3D Fantasy Zone II W (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 07.05.2015

Review for 3D Fantasy Zone II W on Nintendo 3DS

Delivering on its promise, M2 has now given Europe and North America another taste of the greatness that it had been keeping exclusive to Japan until April of this year. Originally released as a Master System sequel to the arcade title Fantasy Zone, and then ported to a Master System-based arcade hardware, the title at hand this time around was later enhanced by M2 itself as Fantasy Zone II: System 16 Version, made to look like it had been running on proper arcade equipment of the era, making this 3DS release kind of an anecdotal one. Indeed, this update has everything from 1987, and yet it was never released as is back then, but instead created in the style of what was made at the time by SEGA themselves, for release on the 2008 compilation SEGA Ages Vol. 33 Fantasy Zone Complete Collection for the PlayStation 2. The result was a game designed for a hypothetical System 16C, using the same basic hardware as the one running the original Fantasy Zone, albeit with a bit more memory. This new version, again ported by M2, who have clearly established themselves as kings of official emulation, brings yet more content in the same vein, so it's now time to give it a look and see just how good the new result is.

From the outset, not much had changed since the first Fantasy Zone. Opa-Opa is still controlled in Defender-styled stages, freely moving left or right as waves of enemies arrive from both sides, and looking for "bases" producing a lot of said enemies to destroy them. Destroying all the bases in a stage then triggers a fight against a gigantic boss that usually takes up the whole screen, and defeating it means progression to the next stage. This seems to have remained very much the same in Fantasy Zone II, making it initially feel more like an expansion of the original than anything else. However, closer inspection reveals that there is more to it than that. The difficulty seems to have been a bit more balanced in this hypothetical version of the sequel, with a learning curve not quite as steep as in the original, making it a bit easier to get into for those who are not shoot 'em up masters... Although it still reaches quite impressive heights later on in the game.

Making their comeback from the original are the shops, displayed within the levels as travelling balloons, in which coins collected from defeating enemies can be spent to upgrade the ship's engine or grant temporary weaponry improvements, as well as purchase extra lives. The prices still increase considerably for each item every time one gets purchased in a single play session, though not as much as in the first game it seems, again making the sequel feel easier to approach. What's completely new to this title, though, is the fact that the shop can now be accessed directly upon dying to buy from a limited selection of items, namely engines, making dying a bit less unfair. In the original, there would usually be a balloon flying by upon re-spawn after a death to re-upgrade to a more manageable set of engine and weapons, somewhat avoiding the "Gradius-effect" where dying means starting over with a super slow and underpowered ship, but here, in Fantasy Zone II, a limited shop pops up even before being given control of Opa-Opa again, allowing to spend remaining coins on a better ship, making upgrading back less of a hassle.

Screenshot for 3D Fantasy Zone II W on Nintendo 3DS

Also among new tweaks are hidden shops, which may sell items for cheaper than can be bought from normal shops after having purchased a bunch thereof, already. The coin bank from 3D Fantasy Zone is also back and works very much the same, though unlockables have less higher coin requirements this time around.

In all the subtle difficulty tweaks that seem to have been going on at M2 when developing this System 16 version of Fantasy Zone II, it can be perceived that, in reality, this game was not made for the arcades originally, but for home play instead. Fantasy Zone II, at least in its presented version for the 3DS, doesn't quite feel like a coin eater like the original could, making it that more well-suited for console play, even on a handheld. That's not to say that the original was bad, or that it's wrong to bring back arcade greats on consoles to be enjoyed in the comfort of the home, or even on the go... but it's a different kind of experience, one that's even better enjoyed in situations outside of arcades.

Among other new additions making the new experience feel more refined are warp points hidden behind certain enemy bases, which can be accessed after destroying them. Each stage has two sides to it, a bright and a dark one. The game is basically harder in the dark side, as enemies attack more fiercely, but on the flip side they also drop more coins to use on upgrades, giving the choice to play it safe on the bright side, or to be more reckless and tackle the more nerve-racking side of things in the dark side. However, though each stage can contain more than one warp point, each can only be used once, so if stuck on the dark side upon defeating the last base before the boss fight, there are only a few seconds before the boss shows up to warp back to the bright side to face an easier version of the boss.

Screenshot for 3D Fantasy Zone II W on Nintendo 3DS

This new aspect of things really does change the overall feel of the game for the better and opens up more perspectives and possibilities, which simply makes this an even better game than the original. The 3DS version keeps track of which side is being played on, on the bottom screen, between the dark and bright ones, and even records which sides of each stage have been cleared once, giving the incentive to try and beat each stage on both sides, for completion.

The level layouts are not much more interesting than in the previous game, however, as each stage is still very much empty, save for the enemy sprites and bases. There are no land features distinguishing a part of a stage from another, but this is very much a staple of the Fantasy Zone series. The background and foreground elements do look more colourful and are more varied, though, which, again, makes this game the superior one. However, that does not diminish in any way the merits of the original, which came out first, and without which there would not have been a second one after all. The graphics are magnified by the 3D effect, although during more bullet intensive parts, it proves to be a bit distracting as the player has to concentrate on what's going on, so people who have a hard time playing for too long in 3D will not be advantaged by this. On the plus side, the 3D effect makes the enemy bullets stand out more from the background, making them easier to spot and dodge against backgrounds, which still tend to be of the same colour as the bullets themselves. This means that while the stereoscopic 3D effect does not have the wow factor experienced in Super Scaler arcade titles such as 3D Out Run, it still does bring something positive not previously experienced in any other version of the title. Wait, though; there's more! Exclusive to this 3DS version is a completely new play mode, selectable right from the start, called Link Loop Land, which is presented like a separate game on the main menu.

Screenshot for 3D Fantasy Zone II W on Nintendo 3DS

It uses the same assets, stages and power-ups as the main game, and stars Upa-Upa instead of Opa-Opa, building on the idea from 3D Fantasy Zone where a mode with Upa-Upa existed, too, but had to be unlocked. The way Link Loop Land works is that the stages loop endlessly, and stage after stage is tackled just for points. However, even in terms of gameplay, things are mixed up a lot. Upa-Upa starts with a 3-way shot and can take one hit without dying, upon which he loses the 3-way shot and reverts back to Opa-Opa's basic shot. That's when a repair pod starts flying around the screen, which can either be picked up right away to get back to the 3-way shot, or can be waited on for it to transform into a "Fever" bonus, which basically makes Upa-Upa shoot a zillion bullets in every direction in front of him for a limited time before reverting back to the 3-way shot anyway. Link Loop Land is a much more frantic affair, with more enemy bases than normal, more enemies, more bullets on screen, and everything is to be tackled with only one life, to try and get the highest score possible. At the risk of sounding redundant, that's once again where the lack of an online leader board really is regrettable, as the fun of that mode would have enticed so many players to hop back in for more and more hours of pure fun.

Both modes, Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa and Link Loop Land, though they're both just variants of the same core game, give off a very different feel and are not meant to be played in the same style. They both complement each other pretty well and add up, along with the other mandatory bonuses found in previous M2 efforts on the eShop, which remain the same between releases, to such a great amount of potential play-time, and huge amount of fun that it might just be, out of all those 3D revivals, the best released so far in the West, no less.

Screenshot for 3D Fantasy Zone II W on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

From its two great game modes, to the heaps of improvements over its predecessor 3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Bros., useful application of the stereoscopic effect and tons of bonus features, 3D Fantasy Zone II W is a great, if not the best, of SEGA's 3D classic releases on the eShop - at least a massive step forward compared to its brethren, hence its superior score. While the usual lack of online leader boards and of a certain audio option that has been repeatedly mentioned is regrettable, the rest of the content is really hard to fault in any way. The visuals and music look and sound great on the 3DS, the gameplay is refined, the amount of content is hard to be discontent with and of top notch quality, and it seems M2 went even farther than the usual porting treatment they had gotten fans used to so far, with Link Loop Land feeling like a completely new, original game on its own and still being sold alongside the regular version of Fantasy Zone II. If anyone had to pick just one out of the two, this one is the best Fantasy Zone title on 3DS. Though the first one remains a very good title on its own, this title here is just better in most ways. Both are highly recommended, but admittedly this one much more so.

Also known as

3D Fantasy Zone II

Developer

M2

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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