Title: Fantasy Zone SEGA Ages
Available on: Nintendo Switch
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Official Site: https://segaages.sega.com/project/fantasy-zone/
Release Date: Out Now
Fantasy Zone is a side-scrolling shoot-em-up that first released in arcades back in 1986 and proved to be an extremely popular title in Japan. It even had its own manga and was also seen in an episode of Muppet Babies.
It’s a game I’ve owned for much of my life on the SEGA Mega Drive, yet I’ve never managed to complete it. Thanks to the SEGA Ages series, I have been given another chance to do so on the Nintendo Switch.
Spoiler alert, I still can finish it, so that’s the question of my skills answered. The only questions that remain are how is the port of Fantasy Zone, and will I be petty and score it 1 star out of frustration?
The Ages ports have done a great job of bringing older games to new audiences while offering a host of new options to make things more accessible. The same is valid here. Purists will have access to the original game, while others will be able to make things more manageable.
Fantasy Zone has been labeled as a cute-em-up, and it’s easy to see why thanks to the bright, vivid colors displayed on the screen. It couldn’t feel more at home on a Nintendo console. Looks can be deceiving though, as underneath the bright exterior lies a fairly difficult shooter.
The game stars Opa-Opa, a sentient spaceship with wings, because why not? In each level, players control Opa-Opa from left to right in order to destroy a number of bases before fighting an end of level boss.
Each level is split up into segments that are shown at the bottom of the screen, the only downside is you will always start in the same one meaning that there can sometimes be a long way to go upon death.
Opa starts out with standard bullets as well as bombs that can be dropped. There are a number of enemies throughout each level as well as the bases that need to be shot and things can often descend into bullet hell territory.
Thankfully, after collecting coins from vanquished foes, the ship can be upgraded. New weapons can be purchased as well as upgrades for the ship that can increase things such as speed. These upgrades become a thing of necessity as things progress.
What I like about the port is the range of options available. You can play full screen if you want to (don’t), you can have boarders that show what weapons you currently have or a more detailed map. Things like that. They don’t really change the gameplay but are helpful.
Out with the old
If you’ve played Fantasy Zone before you’ll know exactly what to expect. A fun yet difficult shooter that will often put your character too close to the edge of the screen and cause cheap deaths. I’m not bitter at all.
You can play the USA or Japanese versions, but there are also two other game modes present. Upa-Upa mode and time attack. Both of these have become my favorite way of playing Fantasy Zone, with time attack just edging it out to be my favorite.
Upa-Upa mode is the base game but it does away with the weapons upgrades. Instead, each upgrade is available from the start and can be cycled through with the shoulder buttons. The difference here is that using them costs money.
This gives an added pressure to collect coins along the way lest you be stuck with the bog-standard bullets. It is a fun addition.
The reason I love time attack the most is that it enables me to learn the game. I still can’t finish it yet, but someday I shall. It does away with points completely and is purely about finishing the game as quickly as you can. Each segment is announced on the screen too when you destroy a base or reach a boss etc.
Death is no longer important as all it means is a delay to the time. You’re free to die as many times as needed and this can make the game a war of attrition. I liked just being able to play though and keep going until I passed a section or got fed up.
Getting through a difficult section does feel great and is all the better when you watch the saved replay from the main menu.
In with the old
Despite the new additions, anyone who didn’t enjoy this game in the past will not enjoy it now. I love it, but I am just not skilled enough to complete it. I actually count myself as quite good at bullet hells, however, it can be difficult to see the actual bullets here as they can often blend in with the background.
I will probably be playing Fantasy Zone for a long time to come, especially now I can easily do so on the Switch. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone to give a try. At $7.99 it is pretty good value and is enjoyable and well worth the price.
Verdict: Fantasy Zone is a classic game that I’m glad is now hitting a new audience. It looks and sounds wonderful and seeing your spaceship grow legs and walk will always be satisfying. The cute looks do hide a challenging game. It’s well worth a download.
Fantasy Zone SEGA AGES Switch Review
- Looks beautiful
- Plays great and is still fun
- New modes are brilliant
- Very hard (also a good point)
- Can be hard to see bullets
- Being too close to the screen edge sometimes is annoying