Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Game Gear Games #3

Fantasy Zone Gear (1991)
By: Sanritsu / Sega  Genre: Shooting  Players:  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega Game Gear  First Day Score: 42,400
Also Available For: Nothing

Sega's Game Gear was a pretty decent little (or perhaps not so little) machine but it wasn't blessed with too many exclusive releases. In the last GG post I looked at one type of exclusive - a completely unique game that can't be found anywhere else. Another is this kind - a sequel or update to an existing franchise. In this case it's a franchise that was already represented in most Sega domains but would the small and intricate nature of their garish shooter series suit a system like the GG? The Fantasy Zone games are seemingly loved and hated in equal measure but I'm definitely in the former camp so I was very eager to find out, especially since it's a whole new entry in the series rather than a port of an existing game which, as hinted at by the sub-title - The Adventures of Opa-Opa Jr. - actually features Opa-Opa's son!

The story varies depending on which version of the game you're playing but all pit you against the might of the evil Menon War Fleet once again. There are seven stages, each represented by a different themed planet and on all but the last you must take down all of the large enemy bases that occupy the side-viewed, looped landscape which push-scrolls in either direction. Formations of small enemies move across all parts of the screen which produce coins when shot, much like the bases themselves, and speed-ups, extra weapons, and various other accessories can be bought in the shop which appears at the start of each stage. As expected, it's all pretty familiar stuff and includes all the main features of previous games whilst introducing no new ones of its own, but the big question is: does the concept lose anything on this particular format?

There are two main differences between this game and previous entries in the series. Firstly, the graphics are rather less garish than usual. There is some flicker when too many things occupy the same 'row' on the screen but generally the GG has done a great job of coping with the distinctive visual style of the series. Everything is drawn in the same style and include some varied and colourful sprites and some amusing base designs. The backgrounds are detailed and nicely designed, including some very memorable ones as usual, but they are quite a bit more 'faded' than in previous games. This is presumably to make it easier to see what's going on which is even more important than usual owing to the other main difference, namely that the perspective is more zoomed-in than normal which makes the notoriously tough gameplay of Fantasty Zone even more demanding!

The bosses aren't as creative as usual though, and later ones are extremely tough. Even via emulation with the benefit of 'save states' some of them can seem nearly impossible! Aside from the increase in an already-high difficulty level though, this is the same sort of game as we already know and love. Or hate, I suppose - some gamers really don't get on with the gaudy looks and unforgiving gameplay of the Fantasy Zone games and this one won't do anything to change their minds. I've always liked them though, so found this a very enjoyable instalment. It looks different enough and has some great, catchy tunes as usual, and there's even a couple of new power-ups in the shop to try out (including an amusing-looking shield). It does feel a bit cramped compared to the other games and it's still a sweaty-palms, nerve-shredding game that'll probably have you smashing countless control pads (or console screens in this case) but I don't really think Sega could've done a better job with it either.

RKS Score: 7/10


  1. I didn't realize that some gamers dislike the Fantasy Zone series, although I guess it makes sense. Some folks just don't like pastels and/or really difficult shmups, I guess.

    Anyway, I like the look of this one and plan on picking it up as soon as I get my hands on a GG later this year. Thankfully, I have big hands :P

  2. Yeah, it seems to be something of a love/hate game in my experience but I'm glad to know another big fan of the series! :) Of the other games, it reminded me more of FZ2 I think, but it's great fun in its own right as well. Not sure if it's pricey to buy but it must be one of the GG's best shmups :)