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Fantasy Zone Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1986 Also On: None

Ah, the “shooter” game. “Shooter” is a generic term usually applied to
certain titles that tend to follow the same format. Said format is simple;
you control some sort of flying object and shoot at enemies, collect
power-ups and usually take out bosses until you reach the end. Over the
years there have been a number of excellent titles in this genre. Back in
the early NES days you had classics like Gradius and then Life Force. For
the Famicom you had genius like Parodius. The Master System had its share of
shooters as well, but there is one that till this day remains to be matched
for any system, anywhere. Of course, based on today’s standards it’s hardly
anything, but if you factor in everything including time period and
capabilities, to mention only two, there is no question. It’s one of the
oddest assimilations of this genre you’ll ever find and one of the greatest
games ever programmed.

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Fantasy Zone bursts right out at you with incredible graphics. It was
originally in the arcade and dang close on the SMS to its first appearance
as a coin-op. The graphics have some nice detail and the range of colors is
incredible. They laid out some really, bright, abstract (or as the box says
“amorphic”) designs. The enemies look so odd sometimes that it’s worth it
just to check them out alone. The bosses are large and well detailed with
plenty of oddity all over the place, but not so much that it seems they were
trying to ride on it. Plus, there are tons of little details you may not
notice at first that really draw it all together. For example, when you
bring Opa-Opa down to the ground, he sprouts these tiny legs to run with.
Nice touch. This is one of the most incredible presentations I’ve ever seen
in a video game. If you consider the time period, it’s even more incredible.
The last boss, though true to the real deal, is a bit haphazard and doesn’t
quite look at good as the rest of the game, but overall Fantasy Zone
presents well.

I think this may be the game with one of the most memorable soundtrack I’ve
ever come across. It fits perfectly with the design, which gets high marks
in my book. The themes are so unique and fresh, even up to the present day.
I found the boss themes to be especially well done, with perfect structures
and harmonies. Nice drive and atmosphere throughout. The sound effects are
well-placed and I suppose you could say they “match” exactly what you would
expect to hear from some of these creatures and weapons. Can’t score any
higher than this. I think I’m spoiled now.

Fantasy Zone takes basic shooter genre gameplay and tweaks it. Most shooters
have you moving a single direction continuously until you make it to the
end, sometimes throwing in vertical scrolling instead of horizontal for
variety. Regardless, they all move continuously in one direction. Not here.
Each world is basically an endless loop. If you can imagine the landscape
inside your television circling around to the back, that’s basically what it
is. You can move left or right and stay in one direction as long as you want
to just come back around again.

Opa-Opa, your main character, can shoot or drop bombs. Instead of just
blasting away and taking on a boss at the end of every level, however, you
have little goals to complete. There are what are called “bases” on every
level. While moving around avoiding and/or blasting different enemies, you
have to take each one of these things out to progress. When you do, you’ll
move over to the right and enter boss turf where you’ll take on some
absolutely massive monsters. They’re pretty tough most of the time.

Luckily, you collect cash from different enemies and bases with which you
can enter the floating shop that appears now and then. When it comes by, you
just touch it and enter a purchasing interface where you can pick up
different weapons, speed attachments, extra lives, and bombs. You can either
equip them or save them for the bosses. I strongly suggest saving the weapon
upgrades, aside from bombs, for the bosses because you have a time limit on
them. I found that annoying at first, but it really adds to the difficulty
later on. Just press pause to access the screen again and select your
weapons. Because of the Master System’s notorious “pause on the console” I
had to score just a bit lower here. In addition, the price of the weapons
goes up as you purchase them, and if you’re not careful with what you buy
when you buy it, by the end you’ll be completely destroyed by level enemies
and the final boss. It would have been nice if the shops were stationary
and you could access them when you wanted to, they tend to appear at the
beginning of each level and only much later if you wait awhile without
destroying all the bases. They fix this in the sequel, but let’s pretend we
didn’t know that.

That’s all you really need to know, there are eight levels in all.
Unfortunately, as with a number of SMS games, you only have three lives. A
continue feature really would have been excellent because this game is
pretty rough at the outset, but I’m not going to lower the score because I
can’t really think of any shooter games where you have continues that aren’t
a hidden cheat. It is quite beatable and takes a ton of practice, but the
difficulty could possibly steer less patient players away.

This is one heck of a creative game. There is just so much here I could go
on about it’s insane. I don’t want to tire you with too much here since I’ve
said a lot already, but trust me, this is one of the most creative games
you’ll ever set your eyes on. They way they take a classic genre and
completely set the bar way above the rest is amazing. I really have to give
the programmers credit here because they’ve done a great job and sadly this
game is sometimes overlooked, not as many people know about it as I think

Fantasy Zone is a wonderful game that I’ll certainly play in the future
again. The difficulty level is high enough that it will take you some time
to complete it, seeing as how you need to learn when to buy items and find
the hidden tricks that will help you finish it easier. It has plenty of
uniqueness to it, an incredible presentation and a nice difficulty setting.
I assure you you’ll have a lot of fun with this one. I wouldn’t call it
perfect, but it’s one of the best Master System games out there and one of
the greatest shooters of all time.

Fantasy Zone has probably the highest replay value of any game I’ve ever
played and one of the most nearly perfect arrangements ever. It doesn’t seem
too long and there is plenty to offer. I found the weapon shop to be an
excellent idea, so that instead of just collecting different power-ups, you
have the opportunity to decide what you want when you want it, although you
can only get what you want on a single occasion most of the time. The price
increase is a bit annoying too, because eventually it’s just too high.
Regardless, such flaws in a game like this are almost too minor to note and
I highly recommend anyone reading this to finally purchase a Master System.
Get this game with it and you’re hooked.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 10
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9.5
Written by Stan Review Guide