Fantasy Zone is weird. I mean that in a good way, of course. The game centers around a strange spaceship called Opa-Opa (along with his brother Upa-Upa) fighting to rescue the titular Fantasy Zone from a rather adorable, extremely colorful scourge of evil. It’s one of the earliest examples of taking a typical side-scrolling shoot’em up and injecting it with a more humorous story and pastel colors to boot. Later games like Parodius and TwinBee heavily borrow from this template.
Each stage is loaded with enemy-manufacturing bases you’ll destroy to access the level’s boss. The screen scrolls in both directions so you can hunt down and destroy the bases. In some ways the game is reminiscent of Defender, where you have total control over which direction to scroll the screen. The gameplay is simple, but challenging. You roam around a planet’s surface, defeating enemy crafts, destroying bases, and collecting money to purchase upgrades. Once all of the bases are obliterated, a colorful boss character appears to challenge the intrepid spaceship for dominance over the Fantasy Zone itself.
The graphics are beautifully rendered with a subtle cartoon quality to them, invoking an anime style similar to the cuter games in the genre. Enemy ships come in an array of bizarre forms, like flying hands, big-nosed critters, green scissor creatures, and some of the weirdest aliens this side of the Andromeda galaxy.
The sound effects are a bit pedestrian, while the music maintains the same goofy, cartoonish quality as the graphics/animation. The music is catchy, with a distinctive Sega arcade audio style.
All modes feature smooth character movement and intuitive controls for your ship’s two weapons (a beam and bombs). Power-ups range from wave beams to lasers. Bombs are useful for destroying bases from above, but you’ll probably find yourself using the beams most often.
There are a few modes included in the game. The classic mode gives you the full arcade experience. You collect gold from defeated enemies, using it to purchase both speed and weapon power-ups. Weapons run out after awhile and must be purchased again. Strategizing which weapons to use during each stage is a good challenge and it’s fun to experiment with different combinations of weapons, speed accessories, and levels.
Time attack mode is essentially the same experience, but now you try to win as fast as possible. Managing your speed power-ups is the most important part of this mode and provides a unique experience to that of the main game.
Upa-Upa mode is unique in that it allows you to use any weapon at any time, as long as you have gold. Gold is acquired by destroying certain enemies, so this mode incentivizes blasting as many critters as possible. Play control is slightly different in this mode as well.
Fantasy Zone can be difficult at times, especially when there are hordes of enemies flying toward you or a boss unleashes a maelstrom of projectiles that are impossible to dodge effectively. However, it never becomes overwhelming and maintains a level of fun throughout each stage. With its alternate modes and addicting gameplay, this entry in the Sega Ages series provides hours of fun and superb replayability.
Colorful and filled with mind-boggling beauty, this game has some of the finest graphics in the Sega Ages collection yet. Whether the game is new to you or you grew up playing it, Fantasy Zone continues the Sega Ages tradition of extra modes, additional value, and fine remastering to create a modern retro experience for players of all ages.
Sega Ages Fantasy Zone Review
- Graphics - 8.5/108.5/10
- Sound - 8.5/108.5/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
At its core, Fantasy Zone is a shoot ’em up title with a few cool twists, making it a game you’ll want to revisit over and over again.
Based in Colorado, David Buck is an author, musician, and media specialist. In his spare time, he composes music, writes science fiction, and builds scale models, mostly starships and movie cars.