I have no idea what people experience during a drug-induced euphoria, but from I’ve experienced in Fantasy Zone 2, I think I have good idea. A kaleidoscope of shapes, colours and sounds, a menagerie of cartoony, warped enemies and tiny little spaceship/man thing sent to fight them all really is the best way to describe Fantasy Zone 2. Following the old arcade games, it’s tough, creative and surprisingly addictive.
There’s not a lot to say regarding plot or story. You play a little space-man called Opa-Opa who, while travelling, discovers a mysterious entity growing in power. Tiny bits of information are given at the start of each mission, and that’s pretty much it. It’s not amazing, but its strength isn’t in the story, it’s when you’re playing it.
In many respects it’s a standard 2D (unless 3D is enabled) side-scrolling shooter. The main difference between this and many shooters of the same ilk, is that the level loops around. Because of the loop, you can move in any direction you want, giving you the freedom to manoeuver Opa-opa anyway you want. However, that’s not the interesting bit. The best, and sometimes worst, part of the level is that it feels like you’re in a current.
In Fantasy Zone 2, you’re always moving, not in the forced sense, but because of this “current” you’ll be pulled left or right. This can either help or hinder you. If the current is moving left and you want to go right, you’ll struggle. If you’re going with the current, you’ll move faster. It takes a while to get used it and use the current to your advantage. It took me quite a few tries to get it right, but once you develop the knack, you’ll win your way through to the end.
If you’ve got the talent, then you’ll probably beat the game in about an hour. But you won’t be able to do that in your first run as the game is very difficult. Just like older games, one touch and you’ll lose a life. With all the swaying around, dodging isn’t easy, especially if you don’t upgrade Opa-opa. The main problem with upgrades is that you lose all of them if you die.
The upgrades, while meager, are very useful. There are two types: flight upgrades (improves speed and manoeuverability) and attacks (improved attack, but only temporary). The upgrades can be purchased from balloon shops that blow into the levels. Purchasing them requires coins, which are collected from defeated enemies. The bulk of your money will come from bosses and the enemy factories in all of the levels.
The levels are looped, as mentioned earlier, so there’s the start or end. Throughout the level are “enemy factories,” which are basically creatures that create more enemies. I won’t go so far as to say they poop and vomit them out, but it kind of looks like they do. To initiate the boss fight, you must destroy each enemy factory. Once that’s done you move to the next level, so on and so forth. When you fight the factories, there’s a chance they will open up a warp portal. These portals will take you to the “dark” version of that world. This version is much tougher than the “light” stage, and the bosses can take a bigger beating.
Each level, although difficult, is a lot of fun and equally as addictive. Beating a tough boss is bliss and managing to get to the end without losing a life is wonderful feeling. You almost want to brag about, but then you’ll realise no one will care.
After the main game, you can continue the fun in endless mode, which is a sort of manic version of the main game. Although it won’t keep you busy for hours on end, it’s a spectacular game to play when you need to pass 20 – 30 minutes.
All in all, Fantasy Zone 2 is a whimsical game that will appeal to anyone who enjoys arcade side-scrolling shooters. The controls are simple enough for kids to figure out quickly and the difficulty can be adjusted if you feel the game is too tough. As a retro game, it’s a home-run and something that’s just as enjoyable as any other arcade game.