I’ve played many Japanese games, ones that are just flat out surreal and mostly suitable for a Japanese audience or you just like things you never usually see, but there is a game from Sega that when you look at the art style of it, it’s just beautiful, it’s one of those games where you take a good look at it and you really appreciate what’s there, this is Fantasy Zone (ファンタジーゾーン Fantajī Zōn), developed and published by Sega and was released in the arcades on March 20, 1986. This is a shoot ’em up that do things differently from the usual types you saw with others. In fact this and Twinbee were the first examples of cute ’em ups.
In the space year 1422 (or 6216 in the Master System version), the Fantasy Zone was cast in panic at the collapse of the interplanetary monetary system. The Space Guild brings to light the plans of the planet Menon, whose forces are stealing the other planets’ currencies to fund a huge fortress in the Fantasy Zone. Opa-Opa is sent to stop the invading army and discover who is behind it. Oh and it has a twist at the end. Very complex story for something surreal.
You play as the small ship with legs, Opa-Opa, as you shoot anything that moves and collect money from them and these enemies are that of something from a drug trip, some enemies you can never tell what they are supposed to be, the way they move around is quite strange. The objective of the game is to destroy bases that spawn the enemies, there are a number of them each level, after destroying them all, you fight the boss and they’re just as weird and somehow creative as the normal enemies.
Unlike usual shoot ’em ups, where you automatically go right, it’s a free-roaming game where you can move left and right, similar to Defender, the only time the game gets fixed in one place are the bosses. During the game a balloon will pop out of nowhere, this is a shop and you can buy many items if you have the cash, I usually buy a big wing and a wide shot because it’s easier that way. But buying new weapons do have time limits so use them to the best of your ability.
Speaking of difficulty, it’s very difficult to come up with how hard it is, the bosses get difficult which is normal but the levels depends, in order to defeat enemies, you must destroy the bases so less enemies spawn, making it less harder when you need to shoot the remaining enemies on screen.
The music is very loud and vibrant, it has full of life and it fits well into the game, but the icing on the cake is the graphics, I really love the pastel art style, it’s literally has a fantasy feel to it, when you have a game called Fantasy Zone, you’re going to get what you imagine.
My only issue is the engine upgrades, which make you accelerate too quickly, since the enemies move just as fast as you it makes it difficult to shoot anything.
Did you know? Opa-Opa was considered to be Sega’s first mascot, even before Alex Kidd, Opa-Opa appeared in an anime Zillion which was based of a Sega Master System game with the same name. He also had his own one-shot manga called Fantasy Zone Isei Kara no Shinryaku-sha.
Overall, it’s a surprisingly fun shoot-em up, it’s also the nicest looking shoot em’ up, it’s one of my favourite Sega arcade games and it still holds up today, but it will be difficult to figure out what the enemies are supposed to be or look like…but man does it have a depressing ending.
You can get it on Arcade, Famicom/NES, Microsoft Windows, MSX, PC Engine/TurboGrafx 16, PlayStation 2, Sega Game Gear, Sega Mark III/Master System, Sega Saturn, X68000 and Wii Virtual Console.