“Fantasy Zone has a very unique, distinctive look to it, very fantastical in nature (duh?), utterly colorful, and dripping with saccharine sweetness. It is like Ristar and Little Nemo had a demented space-shooter baby in Candy Land.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.
I think Fantasy Zone is a great game. In fact, it is my pick for Review A Great Game Day 2013! Which officially happens April 8th. Mark your calendars, as this positive celebration of favorite games should become an annual event (along with Review A Bad Game Day, August 8th, which celebrates the catharsis of insulting games we hate).
I have a soft spot for Fantasy Zone. When the Twin Galaxies website recently restored its searchable high-scores database, I immediately looked up my Fantasy Zone mark, for which I still hold the world record, according to their records and rules. If you check, you will notice I tied for the top spot — purposely, as I wanted to make a point about Fantasy Zone being a silly choice for score-chasing, because the enemies regenerate (if you wanted, you could literally just go back and forth on the first level killing the same stuff over and over), yet TG stipulations do not allow “leeching,” which is the idea that if you play for a high score, you should be playing in a way that advances the in-game plot. Some disagree, philosophically, as to whether this really reflects the peak of competition on games (why not take advantage of everything you can for the highest possible score? see also: glitches not allowed in Super Mario Bros speedruns, etc.). Either way, though, it can be a very difficult case to try and determine whether someone was leeching or not. If it were up to me, that game would just be retired on TG. Which, of course, has the added benefit of me having the top spot forever, mwahahahahahahahaha.
The other reason that Fantasy Zone is a sentimental favorite of mine: Like Crystalis, Fantasy Zone is a game that I bought as a used-games shop, back in the pre-Internet days, as a young’n, when I literally had no idea what the game was like. I still kinda miss that era when you could purchase a cartridge, sight-unseen, and have the excitement of looking forward to discovering what the heck it was. While Crystalis was a mind-blowingly pleasant surprise, Fantasy Zone was a little easier to predict: Right on the label art, you can see that this is probably going to be a weird shooter.
I know lots of other people love this game, too. But, yes, I know, the Sega Master System version is superior. I really do get it, you do not need to tell me or remind me. It is just so much smoother, and looks better. Though, if you really was a visual-feat version of Fantasy Zone, go full 16-bit Sega.
Is Fantasy Zone perfect? No, far from it, and especially on the choppy NES port. But, if I may be so bold, I think that is one important hallmark of great games: We are fond of them despite the flaws we are aware of. Fantasy Zone has a proper legacy as a quirky shooter, but I think it is enjoyable on many levels: The fantastically trippy dream-world feel, the surprisingly solid shooter mechanics, and the simple old-school Nintendo challenge of trying to beat the game straight through.
Read The Full Review For: More in-depth description and commentary, rather than informal thoughts. Really, that is usually what you can find in the difference between my reviews and my blog posts.
NES Gameplay Tips for Fantasy Zone: There are two types of Fantasy Zone players: Those who abuse Heavy Bombs (as they make half the bosses much easier, some to an absurd extent), and those who do not. Take your pick. Either way, get a speed upgrade early and have fun!
Oh, and, hey…