Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fantasy Zone

NEC Avenue / Sega

During a very brief period when I was a dopey little kid, this sidescrolling shooter was actually my favorite video game. Well, I'm a dopey adult now, and FZ no longer holds that lofty status, but I'm still a sucker for its jolly music and pretty pastels. And I think it's awesome when Opa Opa, the heroic little pod-ship who acts as the game's protagonist, sprouts tiny legs to dash across planet surfaces. To top it all off, the TurboChip is PINK!

Well, I guess that all might sound kind of lame, but FZ's action is actually pretty heavy. Every stage save the last requires Opa Opa to hunt down and annihilate a number of enemy outposts lest the level loop interminably, and there are plenty of stray projectiles and oddball villains for the valiant craft to worry about as he endeavors to fulfill his seek-and-destroy responsibilities. Boss fights follow the outpost hunts, and things can get really tight during some of the strip-concluding clashes.

Still, as nostalgic as I am for the game, I must concede that it doesn't feature any especially thrilling stages or sequences, mainly because of the restrictive shoot-the-outposts-and-move-on formula it's built upon. Said outposts take more shots, and the small-fry become more aggressive, as the game goes on, but the aesthetic aspects stand out more than anything that has to do with the actual shooting. Whenever I revisit Fantasy Zone, it's to see the pastels and hear the tunes, not to dodge the bullets.

I must admit that I dreaded these bosses back in the day.

You can use money you acquire by defeating enemies to upgrade your engine and weaponry, but I usually don't even bother with the shops except to buy fire bombs for the final level.

Speaking of the final level, it pits you against some very grumpy adversaries.

The end-boss shoots snake-like things at you, one at a time. The last one is extremely fast; use the fire bomb to kill it.

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