Trippy Games: Fantasy Zone series part 1

Fantasy Zone started out in the arcades but was later ported to like every console ever including the SEGA Master System. For an 8-bit game the visuals and pace are impressive. Piloting the tiny ship Opa-Opa feels fast and fluid. He even dies quickly. And a lot. Fantasy Zone follows the trend of my gaming habits where the cuter and more colorful a game tends to be, the more I swear while playing it. Fantasy Zone is a shit-hard game. The player starts out with 2 lives and buying more costs 2500 bucks a pop. Every death is a one hit kill and a game over forces you to restart the game.

I’ve watched youtube playthroughs of Fantasy Zone and I swear they’re hoaxes. There is no way this game has a second level. I’m convinced that there is one stage then the final boss is this guy.

Note: This is the first boss

You’d think the game would give us a password feature or a stage select cheat but I guess that would dampen the arcade experience. For an 8-bit console, the game recreates the arcade visuals pretty accurately. The colors are a little flatter but they definitely show off the Master System’s palette. Sometimes it gets a little garish and annoying but overall it looks great.

Haters gonna hate

The story, which I guess is explained in the manual because the game just throws you into combat, is that the forces of the planet Menon are stealing other planets’ currencies to fund a huge fortress in the Fantasy Zone. This also explains why money falls out of enemies, which you can use to buy upgrades for Opa-Opa’s ship like bigger wings, weapons and a jet.

The story really isn’t handled well. The least we could ask for is a text crawl at the beginning. We do, however, get one at the end. After the final boss is revealed to be… a giant Opa-Opa? What?

I don’t really get what’s- oh wait there’s some exposition coming.

Oooooooh. It was Opa-Opa’s dad. Who, I guess flies a bigger spaceship. Notice how the text that comes at the end of the game has to explain to us who Opa-Opa is. That really just illustrates how poorly the story was implemented in this game and maybe was a little unnecessary? Does our cute-em-up about a tiny spaceship with wings shooting things really need an overcomplicated story about interplanetary monetary systems? By the way, that’s the name of my chiptune band.

The wacked out imagery in this game is like some bad trip a guy went on after dropping 2 acid tabs and wandering around his friend’s barbecue. Tiny bugs and lawn ornaments appear to be attacking him from all sides. He just needs to fling pocket change at people to upgrade his bombs (beer) to a double bomb (two beers).

"Why is Ted throwing things at the tiki torch?" "Oh, he just drank a kiddie pool full of LSD."

The game may be super damn difficult but it’s also great fun. Fantasy Zone’s arcade-y gameplay makes it easy to pick up anytime. Pop it into your Master System when you have some time to kill and want your intelligence insulted a little.

Appropriate drug of choice: Trap a swarm of gnats in a net during mating season. Pick the wings off, grind them into a fine dust and sprinkle it into your eyes. This is called a Gnatzi.

  • grolt

    I always loved the total downer of an ending to this game, and how the second game went even darker by having the subtitle “The Tears of Opa-Opa”. For a game that looks so cute, it takes some nuts to go with a name like that.

    When it comes to shmups, the first two Fantasy Zones are top of the pack for me. Love the day glow colors (to me that’s always been SEGA’s most identifiable game trait). The bosses are all really unique and interactive. I like how when you shoot a part of one, it’s color will change, showing you’ve made an impact. So many 8-bit games just keep the sprite the same, never letting you know how much damage you’re doing or sometimes even if you’re doing any damage at all.

    Having the shops always gave the series a nice little RPG element, which was another thing that separated SEGA games from the pack back in the day (like how their platformers like Alex Kidd in Miracle World or Wonder Boy II/III, or their hack and slash games like Kenseiden or Ghouls’n Ghosts all had stores and such).

    The port is near flawless except for some slowdown when you use rapid fire (and in this game, you pretty much have to). The second game is even bigger and more impressive, although still has rapid fire slowdown issues.

    Nice review and thanks for sharing. Love the Skywalker pic, ha!

  • grolt

    Oh, and if you thought that ending was weird and out of place, check out this gem of gems…it will seriously blow your mind:

  • homietheclown

    Back in the day I used to be able to beat Fantasy Zone without dying. I haven’t played the game in years but this article inspired me to fire it up again on the SMS.

    I Made it to the level 7 end boss on my first go around. He then promptly wiped the floor with me as I had forgotten how fast he gets.

    Awesome game!

  • Skrams

    The Treelike thing being a boss isn’t too strange. Kirby did it as well. Also I have this on Sonic Genesis Collection but have yet to finish it. Need to get around to doing that.

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