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SEGA AGES Fantasy Zone Switch Review

5 min read
Ah, the nostalgia. The gameplay is solid, the graphics are gorgeous, and it's tons of fun!

We’re going retro!

What They Say:
An interplanetary monetary system collapses as its funds are mysteriously funneled towards the construction of a fortress in the Fantasy Zone. It’s up to Opa-Opa to rescue the Fantasy Zone and find the culprit responsible! Eliminate all the bases to reach the end boss and advance to the next level. Use lasers and bombs to destroy all enemies and take advantage of weapon and engine upgrades!

This update to the vibrant arcade hit includes a helpful Coin Stock assist feature for those not as well versed in shooters, a Time Attack mode perfect for speedrunners, extra bosses, and even the option to play as Opa-Opa’s brother, Upa-Upa!

Fantasy Zone was originally released across Japanese arcades in 1985. It made its international debut the following year. Since then, it has been ported to various video game consoles and now finds its way to the Nintendo Switch™ thanks to the SEGA AGES series. I remember playing the original game at a nearby arcade when I was just a wee lad. Yes, I know I’m old. You don’t have to remind me. Also, I miss arcades. There’s not as many as there used to be anymore. Anyway, how does this SEGA AGES release hold up? Let’s find out!

The game consists of eight stages. The goal is to destroy all the bases and defeat the boss at the end of a stage. As you progress through each stage, you’ll find that the number of bases you need to destroy increases and the enemies become more challenging. The enemies get really annoying as you near the last stage. You’ll have to pay close attention to their patterns if you want to clear the stage. The good thing is that you can adjust the difficulty to fit your playstyle. If you’re a beginner, you can set the difficulty to Easy. If you’re a shoot ’em up veteran, then you’ll probably want to try Hard mode. The final stage pits you against all the previous bosses, again, before fighting the last one. Boss rush!

In order to clear all the stages, you’re going to need to make good use of the parts shop. The shop allows you to upgrade your weapons, bombs, and flying engine. You’ll need gold for that though! You get coins by defeating enemies, bases, and the bosses. You can technically get through any stage without defeating any enemies other than the boss. However, you’d be missing out on coins. Thus, I suggest trying to defeat as many enemies as you can in a stage to get as much gold as possible. Once you do, you open yourself up to a lot of possibilities! I found myself purchasing the 7-Way Shot upgrade a lot of the time. It was extremely useful to clear up the screen when a horde of enemies showed up. It’s also important to remember that these upgrades aren’t permanent and wear off after a certain amount of time or uses. You also lose them when you die. Another thing to remember is that each upgrade gets more expensive the more you buy it. You should probably only buy an upgrade if you really need it. Of course, if you have a lot of money, just go nuts!

There are three modes you can play in the game – Original, Upa-Upa, and Time Attack. Original mode provides the greatest challenge and is, as the name suggests, the way the game was meant to be played. You have a certain amount of lives and once they’re all gone, game over. You’ll have to start from the beginning once again. Although, you do have the option to turn round select on or off. Naturally, having that turned off will give you the best challenge but to each their own. Upa-Upa mode allows you to have access to all the weapons from the start! The catch is that you need coins to use them. As long as you have the gold, you can freely switch your weapons. I personally loved this mode. Be careful though! Don’t go using up all your gold just because you can. The best weapons cost more money to use and you’re going to want them as you fight the difficult enemies. Time Attack mode allows you to clear the game while aiming to get the best time. You don’t have to worry about your score in this mode! While it’s cool trying to get the fastest time, the best part of this mode is that you have endless lives. You don’t have to restart a stage from the beginning if you die. This mode is a good way to familiarize yourself with all the stages without the fear of having to start over. If you’re having trouble with the game in Original or Upa-Upa mode, I suggest playing Time Attack mode to get a better grasp of the stages and enemy patterns.

You can enjoy playing Fantasy Zone in many different ways! For starters, you can actually choose to play the Japanese or English version which is a neat feature. You can also customize the display settings. Want to play the game in fullscreen? No problem! The screen effects giving you trouble? Turn them off! Don’t like the wallpaper? Change it! Visually, the game is absolutely stunning. It has an extremely vibrant color palette and really catches your eye. A lot of the enemies look oddly adorable, too. It’s no wonder that this is one of the games credited with creating cute ’em ups. Also, I really loved the music track that played during boss bottles. It got me pumped up for kicking some butt or getting my own butt kicked! You read the right.

In Summary:
SEGA AGES Fantasy Zone is a blast from the past. Ah, the nostalgia. The gameplay is solid, the graphics are gorgeous, and it’s tons of fun! It may be a short game but it gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Upa-Upa mode was a neat addition to the game. I have a particular fondness for shoot ’em up games. They’re simple yet challenging. If you’re a fan of shoot ’em ups, I’d definitely recommend picking this one up. Even if you’re not, you should still give this game a try!

Grade: B-

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA / M2
Genre: Retro, Arcade, Action

Age Rating: E for Everyone (Mild Fantasy Violence)
Number of Players: 1
Release Date: January 23, 2020
MSRP: $7.99 (commensurate European pricing)
Platform: Nintendo Switch

This review was done with a review copy provided by the publisher. We are grateful for their continued support.

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