In this month’s edition of Getting Good, we’re coming in hot with a two-part guide on one of the games that defined my childhood, in particular. As a ‘90s kid, I wasn’t really old enough to experience the arrival and boom of video games in the early ‘80s. I could only read about how games were back then while playing on my NES (my first console). However, I vividly remember playing a certain unlicensed game on a friend’s NES, a Sega game by the name of Fantasy Zone.
Back then, this game was a dream to play; an absolute fever dream, that is. Regarded as one of the so-called “cute ‘em ups,” which is a subgenre of regular shoot ‘em ups, these games are like your typical space shooters, but with a very adorable and colorful aesthetic. I recently ran into Fantasy Zone once again since, due to its popularity in Japan, it got ported both to the Wii and the 3DS, so I guess today’s as good as any day to write a Getting Good on this classic.
What is it?
Without diving too much into the story, Fantasy Zone is set in the year 6216, in a time where the interplanetary monetary system is currently collapsing, with the eponymous Fantasy Zone sent into a universal panic. As it turns out, the evil planet Menon is stealing other planets’ currencies to fund the construction of a mega fortress. You play as Opa-Opa and travel through many worlds to put an end to the nefarious nation’s schemes.
While not very popular today, Opa-Opa’s design was actually quite famous back then, even going on to become regarded as one of Sega’s first mascots, far before Sonic rushed into the spotlight.
The game is played in stages with a number of bases in each. The objective is to control Opa-Opa and destroy all the bases to make the stage boss appear. Once defeated, the player can proceed to the next level. There are a total of 8 levels to beat, with a variety of enemies and challenges at every turn.
Controls and Basic Gameplay
Despite featuring a somewhat convoluted storyline, Fantasy Zone is as simple as ever in terms of controls and mechanics. The sentient Opa-Opa spaceship can move in all directions using the joystick. Furthermore, it can shoot its main weapon with the fire button. While you’re stuck with a miserable pea shooter at the start, you can purchase all sorts of upgrades in the shop, which we’ll talk about shortly. Lastly, the bomb button activates your air-to-ground armaments and drops a bomb. Similar to the main cannon, your bombs can be upgraded at the shop.
Shops and Balloons
Like we mentioned above, every stage has a number of enemy bases you must destroy before confronting the boss. However, after a number of bases have been destroyed, you will have the opportunity to run into two different balloons: a red shop balloon, and a yellow “select” balloon.
By running into the former balloon, you will access the shop where you can spend the hard-earned cash from fallen enemies on items and upgrades.
There are 3 types of upgrades you can purchase in the shop, not including extra lives. The most important upgrades are the engine improvements, which significantly upgrades Opa-Opa’s mobility. Furthermore, unlike bombs and laser upgrades, engine improvements are permanent and persist even through death. For this reason, your highest priority should be spending money on engine upgrades. However, you don’t want to go too overboard with your engines as souping it up excessively will make Opa-Opa too difficult to control. The Jet Engines are the recommended upgrade in this regard.
Shot upgrades only take effect once you equip them AND after you run into a yellow “select” balloon. They only last for about 20 seconds before wearing off and getting consumed, after which you’ll need to buy and activate them again. Bombs, on the other hand, are purchased individually and are equipped automatically, once you use all your special bombs, you’ll revert back to your regular bombs.
One last piece of info about the shop is that, every time you buy a consumable item such as extra lives, a weapon, or a bomb, the cost will increase for the next item. For this reason, buying too much of the same item will turn prohibitively expensive before long. In this sense, it’s important to plan out your purchases accordingly so that you get access to the best weapons for the situation at hand.
In this section, we’ll go over the many stages in Fantasy Zone one by one, as well as share pointers about the correct ways to approach the enemies within.
Stage 1: Planet Plaleaf
The starter planet is easy and a great introduction to the game’s mechanics. While you’ll run into many different types of enemies, these foes rarely fire at Opa-Opa. In order to stay safe, you’ll need to steer clear from the enemies while shooting at everything that comes across your path. Don’t forget to grab the valuable money that they drop, as you’ll want to purchase the Jet Engine upgrade ASAP in anticipation for the first boss.
The Bases in Planet Plaleaf are called Dorarinfuras, and look like pink floating balls with small wings and even smaller eyes. They deploy pesky enemies from their lower half, which opens up like a hatch. Luckily, they’re quite docile and easily defeated with several well-placed shots. After destroying 2 bases and picking up the cash they drop, the first and only shop balloon in this stage will appear, which you should definitely collect when you have at least $1,100. You should definitely pick up the Jet Engine in order to easily dodge the upcoming boss’ attacks.
Speaking of which, after all bases are defeated, the first boss of the game will appear, a floating tree stump shaped like a head, who goes by the name Stamperon. The boss is quite easy, staying on the right side of the screen, and floating up and down trying to line itself up with Opa-Opa. Its only form of attack is by opening its mouth and spitting green orbs, which is also the only time where the boss is vulnerable since you need to shoot it in the mouth to hurt it.
The idea is to bait his spittle and get a few shots in when its mouth opens before getting out of the way. Don’t get greedy and overstay the opening as this is a great way to get yourself shot down. Take it slow; keep your cool and the boss will go down before long.
Now that you got a taste of Fantasy Zone, I’m sure you’re anxious for more. However, that’s all the time we have for today. Stick around for part 2 next week where we’ll go over stages 2 through 8, including how to beat the tough final boss.
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