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Fantasy Zone

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Released: 1988

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: PC Eng/Turbografx-16

Publisher: NEC

Developer: NEC Avenue

Submitted by: Anthony Staude

Conversion from the arcade.

The aim of the game is to shoot all the enemies in a horizontally scrolling landscape, defeating the boss to progress to the next level.

You control the ship Opa-Opa (yes, odd name), complete with wings to fly and feet for landing gear. There's a primary weapon which shoots lasers and a secondary weapon to drop bombs.

Shooting enemies yields coins which fall and bounce along the ground. Collecting these will allow you to save enough cash to buy upgrades from the shops.

Weapon upgrades are many and various from upgraded lasers weapons and multiple bombs to larger wings or jets for increased speed.

The graphic style of Fantasy Zone is cutesy – which may not appeal to westerners as much as it's intended native Japanese audience. I remember initially thinking "WTF" when I first saw it but after a while i decided that I didn't actually mind the style. I tend to prefer games that are vibrant rather than dull.

The PC Engine version is a competent conversion – better than the Sega Master System version. For instance, on the Master System, during the end of level boss stage, the background disappears to draw the huge end-of-level boss. It's a trick commonly used on less powerful consoles. The huge boss IS the background but scrolled around to look like a large sprite. Very clever work around.

The PC Engine, however, is able to draw the background and the huge multi-part sprite without compromise.

It's a great game and like all power-up shooters, fun to experiment with different weapons (which just don't seem to last long enough, they seem to time out after about 10 seconds).

Not for everyone but worth a look at.

Fantasy Zone

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Released: 1986

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Sega Master System

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Sega

Submitted by: Darran Jones

Sega’s Master System was a wonderful little console that always came second place to Nintendo’s NES. A shame really, as it had some truly cracking arcade conversions available for it that made up in heart and gameplay what their 8-bit visuals and sound often lacked. Every now and then though a title came along that did a remarkable job of capturing the spirit of the original arcade game. Fantasy Zone was one such game.

One of the original cute-’em-ups, Sega’s loony shooter saw you taking control of a sweet little spaceship and blasting your way through some of the brightest, weirdest looking enemies ever seen. Many of the beasties you encountered were some of the strangest aberrations to grace a videogame and provided a unique window into the (no doubt) deranged minds that thought it would make perfect sense to host all these bizarre creations in one game.

Sega was right of course.

Fantasy Zone’s bright, pastel-coloured world and crazy occupants was like no other shooter around and allowed the game to develop a cult following. While the Master System version wasn’t without its faults, it was an extremely faithful port that seldom strayed from its arcade parent. The quirky music, marvellous visuals, outrageous power-ups; everything was ported with near perfect precision; even the huge bizarre bosses had made it across intact.

Sure Fantasy Zone was simple to play, but therein lay its charm. Each level required you to do nothing more than fly back and fourth across the gaudy landscape and take out the many purple bases dotted about each stage. Whenever an opponent was defeated it would drop behind a coin that could then be spent at the shops that floated by. Once tooled up, it was simply a case of clearing the rest of the stage’s enemies and facing off against a big boss…

It’s been superseded by superior versions (including a recent PS2 offering) but Sega’s 8-bit version remains a testament to what its console could do in talented hands.