Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Great Gaymathon Review #53: Fantasy Zone (PC Engine)

Game: Fantasy Zone
Genre: Shoot 'em up
Developer: NEC Avenue
Publisher: NEC Avenue
System: PC Engine
Release date: 1988

I have a feeling this particular port of Sega's classic, pastel-soaked shoot 'em up was maligned by more than a few people (including myself) back in the day for failing to be "arcade perfect." Those detractors had a point, actually: As good as this game looks, for instance, its graphics don't quite match the coin-op original's brightness or softness. (The ever-so-slightly harsh backgrounds in this version are the main culprits here.) This HuCard's rollicking soundtrack also suffered a bit (OK, a lot) in the transition from arcade cabinet to PC Engine console, thanks in large part to someone's bright idea (not) to raise it in pitch to the point that every song is the aural equivalent of being jabbed in the back of a head with a child's fork while attempting to eat at a fine-dining establishment. (Translation: It's really irritating.) The folks at NEC Avenue nailed the most important aspect of this home conversion, though--that being the gameplay. Just like the original, the PC Engine version of Fantasy Zone tasks players with piloting an adorably winged ship, named Opa-Opa, through looping, open-ended worlds--a la Defender--in an attempt to destroy all of the enemy bases that reside within them. Destroy all of said bases and, surprise, you face a dastardly boss. In the end, doing all of the above feels like it should, although that's not to say it's without flaw. For example, there's a sense of inertia to Opa-Opa that, when combined with the aforementioned wrap-around stages, can be awkward to deal with, especially at the outset. Also, the game is the definition of challenging. (Case in point: There are eight levels, but I've yet to get to the fourth without cheating.)

See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts


RetroKingSimon said...

This was one of my first ever Engine games and remained one of my most played. Splendid version of a splendid game :)

Viewtiful_Justin said...

Soundtrack? Turnoff. Maybe I'll try to talk Pat into tracking this game down for the arcade in town...

Bryan Ochalla said...

I seem to remember you saying this before, Simon--that Fantasy Zone was one of your first Engine games. Good choice! How many others do you have at this point?

I still prefer the arcade original, of course, but this port is really nice, too--despite my complaint about its soundtrack ;)

Bryan Ochalla said...

Yeah, the soundtrack is the one real negative associated with this port, Justin. The arcade version is the way to go, IMO--if you have access to it.