SEGA AGES Fantasy Zone (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 23.01.2020

Review for SEGA AGES Fantasy Zone on Nintendo Switch

The classic Sega re-releases on Switch continue with Sega Ages: Fantasy Zone! Cubed3 covered 3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Bros. when that one came out in early 2015. It already had many of the makings of recent Sega Ages outings in its faithful rendition of the look and sound of the original Sega arcade system, with the added bonuses of extra game modes, unlockables, and the titular 3D effect added in for extra flair. This was well received then, and it is with expectations just as high if not even more that this Switch version gets taken for a Cubed3 spin.

Fantasy Zone has been described before as a sort of Defender clone in that each stage scrolls horizontally, but the player is given freedom of movement in that 2D space. Opa-Opa can go left or right at will, with the stage scenery wrapping around on either end. The goal here is to destroy every single enemy base in each stage to make the boss of the area appear. Defeating the latter moves you to the next stage. Like Defender, however, there isn't really any defining feature to each stage, other than the enemy species found therein and different looking backgrounds. Level design is nearly non-existent, as there are no ground or any land features to block Opa-Opa from moving anywhere he likes, which is something that was already starting to feel outdated in 1986 with the likes of Gradius already being available.

Added to this are the shops which are represented by red balloons floating around in the environment. Killing enemies and destroying bases nets the player coins, which can be spent on extra lives, faster engines that increase movement speed, as well as weaponry encompassing better bombs and firearms. However the latter are temporary, and every time anything gets purchased, the next item of the same type will be more expensive. Therefore, the shop can't be relied on so much to keep playtime going forever, as that would defeat the purpose of an arcade coin-op game.

Screenshot for SEGA AGES Fantasy Zone on Nintendo Switch

This is all served through bright and colourful graphics that match contemporary cute 'em up Twinbee. This contrasts heavily with the game's sometimes harsh challenge. Indeed, a mere few minutes in, even at the easiest difficulty setting, enemies start spraying bullets at Opa-Opa, and those don't necessarily come in well defined, easily grasped patterns that would be easy to dodge. It's all very random and therefore hard to avoid like in most shoot 'em ups of the era. Difficulty is indeed a defining aspect of Fantasy Zone, which means that multiple playthroughs will be required to see the ending with the one credit available to the player to do so.

Common to most if not all Sega Ages releases on Nintendo Switch, this one comes with additional game modes not present in the original, that remix the action to make things feel more fresh, should the base game start to feel old. Back from 3D Fantasy Zone is the Upa-Upa mode, which sees the player taking control of Opa-Opa's brother, who doesn't get to visit any shops, but rather has access to all the arsenal from the outset. However, he will only be able to use it so long as he as coins, as each bullet or bomb will deplete his wallet. Weapons, engine, and bomb types, can be toggled between at a press of the shoulder buttons on the controller. This mode is set to a soundtrack completely different from the base game's, though in the same style and just as delightful as the original.

Screenshot for SEGA AGES Fantasy Zone on Nintendo Switch

Also returning from 3DS is the 'coin stock' system. Every coin collected in the main mode is added to a coin bank which, as it fills, will unlock bonus features. These include the 'Extra Bosses' feature, which allows the player to either always fight the extra bosses of the Master System version, but within this arcade port, or to only fight them should some conditions be met within the stage. Another unlockable is extended time for using Weapon 1. Then the last unlockable is 'Gold Rush,' which doubles the value of each coin collected. Finally, coins in the 'coin stock' can be fed to Upa-Upa in his respective game mode before starting a new run, so as to have an extra advantage from the get go.

The last extra mode is Time Attack, also dubbed as 'Opa-Opa! Faster Than Light'. This is, for all intents and purposes, a mode meant for speed-runners. You get infinite lives, and a 20-minute time limit to reach the end. To help that, Opa-Opa's weapon seems to deal a lot of extra damage compared to the regular mode, which makes the overall experience easier, but also a lot faster to play through. Then, rounding out the package, the usual Sega Ages features are present with adjustable difficulty settings, just like on the actual arcade machine, and you get a music player to listen to the fantastic soundtrack (which, unlike that of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, doesn't work in sleep mode, sadly), save states and the ability to watch your own replays.

Screenshot for SEGA AGES Fantasy Zone on Nintendo Switch

All in all, this is all very reminiscent of the 3DS release from five years ago: 3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Bros. This makes sense given that developer M2 was already behind that one. However there was one point of contention with that release that has now been addressed, and it was quite a sizeable one: online leaderboards. Indeed, the very "score chasing" nature of the game meant that, unless one person was to share their 3DS with the world to see who is the best, there wasn't really any incentive to keep playing for scores on the handheld system.

Here on Switch however, online leaderboards are available out of the box, and this really makes this version the recommended one over its predecessor, even in the absence of stereoscopic 3D which, while nice looking, didn't really add anything to the experience. Naturally, each separate game mode, including this one, has its own set of rules - separate leaderboards for each, and the icing on the cake is the ability to watch replays of other players' best scores and times.

Screenshot for SEGA AGES Fantasy Zone on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Fantasy Zone itself is a title that was designed from the ground-up to be a short, but intense arcade romp. In this day and age, this wouldn't stand a chance by itself, but such a meaningful re-release, packed with all the features any old fan could want, makes this a thoroughly recommended classic to revisit in 2020, for both old and newer fans of Sega. The addition over its previous 3DS incarnation of an online leaderboard system, and a quality one at that, makes this the definitive way to play Fantasy Zone in this day and age, both on the bigger screen, and on the go. Best enjoyed with a good arcade stick, and auto-fire turned off!

Review copy provided by Sega America

Developer

M2

Publisher

SEGA

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 23.01.2020   North America release date 23.01.2020   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date 23.01.2020   

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