In this world of almost unlimited access to video games through emulation, we forget sometimes that once certain games were only released in selected countries. I myself used to own a Honey Bee, which allowed me to play Japanese games on my Mega Drive. Although ported to consoles around the world, as far as I can tell, the Fantasy Zone arcade cabinet could only be found in Japan. It proved very popular in Japan and so it is anyone’s guess as to why it was never exported to Europe or the US.
Fantasy Zone is a side-scrolling shooter developed and released by Sega. It was released for the arcade in 1986 and was later ported to the Master System, MSX, NES, Sharp X68000 and PC Engine. Each port contained slight alterations to the game. Later releases include:
- PlayStation 2 as part of Sega Classics Collection (1996), although there were some very noticeable changes to the graphics.
- Sega Saturn as part of Sega Ages (1997)
- Mobile devices in 2002 and 2003
- Virtual Console (2008)
- PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009)
- Nintendo 3DS (3D port) as part of 3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Bros. (2014).
For this review, I played the version found onSonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).
The Fantasy Zone, a solar system with 8 planets, is under threat from the evil Menons who are using foreign money, acquired by illicit means, to build a force of flying monsters. You must destroy the Menons and recover as many coins as possible along the way.
You control a sentient spaceship called Opa-Opa. Armed with your Twin Shot gun and single bombs, you have 8 stages to conquer. In each stage you must destroy 10 specific ships in order to collect the coins they drop. Once you have collected all the coins from one planet, you can move on to the next…after a boss battle, of course. Oh, and unlike many shooters I’ve played, this one allows you to turn around and fly in the opposite direction.
Throughout the stages, you will occasionally see a balloon which has the word ‘Shop’ written across it. Flying into these balloons will allow you access the shop and spend your hard-earned coins on upgrades and weapons:
Shot Type Upgrades:
- Wide Beam – Damages over a wider area than your Twin Shot
- Laser Beam – Incredibly powerful laser
- 7-Way Shot – Shoots in 7 directions at once
Bomb Type Upgrades:
- Twin Bombs – Launches two bombs at once
- Fire Bombs – When it hits its target, it fires out a blast in two directions destroying everything in its path
- Smart Bomb – Damages every enemy on the screen
- Heavy Bomb – Drop to smash through anything it comes into contact with.
Speedup Parts (Each upgrade allows your ship to fly faster):
- Big Wings
- Jet Engine
- Turbo Engine
- Rocket Engine
- Extra Life
Weapons and bomb power-ups have a limited number of ammo. When they run out, your ship will revert back to your default weapon.
Beware, one hit from an enemy and your ship will get destroyed, losing and power-ups you have bought!
How Does It Handle?
The controls are very responsive, allowing you to quickly evade enemies. You can keep your thumb on the fire button to release a steady stream of fire, or quickly tap the fire button for more rapid fire.
As the levels progress, the main enemies you need to kill require more hits to be destroyed and the screen becomes busier with smaller enemies increasing the level difficulty.
This game is very bright and colourful. There is plenty to look at and take in and the many enemy creatures are nicely illustrated and animated. At first glance, you can be forgiven for thinking this is aimed at kids. After all, compared to the likes of Alcon, Darius and Lifeforce (also released in 1986) the graphics have a very cartoon-like feel. These graphics will sit well with some but not with others who may desire a more adult look to their games.
Music and SFX
I quite like the music. It has a good beat and I found myself bopping along to it as I attempted to evade the many flying enemies. The change in tone to a lower register for the boss battles adds a feeling of danger. You find yourself saying “Right, here we go”.
When shooting the enemies where you gain the main coins from, the noise changes slightly which I though was a nice touch, and there is a satisfying ‘boing’ sound when you blow up the smaller flying enemies.
There is an addictiveness to this game as well as an element of competition in two-player mode. It is a pity that two players can’t play at the same time but it is understandable as it would likely take away the option to scroll the screen in both directions.
Did I Complete The Game?
At present, I can only get to the third planet.
What The Critics Said:
At present, I have been unable to find a contemporary review for the arcade version.
“It may look cute, but it doesn’t play cute. This game is a real challenge! Bright and colourful, with nice music, its simplicity is also its appeal.”
What are your memories of Fantasy Zone? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.