I’m going to be honest, when SEGA and M2 announced that 3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Bros was going to join wave 2 of their 3D Classics, I was sold. Fantasy Zone is just one of those games that doesn’t get enough appreciation in the West and having it release digitally will mean that more people get to enjoy this underrated classic. But how is the port? Well, let’s jump right into the review…
One of the first and possibly the most unique aspects of Fantasy Zone is its art design, featuring a very cute and highly colorful world. The game’s world feels very surreal and a bit psychedelic with unique character designs you won’t see in many other games. The game is made up of eight rounds, which translates to eight stages in which all (but the last) have you destroying enemy bases and fighting unique bosses. Each boss has a unique pattern and its own way of fighting, such as the wood trunk boss from Plaleaf (first stage) that vomits leaves at you and then you have Polaria’s boss that happens to be a small army of snowmen.
Just like each stage has its own unique bosses, they also feature their own unique look which includes new enemy types around the map. The game features over 20 unique minor enemies throughout each of the eight stages and really adds to the overall experience. Each stage doesn’t feel the same and really feels like your exploring new worlds. My only minor complaint of the game’s art style is that they creators chose to actually color bullets in some of the mid-stage bosses a slightly different shade than the color in the background. Since this title was originally an arcade game, I’m pretty sure it was intentional.
Fantasy Zone takes what Williams Electronics did with Defender and knocks it to a bizarre direction and adds layers of depth to it while improving almost every aspect. The game has you flying around as Opa-Opa, who is trying to save the Fantasy Zone from an unknown force. Just like Defender, you have the ability to fly in any direction. The object of each stage is to take down the bases located throughout the stage, when you destroy all the bases you are allowed to move on to the boss of the stage.
The game also features a shop, where you can spend your currency that is dropped when defeating enemies. The shop has various priced items, some that are timed (mostly shooting weapons), one time use (big bombs) or stay with you until you die (Twin bombs or anything that changes your movement). The shop also has its own type of ‘economy’ system where if you buy a item, next time you come back the price will be priced higher. Let’s say you buy a extra life for $5,000 coins, the next one will cost you $20,000 and yes the extra life is one of the highest jumping (in price) items in the game.
Due to this, you will have to actually try to get through a portion of the game without using upgrades, determine what parts you can’t beat without upgrades and execute your plan. Little things like this really add a layer of depth and gives the user a different way of thinking. The game also has the full soundtrack intact which features some of my favorite tracks like ‘Keep on the Beat‘, ‘Ya-Da-Yo‘ and ‘Don’t Stop‘.It also features new versions of some of the tracks, that sound cleaner.
3DS exclusive features
If the port’s name didn’t already spoil it for you, the game supports 3D which will give the game’s 2D graphics more depth. Some stages, like Plaleaf, have up to 5 layers and look really good in 3D mode. Is it needed? No, as I prefer to play it in original 2D due to the system’s 3D being a battery drainer and hurting my eyes after awhile. But it is a nice feature and the game even has a nice 3D credits sequence that makes me want another entry in the franchise. Like always, the 3D in the title is totally optional and its nice to have options, right?
One of the bad things about the arcade version was that once you lost all your lives, you had to start over. You couldn’t just put a coin and start where you died, the game would make you start all the way back to stage one. Thankfully the 3DS version has multiple ways to get past this including the ability to stage select (you just have to beat the stage first) and it also has save state. But if your hardcore and want to play the game like the arcades, you can do that, which is nice and frustrating at the same time.
The game also features selectable difficultly. Get this, this game is hard as rocks and is set to the lowest difficulty by default. So when you play the game, curse at the screen and throw a fit and remember there are harder difficulty settings just in case you didn’t hate yourself enough. The game also features rapid shot option which basically allows you to hold down the button (instead of the original arcade’s tapping the button to shoot/throw bombs) which allows you to shoot really quickly with minimal effort. This makes the game easier and like previous additions, is optional to use. Collecting over a million coins (and plus) in one turn unlocks extended weapon time, gold rush (more coin per base/enemy destroyed) and even extra bosses (that were exclusive to the Master System port).
But the best addition? You actually get to play as Upa-Upa, Opa-Opa’s brother who was actually in the 1987 Master System game Fantasy Zone: The Maze as a avatar for the second player. Once you beat the game, you unlock Up-Upa Mode which takes the base game a changes the rules a bit. Now instead of going to shops to upgrade weapons (which have had timer on them as Opa-Opa) you can change weapons at anytime through the touch screen, but each shot will cost you a certain amount of coin. The game doesn’t seem to feature the ‘stage select’ after a level is beaten, so if you die, its starting from the start (unless you use save state).
The extra features really make this version stand out and make it more accessible to a new audience by making it easier, yet still enjoyable. The Upa-Upa mode is great, even if its just a recolor of Opa-Opa with new ways of using weapons, I find it to be a great call back to the franchises history. Also Upa-Upa has his own theme which is a remix of Opa-Opa’s theme.
If there was one thing I would complain about is that this port does not have wide screen support, since it runs the original aspect ratio it did in the arcades. Yes, you can go into the settings and make it widescreen but that will make the graphics blurry. Its not a huge complaint but its a bit underwhelming when 3D After Burner II, which was released last month, had crisp widescreen graphics.
Another thing the game totally lacks is the ability to share high scores with others around the world. The game has no online functionality and I really don’t know how much that would have added to the cost of the port. Does this ruin the game? No, but it would have been nice. Though all it would have done was make me feel depress at how bad I am at the game. Maybe its for the best.
3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa’s Bros is in my mind the best released version of the game to date. Trust us, there are a lot of ports out there as we covered before. This version has all the stuff you loved from the arcade version including its surreal art style, pastel colors and unique characters while adding new optional features that make the game more accessible to new audiences.
The game also awards long time players by adding Upa-Upa, Opa-Opa’s brother as a playable character, which I find to be a great idea. M2 did a great job tweaking the game so that new and old fans alike can play it. The game comes packaged with all the great tunes that made us fall in love with the original arcade classic and even includes a few new tracks and even extra bosses. Overall its a great package and only costs $5.99 at the e-Shop. That’s less than most of my friends spend on coffee every morning. Seriously, if you have a 3DS, pick this game up (and other 3D Classics).
- Fantastic art design
- Upa-Upa Mode
- Full arcade experience
- A challenging game
- No native widescreen
- No online leaderboards