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Fantasy Zone II DX - new, 16-bit Retro greatness from SEGA

TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
edited February 2009 in Games and Technology
Move the fuck over, Megaman 9. Joining the recent trend of making new games via old hardware, and coming courtesy of Sega's seemingly bi-polar Sega Ages series (which have ranged from terrible [Golden Axe] to excellent [Fantasy Zone, Alien Syndrome]), is one of the BEST shmups I've ever played:

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FANTASY ZONE II: DX

I'd dare say if you're a sega fan, or a shmup fan, that Fantasy Zone II DX is worth importing a japanese PS2 for. It's spectacular. It's phenomenal. It's every other hyperbole you can think of and then some. And it is also easily one of the greatest 2D remakes of all time, up there with Super Mario All-stars; one of those 2D remakes that doesn't just improve upon the originals, but captures the spirit of them as well and surpasses them. It's a whole other level of remake. The entire package is ace, drawing comparisons, again, to Super Mario All-stars, featuring nearly every single version of every single Fantasy Zone game ever created, all put together in a spectacular package. If you're a value gamer, this package is nearly unbeatable - 7 full games for $35.

What is Fantasy Zone?

Fantasy zone is one of Sega's oldest franchises, predating both Sonic the Hedgehog and Alex Kidd (Sega's previous mascot). It is a spin off of sorts from Space Harrier, and was a one of Sega's most successful arcade games during the 80's (aka their first era of Arcade dominance). Fantasy Zone follows the tale of Opa-Opa, a sentient space ship who flies from world to world in the fantasy zone (the very same area that Space Harrier welcomed you to at the beginning of ever game) trying liberate each planet from an invading space army. Opa-Opa was, at one time, Sega's unofficial mascot, appearing in hundreds of unrelated Sega games ncluding Zillion, Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars, Shenmue, Planet Harriers, Segagaga, and more recently, Samba De Amigo, Sonic Riders, and the upcoming Sega Ultimate Megadrive Collection.

Unlike most shmups at the time (or since), fantasy Zone was not auto-scrolling in the truest sense. That is, the goal of each planet is not to get from the left side of the screen to the right side of the screen. Rather, players had complete control over Opa-Opa, allowing him to turn around in mid-air and backtrack through the level. The levels themselves were looping - when you reached the edge of the level, it'd loop back to the beginning. Fantasy Zone's gameplay is a defender variant - the main goal of each level is to kill all the enemy bases, at which point a boss will swoop down. Kill the boss and move onto the next planet.

Fantasy Zone also featured what was almost a trademark Sega feature at the time - in-game currency. Much like Sega's fantastic Wonderboy series, killing enemies in Fantasy Zone would cause them to drop money. Unlike the mostly frivolous coins and rings of Mario and Sonic respectively, the money accumulated in Fantasy Zone could be used in shops scattered around each planet. Inside these shops were an assortment of powerups split into 3 types - Bomb upgrades, speed upgrades, or bullet upgrades.

Fantasy Zone is also gave birth to the Cute 'em Up genre that would later include Parodus, Star Parodier, and Twin Bee. The game is best epitomized by it's insanely bright graphics and surreal, psychedelic worlds. What Space Harrier was to 3D at the time, Fantasy Zone was to 2D.

Fantasy Zone was also one of the first games to be released on Sega's fantastic System 16 Arcade board - the (much more powerful) predecessor to the genesis. Although it predated the genesis, the System 16 is an absolute beast with much more in common visually with, say, the Neo Geo MVS than even the SNES or 32X. The System 16 housed housed one of Sega's greatest lineup on any hardware, featuring hit after hit after hit. Among the best System 16 games include Shinobi, Alex Kidd: The lost Stars, Tetris, Wonderboy III, Altered Beast, Alien Syndrome, and of course, Fantasy Zone. The System 16 was one of the earliest products of the legendary AM2 division of Sega (Virtua Fighter, Daytona USA, Virtua Racing, etc).

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There were 4 main Fantasy Zone games produced, and 2 spin offs, and one unreleased game. Fantasy Zone I was created for the System 16 board, while all subsequent Fantasy Zone games were created for Sega's home hardware. Fantasy Zone II was created for the 8-bit Sega Master System, Super Fantasy Zone was created for the Sega Megadrive (and was unreleased in the US, although it lacks region locking), and Fantasy Zone Gear was created for the game gear.

In addition, Fantasy Zone III: The Maze (which, though being titled 3rd in the series, is actually a spin-off) was created for the Sega Master System and Galactic Defender: Opa-Opa was created for the Mark III. A space harrier-meets-fantasy zone hybrid was created by NEC for the PC Engine Duo, but was unreleased (although images of the game have been leaked onto the net for years now).

What is Fantasy Zone II DX?

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Because Fantasy Zone II was created for the Sega Master System, it was noticeably inferior to the original in terms of visuals. While it still managed to be one of the best looking Sega Master System games of all time, and surpassed the original SMS port of Fantasy Zone, Fantasy Zone II on the SMS just couldn't match up to the system 16 hardware based original. Where as the original displayed 4,096 colors at once while the SMS could only muster up 32 colors at once. This alone made the step backwards incredible. Gameplay wise, Fantasy Zone II was an improvement upon the original, featuring an at-the-time unique multi-dimensional gameplay mechanic. While the goal of each level remained the same as the original - destroy all the bases - each level now was made up of 3 "zones" which were connected by warp spots. At any one time, you could move between the 3 zones. Only after all the bases in all 3 zones had been destroyed could you enter the boss warp to do battle with an end baddie.

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For years and years and year, Fantasy Zone II has held a special place in my heart. I got the game for my 5th birthday, and it's the first time I can remember specifically setting out to buy a video game. I had seen the game advertised in SMS box inserts for a solid year before, and I had loved the original, so I made the effort to get that game specifically. And it didn't disappoint. The game was fantastic.

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Sega, it seems, loves me most of all, because last October they released, after 2 years of waiting, Fantasy Zone II DX, the marquee title of the Fantasy Zone collection. Simply put, Fantasy Zone II DX is a complete remake of Fantasy Zone II on actual system 16 hardware. Unlike Megaman 9, which used a custom graphics engine to simulate the look and feel of the NES, Fantasy Zone II DX is a REAL system 16 game. Sega actually went out and, using near-ancient System 16 SDKs, created a brand new System 16 title after the board had been retired for nearly 20 years. Sega even went as far as to press the game onto a limited number of EEPROMS and install them into System 16 boards and put them out over japan to promote the release of the game.

And, oh my, what a remake it is. First and foremost, the most striking difference is the graphics, which have received a glorious upgrade. Screenshots courtesy of Hardcore gaming 101:

(SMS on the left, Remake on the right)
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But sega really went above and beyond on this remake. They've changed up the 3-zone mechanic of the original into a slightly-less unique dual world concept, ala Zelda: A link to the past. At multiple points during each level, you can warp from the light zone to the dark zone and vice versa. You are no longer required to go to the dark zone, as both zones share base enemies, but going into the dark zone makes the enemies tougher and drop more money. Additionally, there are 3 different endings depending on if you beat the game in the light zone or dark zone (The worst ending is actually pretty shocking
Opa-Opa turns evil, following his dad, and Space Harrier winds up killing him
).

The entire game is oozing with classic-era Sega quality. No attention to detail has been spare. The soundtrack to the original has been completely remixed by Manabu Namiki (Numerous Cave games, Metal Slug 6) to fantastic effect.

Did I mention it's a dream to play? This is a high quality, non-bullet hell shmup in a day where the genre is fading away. This game defies time - it's slipped through a time warp from some alternate dimension 1987.

What else is in the collection?
Well, as I said before, the collection includes nearly every single version of every single publicly released Fantasy Zone games (thus excluding Space Fantasy Zone). That is, the Arcade version of Fantasy Zone, the SMS version of Fantasy Zone, the NES version of Fantasy Zone (renamed Neo Classic Fantasy Zone... the sunsoft release, not the tengen release), the SMS version of Fantasy Zone II, the remake of Fantasy Zone II, the System E version of Fantasy Zone II, the SMS version of Fantasy Zone III: The Maze, The System E version of Opa-Opa (Aka Fantasy Zone III: The Maze), Super Fantasy Zone, Fantasy Zone Gear, and Galaxy Defender. Off the top of my head, the only versions missing of note are the Sega Ages remake of Fantasy Zone (which is an extraordinary remake in it's own regard), the X68000 port of Fantasy Zone (which included a never-seen-since level from Space Harrier redrawn in 2D), all NEC versions of Fantasy Zone, and the NES version of Fantasy Zone II. The Arnold Palmer Golf hidden Fantasy Zone game is also not included.

However, the package is filled to the brim with promotional works and artwork detailing the creation of the original games, along with an extensive sound test mode.

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I want this. How can I play it?
All together, this is an extraordinarily solid package which will, unfortunately, never leave japan. The Sega Ages line in the US is, for all intent and purposes, dead. But, luckily, this game is import friendly using a modded PS2 (or imported PS2). Popular sites like Play-asia list the game for only $35, which is a steal considering the content.

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Additionally, if you absolutely cannot get your hands on a PS2 required to play the game but you'd love a taste, Sega has released a demo rebuilt for windows (located Here)

Or, if you're just SOL but you'd love to see it in action:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B71Cqw1ZEFQ

I cannot recommend this game enough. I know it's not in everybody's power to get this game, but if you've got a PS2 which can play japanese games and a disposable income, you could do a lot worse than Fantasy Zone II: DX.

TheSonicRetard on

Posts

  • VulpineVulpine Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    What else could be said that wasn't already in that OP?

    Amazing that Sega would go to such lengths for what could be quite a niche title indeed - obviously the arcade is still alive in Japan, but to actually use period hardware is impressive indeed.

    One question does stick out though - is the poor translation in the updated screenshots a holdover from the SMS version, a poor modern translation, or a playful homage?

    Vulpine on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • ViscountalphaViscountalpha The pen is mightier than the sword http://youtu.be/G_sBOsh-vyIRegistered User regular
    edited February 2009
    dammit TSR, why do you have to tempt me with the knowledge of this games existance? those limited system 16 roms sound delicious too.

    japan gets all the good games :(

    Viscountalpha on
  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Vulpine wrote: »
    What else could be said that wasn't already in that OP?

    Amazing that Sega would go to such lengths for what could be quite a niche title indeed - obviously the arcade is still alive in Japan, but to actually use period hardware is impressive indeed.

    One question does stick out though - is the poor translation in the updated screenshots a holdover from the SMS version, a poor modern translation, or a playful homage?

    An homage. The level transitions weren't in the SMS version, although the original Arcade version of Fantasy Zone had a similar level intro.

    TheSonicRetard on
  • ShadowfireShadowfire Vermont, in the middle of nowhereRegistered User regular
    edited February 2009
    It's always annoyed me that Sega won't bring the Ages packs out in the U.S.

    Also, I was never aware of this game's existence. I still have Fantasy Zone: The Maze for my SMS, but I didn't realize there was more of a "series." :P

    Shadowfire on
    WiiU: Windrunner ; Guild Wars 2: Shadowfire.3940 ; PSN: Bradcopter
  • cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm Regent Bears The Name FreedomRegistered User regular
    edited February 2009
    The only Ages I care about is Dragon Force PS2.

    Well, that and the Phantasy Star one.

    cj iwakura on
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  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    cj iwakura wrote: »
    The only Ages I care about is Dragon Force PS2.

    Well, that and the Phantasy Star one.

    Well you should care about this one, because it completely shames those two. This is, by far, the best Sega AGES title to date.

    It's what everyone's been begging for - a 2D, retro game from SEGA's golden years. The days when, without dissent, everyone agrees they were great.

    TheSonicRetard on
  • Glenn565Glenn565 Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Now this is my kind of Shump. Too bad I don't have any means of playing it.

    Glenn565 on
    3DS code:4511-0654-1976
    NNID: Glenn565
  • BartholamueBartholamue Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Glenn565 wrote: »
    Now this is my kind of Shump. Too bad I don't have any means of playing it.
    I do, but I still don't know...

    Bartholamue on
    Steam- SteveBartz Xbox Live- SteveBartz PSN Name- SteveBartz
  • eobeteobet 8-bit childhood SwedenRegistered User regular
    edited February 2009
    I think the original graphics are better than the new one. :(

    EDIT: Just watched the video... the parallax scrolling and sound almost makes up for it... almost. I recognize the tunes, they're remixes of the originals as well, right? Chip music is melodically so much better than the crap we get in video games these days.

    eobet on
    Heard the proposition that RIAA and MPAA should join forces and form "Music And Film Industry Association"?
  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    eobet wrote: »
    I think the original graphics are better than the new one. :(

    EDIT: Just watched the video... the parallax scrolling and sound almost makes up for it... almost. I recognize the tunes, they're remixes of the originals as well, right? Chip music is melodically so much better than the crap we get in video games these days.

    It's NOT just the SMS game with updated graphics. It's a completely different game - much tougher. Much, much tougher. This is white-knuckle action - something no home port of Fantasy Zone really had.

    TheSonicRetard on
  • ZellZell Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    This basically updates Fantasy Zone II to not only be as good as Fantasy Zone and Super Fantasy Zone, but actually adds some improvements here and there, like allowing you to buy engine upgrades if you die in a boss fight and if you buy a weapon it's never wasted; if you get hit before the weapon expires you just drop the weapon and don't die.

    Probably the best game released in 2008 and most people won't ever hear about it...

    Edit: also do I get points for taking lots of the screenshots in the first post? :P

    Zell on
  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Zell wrote: »
    This basically updates Fantasy Zone II to not only be as good as Fantasy Zone and Super Fantasy Zone, but actually adds some improvements here and there, like allowing you to buy engine upgrades if you die in a boss fight and if you buy a weapon it's never wasted; if you get hit before the weapon expires you just drop the weapon and don't die.

    Probably the best game released in 2008 and most people won't ever hear about it...

    Edit: also do I get points for taking lots of the screenshots in the first post? :P

    You get credit at least, as indicated before the barrage of screenshots.

    In addition to having your primary weapon double as a shield, you also have a third weapon which is activated by holding the bomb button down. Alternate bombs are no longer limited - once you buy the, say, heavy bomb, it forever becomes your third weapon.

    EDIT: Nice stealth edit.

    TheSonicRetard on
  • ZellZell Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    http://s366.photobucket.com/albums/oo103/ZellSF/
    Replay functionality is great for taking screenshots. Still wondering why the ship seems as it is losing color as the game goes on.

    Edit: also if you're sort of discouraged by the poor controls of the demo it's because it gets confused by a keyboard (on the PS2 d-pad you can't press left+right or up+down at the same time...)

    Zell on
  • dolemelangedolemelange Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Fantasy Zone FTW!

    Too bad I don't have a japanese ps2. bah

    dolemelange on
  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    So am I allowed to mention that I just tried popping the DVD into the latest version of PCSX2 and it ran at full speed with full sound?

    AMD dual core 5200+ 2.7 ghz, geforce 8800 GT, and 4 gb ram.

    TheSonicRetard on
  • ViscountalphaViscountalpha The pen is mightier than the sword http://youtu.be/G_sBOsh-vyIRegistered User regular
    edited February 2009
    So am I allowed to mention that I just tried popping the DVD into the latest version of PCSX2 and it ran at full speed with full sound?

    AMD dual core 5200+ 2.7 ghz, geforce 8800 GT, and 4 gb ram.

    If you are telling me I can run this on my computer, that game will be bought so hard. Thanks TSR, I owe you now for the OP.

    Viscountalpha on
  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    So am I allowed to mention that I just tried popping the DVD into the latest version of PCSX2 and it ran at full speed with full sound?

    AMD dual core 5200+ 2.7 ghz, geforce 8800 GT, and 4 gb ram.

    If you are telling me I can run this on my computer, that game will be bought so hard. Thanks TSR, I owe you now for the OP.

    yesqw1.jpg

    TheSonicRetard on
  • ZellZell Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    So am I allowed to mention that I just tried popping the DVD into the latest version of PCSX2 and it ran at full speed with full sound?
    I ordered it assuming it would back when it was released. It's probably the best game released in 2008 and you get Fantasy Zone and Super Fantasy Zone included.

    I mean, I would order it even if I had no way whatsoever of actually playing it, this sort of effort deserves your money. It's actually the only imported PS2 game I have...

    Zell on
  • DarmakDarmak RAGE vympyvvhyc vyctyvyRegistered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Holy fucking shit, so many colors.

    Darmak on
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