UPDATE! This just in: Fantasy Shooter Month! Let’s keep the epicness rolling! And what better way to celebrate FSM than with a game that has “Fantasy” right there in the title? I’m talking about the gaming acid-trip known as Super Fantasy Zone!
Game: Super Fantasy Zone
Console: Mega Drive
Release Year: 1993
To be honest with you, I wasn’t going to do Super Fantasy Zone for FSM, but I was watching some old Muppet Babies episodes (Yes, I do that) and came across this:
I nearly jizzed my pants.
I knew I’d made a grave error. I originally didn’t want to include a game with Opa Opa because FSM is about non-spaceship shooters, but I’m pretty sure Opa Opa is a sentient creature that just looks like a spaceship, so I’m going to let it slide. Therefore, to redeem myself, I sat down and went through Super Fantasy Zone on a Saturday morning while my daughters sat on my lap and watched. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever been a part of.
Super Fantasy Zone is a Cute-‘Em-Up and one of those games where you have to be in it for the gameplay because there’s just so much riding against it. First and foremost, just look at those colors:
It’s like a rainbow shat on my brain!
I know a lot of people who just look at this game and immediately write it off as being too “kiddie.” It’s hard to argue when looking at the above pic. Personally, this game’s art style and color palette are the main reasons why I love it. But, if it’s too much for you, then I feel you’re missing out. Sometimes it’s okay to have a little color in your life. There’s no shame in it, and it doesn’t make you any less of a man. In fact, I know many dudes who wear pastel, bright, and/or loud colors and are still exemplary men to be feared and respected.
Case and point.
Secondly, and in complete contradiction to the first point, people don’t like this game because it’s fucking hard! It’s hilarious and vindicating to listen to a friend talk about how gay and cartoony the game looks only to watch as it completely destroys them just minutes later.
It’s like watching your friend get kicked in the head by this guy. Hilarious!
Man, I used to love this series as a kid. I like the first one on the Master System more, but Super Fantasy Zone is really great, too. The game has a plot involving something from the shadow world coming with its army to destroy the light world (Ganondorf, probably), and guess what? You, the always outstanding Opa Opa, live in the light world. Your father tries to stop them, but he sucks and doesn’t. Opa Opa see his father’s wrecked ass and resolves that he’s going to avenge his pussy-ness. This resolution is immediately followed by one of the most dramatic camera-turning scenes I’ve ever seen in a video game. It makes Opa Opa look like a complete bad ass, and you know he’s ready to mess up the shadow world. I’m ready to play!
Coming to a theater near you!
Like any good shooter, Super Fantasy Zone tasks you with exploding enemies and big bosses. Opa Opa has three ways to attack, and, considering there’s only 3 buttons on the standard Genesis/Mega Drive controller, I’d say that’s a good start. You got your regular shot, your much more powerful bombs, and your even more powerful but limited in quantity special bombs. Each attack can be upgraded, but more on the Balloon Shop later. Beyond killing things and upgrading, Super Fantasy Zone is different from most shooters. For many reasons, but let’s stick to the main one: auto-scrolling. It doesn’t have it. Opa Opa is allowed to freely move right and left (blasphemy!). There also aren’t “ends” to levels. I mean, they end, but not in the traditional way. Do you remember watching old episodes of Scooby Doo and noticing the backgrounds looping? That’s how Super Fantasy Zone’s levels are.
Okay, Hanna Barbera. That’s the third time I’ve seen that shelf!
To finish a level, you have to destroy all the enemy regenerators, which reveals the level boss. Killing it takes you to the next level. Regenerators are strewn about the level, and the bottom part of the screen tells you how many you have left. The following pic is from the fifth level where the regenerators are floating washing machines.
I use this pic because I at least know what washing machines are.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Floating washing machines? That’s strange.” Well, considering I don’t know what the hell anything else is in the game, this is pretty normal, or at the very least relate-able. The rest of the game’s enemies are just random refuse gathered together to form a sprite that attacks you. The dark world’s either very weird or they have the universe’s most random and shittiest army. Or all of the above.
Japan, what the hell is all this shit!?
The screen isn’t ever that crowded, but since all the enemies are really tiny it’s incredibly easy to run into one without even knowing they were there. This sucks hard because everything is a one-hit kill. Be prepared to see Opa Opa explode into pixie dust a lot.
With a background like that, that’s exactly how I imagined he’d explode.
The bosses are much easier to see; they typically fill the screen! I love when shooters do that. And they’re all pretty original and wacky in their design, except for one.
Um… Darius is that way.
The boss fights are tough but fair. One hit and you’re dead. You’ll pick up their patterns after a few insignificant deaths, though. In no time, you’ll be bobbing and weaving between their shots and dropping bombs in their mouth like an overzealous porn star!
I’m pretty sure using a porn reference with a game that looks like this will put me in some sort of special FBI file.
When they crack apart and the pieces hit the ground, they turn into money and bounce back into the air. This is where the game gets fun. The faster you get the coins, the more they’re worth. Collecting things in a shooter is but one of my many strangely-specific fetishes as a gamer.
Oh, God! Collecting compulsion is kicking in!
You then take your spoils to the Balloon Shop that appears at the beginning of each level to upgrade Opa Opa. You can buy extra lives, engines to make yourself faster, bombs, and miscellaneous, level-specific items, like the rubber boots and the flashlight. Everything is expensive as hell, so scurrying around like a mad man to collect coins is a must. You can also upgrade your regular shots, but they only last a limited time. I hated this at first, but the weapons are incredibly overpowered, so it makes sense.
I love the laser beam. It’s so bad.
The final level is a boss rush where you have to re-fight all the game’s bosses followed by the final boss. Some people hate boss rushes or boss parades or boss gauntlets (people call it different things in different regions, like pop or soda), but I’ve always loved them. They’re challenging, and they make you feel like you own the game because all the bosses can’t even touch you! Something else pretty cool about this stage is the background. If you look closely, you can see the bosses from the first Fantasy Zone floating around. It’s a nice touch.
Whoa! I remember kicking your asses!
Super Fantasy Zone is a fun and short trip. It technically has nine levels with the ninth composed of two boss fights. If you’re not very good at shooters, this game may hand you your ass for awhile. Play it enough and learn from your mistakes, and you’ll eventually be able to blaze through it. I played it a lot growing up, and for this playthrough I was able to beat it in like a half hour or less. It’s a fun diversion that only gets better with age. If you like a challenge and pretty colors, Super Fantasy Zone is the game for you! Don’t let the cute visuals deceive you! This is a tough game that will test your gaming skills!
Thanks for your playing! I’m going to watch some more Muppet Babies with my girls now. I’m so sick of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse! I wish Mickey Mouse would just explode!