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Fantasy Zone: The Maze Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1988 Also On: None

First there was Fantasy Zone, a spectacular shooter so unique it redefined
the genre. Then came the incredible sequel, Fantasy Zone II (technically
carrying the “The Tears of Opa-Opa” with it). It was destined to be that
Sega would then develop a new title to create the Fantasy Zone trilogy
before possibly moving further with the series. Fantasy Zone III,
unfortunately, never was. Instead, for some strange reason, they decided to
do something different. The concept behind Fantasy Zone, instead of being
applied to another shooter title, was applied to the already classic “arcade
maze” genre made famous by Pac-Man, but abused by Sega. Fantasy Zone: The
Maze isn’t necessarily a bad title really, it’s actually kind-of fun, but
it’s a disappointing end to an otherwise superb series. Sega would later
attempt to redeem themselves in the 16-Bit era, but this little bugger still
remains, festering. I’m really not sure why they did this.

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I’m pretty dang disappointed with the graphics here. The title screen is
totally tame and almost childish in the way the colors and details have been
displayed; it looks like something done on a computer paint program.
However, the game proper is where it gets really pathetic. Sega did
little, if anything, to put this game together. The backgrounds are taken
directly from the first game in the series, with no alteration other than
the fact they don’t look as good. They’re entirely worthless anyway since
they’re covered over with the actual mazes, but I suppose this is how they
attempted to give some variety. In addition, every enemy you face has been
lifted from Fantasy Zone, just made smaller and sometimes a bit too small
though there was so attempt at making them look detailed. I wouldn’t expect
much from a Pac-Man style game, but come on, do something different. They
simply took everything from the first game and just reused it, there is
little difference here at all other than the actual black mazes. Shame,

Here we go again. As if they couldn’t lift enough as it was, they had to
nearly take all of the sound and music from Fantasy Zone as well. The level
themes are the same and the sound effects are all the same thing
essentially. I seriously couldn’t notice any difference at all, and even if
there was a bit of difference to be found I wouldn’t care because I hate
when programmers reuse older games without doing anything. More of the
same, people, nothing new. They could have done something, at least there
is a tiny, teeny-weeny bit of difference in the graphics. Still, I do have
to say the sound is good, regardless if it was hand-me-down. This doesn’t
raise the score though.

The gameplay here is borrowed, but it still has its own little quirks to
make you at least want to try it out. Basically, since I know everyone is
familiar with Pac-Man, it’s the same thing. You have to go around the
mazes, avoiding enemies and collecting all of the coins. However, there are
several differences that make it stand out a bit. First, there’s this
circle in the middle of every maze that slowly fills with red, and if it
gets full these “sparks” fly out to the bases floating in the level and they
release more enemies for you to deal with. Thus, you have to budget your
time with collecting coins and watching this circle if you don’t want to get
leveled. In addition, the coins you pick up can be used to purchase weapons
and items in the mazes. They appear in little circles, usually near the
corners, and you get bombs and different types of guns, as well as speed
power-ups. One them turns you into an indestructible, extremely quick
fireball. Sometimes extra lives or special icons appear in the lower left
and I think it has something to do with how you play but I couldn’t figure
anything out.

That’s about it though. You start with four lives and no continues. There
are seven levels in all with three stages each and one bonus level each.
After you beat the first seven, you go through four repeat levels that are
harder, but the last I remember only has two instead of three levels.
Something like that. So it’s essentially the same as Pac-Man with the
additional features mentioned above, plus one thing that really picks up the
gameplay score. This game features a superb two-player, simultaneous
feature. Definitely a lot of fun to try it out and it makes the game much
easier to get through. If you go at it solo you’ll find it incredibly
difficult in the later levels. A continue feature, for this reason, would
have been nice. The ending is unfortunately lame text and it’s not nearly
as hilarious as the first two Fantasy Zone games.

Here we go again. I’ve had this happen before. I can’t call this game very
creative at all. Sure, it throws in some interesting features to make it
fun, but they’re not enough to take away from two important facts. One,
this game is entirely lifted from the first Fantasy Zone with little
variation. And two, it’s basically just Pac-Man, there’s really nothing
different about it if you look at the basic format. As such, I have to
score low, it’s really nothing unique.

I really wouldn’t come back to play this again all by myself, but I might if
someone else wanted to try it out. It’s just too difficult to want to go
through it again and with the lame ending they give you I have no reason to
want to see it. The game length is acceptable, I suppose, though a bit too
long. They should have ended it after the last part of level seven. The
four additional levels, since they’re just repeats of the first four, only
harder, was annoying and tedious. Could have done without them and should
have done without them.

In conclusion I have to say I’m generally quite disappointed with Fantasy
Zone: The Maze. When I found the sequel to Fantasy Zone, I was so amazed I
couldn’t wait to find out what came next. When I learned about this I was
skeptical at first, and obviously with good reason. One of the biggest
mistakes in video game programming is using another idea and adjusting just
a little here and there because it’s so obvious you tried to simply cash in
on the concept and it’s a total embarrassment. Sure, shooting at the enemies
is kind of neat, but it’s not enough to avoid the obvious. Sega shot for
the load using the least amount of effort possible. It’s strange too, I’m
not sure why they did this. My only theory is that, due to the NES having
the stranglehold on the market in the US and Tengen having rights to
Pac-Man, possibly they could simply not pick up the license for the Master
System and did the next best thing. However, in Europe they released both
Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Mania, so I’m still uncertain why this happened. I
think the Nintendo issue is the most likely cause, since the SMS did better
abroad, so perhaps, due to Ms. Pac-Man not being released in Europe for the
NES, Sega was able to get a hold of the license over there. Back in the
day, though, when they couldn’t, this appears to have been their best bet.
I wouldn’t have done it, regardless of Pac-Man’s popularity, they should
have made another shooter. Fantasy Zone: The Maze is not the worst game,
but not something I’d waste time locating.

Graphics: 4.5
Sound: 4
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 2.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 6
Final: 4.8
Written by Stan Review Guide