In other news, I got the XML reading thingy implemented for the sprite landscape. So with literally ten minutes' work I was able to change the environment from this:
...simply by writing a new XML file describing how to generate the map. Now, the main objection one may raise here is that it certainly looks like ten minutes' work. That is true. I'm going to have to prove to my satisfaction that I can create something of the visual fidelity I'm interested in for this game before proceeding. The bar I'm going for is the classic Sega Super Scaler games in general and After Burner in particular, so at least technology-wise it's within my reach, but art-wise is a different question entirely. There are a lot of subtleties to drawing the sort of sprites these games use that I definitely don't have a handle on yet.