inspired by Sega's Space Harrier. The "3D" view, rail-shooter style of play, and the segmented dragon bosses were Space Harrier trademarks. But Hal Laboratory, responsible for such quirky games as Earthbound, Kabuki Quantum Fighter, and the Kirby series, have put their own unique twists on it. The music is quite good, being of the fast-paced techno-jazz variety. The levels have some interesting designs, such as flame geysers that shoot vertically, laser barriers that shoot horizontally, and places that force you to run off the track (which slowly damages your ship until you get back on-track). I wouldn't be surprised if the Ripple Field, an ocean world, is what inspired the Professor Hangar boss fight in Star Fox.

An alternative to breaking your controllers - shooting one!

I wouldn't call HyperZone one of the best shooters ever, but I did have fun with it for awhile. The final level is a boss rehash stage, which is a bit of a cop-out on the designer's part, but the rest offers up some frantic, if not frustrating, shooter action. And most of all, you'll get to see a demo of how the Super NES's Mode 7 and scaling features can take relatively simple backgrounds and sprites and make them look stunning!

HyperZone Links

  • My HyperZone Review - A complete review of this fantastic game.


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