Super Fantasy Zone

Platform:Mega Drive
Other Platforms: PS2, Wii Virtual Console
Developer: Sega/Sunsoft
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1993
Genre: Shoot-em-up - Free Scrolling
Players: 1

Super Fantasy Zone is kind-of a sequel to the original Fantasy Zone. I say kind-of because it doesn't really add that much, like the Master System's Fantasy Zone II, but it feels more like a sequel than that game, probably because it looks relatively close to its arcade fore-father. If anything, it's more like a mission pack- the same basic game underneath, but with a few new weapons, enemies and backdrops. It helps, of course, that the original Fantasy Zone is a fantastic game (dohohoho, what a terrible pun) but are the changes enough?

The basics of Fantasy Zone are that you're Opa-Opa, a sentient flying bug thing, and you have to destroy all the Enemy Generators on each stage, indicated by your radar at the bottom of the screen. Like in Williams' classic Defender, you're free to scroll the screen left or right, and the stage loops around for infinity. Fantasy Zone has a few differences, though, mostly in the form of the Parts Shop. Opa-Opa starts out pretty useless, really- all he has is his Twin-Shot (the standard bullet), Single Bomb )a small but powerful bomb that drops from below) and Small Wings. When you defeat enemies, though, they drop coins, and you can spend the cash in the Parts Shop when it appears. Some of the upgrades include time-limited weapons, Bomb upgrades, Special weapons that have interesting effects (like the Heavy Bomb that sends a 16t. weight falling from the sky), extra lives, and other doodads. However, every time you buy a weapon, its price will go up, so you have to be wise with your shopping habits, especially since once you're out of lives, there's no continuing.

The thing is, the above description applies to both Fantasy Zone and Super Fantasy Zone. There's no major changes in the mechanics, so it feels a bit like a re-hash of the original. Some of the stages are very similar to games from the original arcade game too- there's a grass stage (Plaleaf/Picknica), a volcano stage (Tabas/Kazarne), a desert stage (La Dune/Grandiuss)... It all seems a bit too familiar. To be fair, there are two stages that are quite different- a cavern stage that reduces your field of vision, and a power-plant stage that electrifies the floor- and the bosses manage to avoid being repeats- the axe-head and vacuum-fish bosses in particular are interesting, and take advantage of the fact that Opa-Opa can face both directions during boss fights now- but it still smacks of more of the same. I mean, it's great that there's more Fantasy Zone to go around, it really is, but it really does feel quite familiar...

Well, OK, there's two things that it doesn't quite get right- the difficulty and the graphics. If it got these down pat, then I'd be more willing to give it a perfect 5. The original game is well known for being absolutely brutal, but after a few tries, Super Fantasy Zone is a little too easy- some of the new weapons are extremely useful, to the point where they suck some of the challenge out of the game- and, because the Mega Drive isn't quite as capable as the System-16 hardware that Fantasy Zone runs on, it's not quite as offensively vibrant. It's extremely colourful for a Mega Drive game, of course, but still... I know, this is overwhelmingly negative, isn't it? It's just that I love the Fantasy Zone games, and while this is second best, it doesn't quite achieve the real purpose of a sequel- to be the original, but better. This is the original, but almost to the letter. Not necessarily a bad thing, but had it somehow improved the game and felt less like a repeat, then this would be 5-stars. As it is, it's recommended, but not without reservations.

For being more of the same, Super Fantasy Zone is awarded...

In a sentence, Super Fantasy Zone is...
More of the same, but that's not such a bad thing.

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