In a world of DLC and huge download times that are needed before you can even install a game let alone play it, I thought I’d take a trip back to a simpler time, back to where I first started to hone my 2 button skills.
Now it’s only in my adult life that I’ve expanded my gaming knowledge and experience because we were pretty solidly a one console household growing up so forgive me in advance but the Master System is likely to be prominent in these reviews! (I’m not sorry at all, SEGA FOR LIFE!)
First up is one of my earliest gaming memories; Fantasy Zone on my beloved Sega Master System.
Originally released as an arcade port in 1986, the game is a side scrolling shooter where you take control of a spaceship called “Opa-Opa” and whilst the aim of the game is pretty simple, to this day I’m fairly sure I’ve only ever seen up to the 3rd level.
As Opa-Opa, you find yourself on a series of bizarre planets containing floating bases that keep spawning alien foes your way and your job is to either shoot or bomb the aliens, collect the coins and destroy the bases.
Now this isn’t a tip I had when I was playing this as a kid, so if you’ve never played it but want to have a hope in hell of doing well, listen up: Don’t go in all guns blazing on the bases.
Why you ask? Easy -the more monsters and aliens you kill, the more coins that are available to collect that can be used in the in-game shop (accessed via the floating sign that appears during a level) to purchase much needed weapons and engine upgrades. The quicker you destroy all the bases, the fewer monsters there are to profit from and the quicker you get to the boss. By doing that you’re essentially shortchanging yourself.
On playing a level you may think to yourself “Why do I need upgrades? The movement patterns of enemies are easy to suss and it’s pretty easy to kill everything.” True. But wait until you get to a boss without an upgrade and then talk to me. Not so tough now, huh? (Unless you found it easy, in which case, SCREW YOU, IT’S HARD!)
I’ve played a lot of old games but none that I remember so fondly for two contrasting reasons – the cute and colourful aesthetic and the hard as hell end of level bosses to contend with.
I’ve rage quit many times over simpler games, yet Fantasy Zone, whether because it’s such an early gaming memory for me that I hold it close to my heart or I just didn’t know any different at the time, doesn’t suffer any angst from me.
No matter how many times I have replayed those first two levels over and over, the music never fails to cheer me up being pretty permanently upbeat throughout, the graphics are bright and bold and the character designs were recreated by me on many a sketchbook growing up so for me it’s an absolute staple requirement for anyone who truly loves Sega and 8-bit gaming.