Fantasy Zone has always been one of the best series on Sega’s consoles and the Master System games are arguably the best of the bunch, so it was great when they were announced for the 3D Classics range. It’s a little odd to be getting the second game first but the fact it’s here at all is something to be celebrated.
A mixture of cute and surreal, the Fantasy Zone series has long been known for its very bright and colourful graphical style and the fact it’s also pretty damn tough. The move to the 3DS has allowed for the graphics to really come alive and the limitations presented by the Master System are obviously not now in place. This means we get the true vision of the game developers wanted and it’s never looked better.
The 3D effect is not particularly amazing and certainly not up to the standard of Outrun or Space Harrier (for obvious reasons). It does however provide a subtle extra spark to the game without making it mind blowing, but there is only so much you can do with a game set on a 2D plane anyway.
Players are tasked with flying their little ship left and right with the aim of blasting all the bases that produce monsters. Once the last base has been destroyed you are thrown into a battle with the end of level boss. It’s a bit like Defender without the rescuing mechanic. You can also move over to the ‘dark’ version of each level if you want an extra challenge.
Bosses are inventive and huge. They often have small weak spots which you need to blast and fast reactions will be needed to have any chance at all. For instance – the first boss is a giant tree who requires his Pinocchio-esque nose to be shot back into his head. While doing this you need to navigate a constantly moving maze of logs. It’s tough and it only gets more difficult the further you get.
Luckily, there are a few things to help players along the way. First of all a new level select has been added to allow players to start from any level they have previously reached. As you only have three lives to complete the game this is most welcome. You can also buy upgrades for your ship but most of them have a very limited timed use so don’t expect to be taking on the boss with some kind of super laser.
The main thing is that the game is still fun to play in short bursts. The bosses can present big sticking points but then this is a title that first came out in 1987. The core game is still very good and the subtle improvements and additions should make it just about palatable for gamers used to more modern fare.
Overall, it is great to see a game like Fantasy Zone II make it into the 3D Classics range. If you are a fan of the original then there is nothing here to put you off and you should check it out right away. Newcomers may find it tough, but it’s an inventive game that still stands out and if you are up for a challenge then there is a lot of fun to be had.