Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
One of the very oldest and yet one of the best loved Sega games is Fantasy Zone. In the days when a shoot'em up had to be serious, butch and generally macho, FZ was a cute and slightly childish looking one, so it did cause a bit of a stir. It looks well weird, too, but soon everyone realised what a wickedly addictive game it was, and it became world famous! (Hurrah!)
In FZ you are Opa-Opa, a small space person in a bullet-shaped spaceship with little wings and feet, who flies around shooting and bombing a multitude of odd creatures in eight different exotically coloured worlds in the year 6216. You see the Menons are aiming to take over Fantasy Zone by using foreign currency to build their forces. You must recover the coins (by blowing the various Menons to atoms and grabbing the coins) and restore power to the Zone. In order to destroy all the Menons on any one planet, you have to destroy all the bases on that planet. You can either shoot them, or fly above them and throw little bombs onto them.
Planet Mockstar, with its great big burger bases glinting in the sun. (Ahh!)
Plaleaf level in FZ. You may have to turn the colour down on this game!
Look out! A La Lune base station!
Each time you hit one of the Menons, it explodes leaving a coin behind. All you have to do then is collect the coins, by running into them, and you start to build up money. When you have a certain amount of coinage, the Shop floats down from the skies and you bump your nose into it. Inside the shop you can choose new guns and bombs and wings to make your job easier, but only if you've got enough money to buy them. Then you're back in the game again, blasting away.
Each world is completely and wackily different: PLALEAF is a planet of greenery, TABAS is the planet of fire, LA DUNE is the planet of sand, DOLIMICCA is the "super planet", POLARIA is the planet of ice (brrrr!), MOCKSTAR is a planet of clouds, POCARIUS is the planet of water and finally SALFAR is the planet of evil spirits. (There are some other planets in the game, like SOURTHAM, BONT and COULON, but they are only repeats of greenery, sand and fire.)
The parts you can buy in the shop are various types of 'power up' style jobbies. You can get Big Wings, which are faster, Jet Engine, which is faster still, Turbo Engine, which is VERY fast, and Rocket Engine, which goes WHOOSH! Yowser.
Fantasy Zone is one of the great classic shoot'em up arcade games, with one of the most spondiciously original designs of all computer game time. In spite of the outrageously cute graphics, it's actually quite hard to play, and the end of level bosses are so hard to kill as to be virtually impossible. But in spite of that you can learn to beat them if you keep at it, and even SJ has managed to get to level three. Although some would say it's a little bit too fast, we think its pace is actually one of its strengths. There's no good having a shoot'em up if it isn't hard to beat, is there? So if you like shoot'em ups then you must have Fantasy Zone. Incidentally why not try the follow-ups too, Fantasy Zone II and Fantasy Zone: The Maze, while you're at it? FZII is more of the same, and The Maze is like PacMan! Watch this space for more FZ in the near future.
▲ Cute and bright coloured graphics, like toys or cartoons, and dazzling backgrounds.
▼ Sometimes hard to see what’s happening against the backgrounds. What hit me?
▲ Unusual and radical tunes, and musical sound effects which really sing off your nerve ends.
▲ Good use of the Sega sound chip, with no samples.
▼ Too much twiddly widdly can drive you MAD!
▲ Strategic element in what you buy from the shop.
▼ Not much strategy in it, being a case of shooting to stay alive.
▼ Can be a little repetative, even though the backgrounds change.
▲ If you can get through the stage of being killed all the time, you'll be addicted for life. (Coo!)
▼ If you can't stop being wasted, you'll possibly give up. Sometimes a bit too fast.
▼ Bosses are next to impossible to beat! (But it can be done.)
A fast, hard and addictive shoot'em up with a very original look to it. Weird, but huge mounds of fun.