We’ve come to our last Western released game of 1987 and it features a return appearance of Sega’s sentient ship Opa-Opa. Many Sega die-hards have fond memories of the classic “cute-em-up” Fantasy Zone and here we have the two-mega second chapter in the saga (also known as “The Tears of Opa-Opa” in some regions for whatever reason). Not surprisingly Sega followed the standard sequel blueprint of keeping the main gameplay from the previous cart intact while tossing in a number of new features. So let’s see if this second chapter does a good job continuing the saga.
Supposedly this game takes place 10 years after the original, where Opa-Opa saved the Fantasy Zone from an invading army that his own father was forced to lead. Now the zone is threatened by another invasion force and Double-O is once again called upon to save the day through eight levels of action. Much like the first game Opa-Opa must soar through each horizontally-scrolling stage to clear out the enemy forces, blasting the smaller baddies constantly swarming at you while taking out the enemy generators with his guns and bombs. Once all the generators are dusted Opa-Opa has to duel with the level boss before moving on to the next stage. However each level is now divided into several segments that are accessed through warp points (which are revealed by destroying the generators), and you have to clear all the areas out before finding the special red warp that leads to the boss. While this is a nice idea and works for the most part, it can get quite confusing warping between sections in the later levels which can have as many as five parts. Also there’s no radar or any real indicator to show you which areas still need to be cleared out, so you might find yourself warping around the nearly deserted screens trying to find the last few generators to finish off.
Other new features in this sequel include a life bar which enables you to withstand several shots and you can find hidden power-ups in certain levels to extend it. Beware, though, direct contact with the enemy will still kill you instantly until your life bar is long enough to take it. The shops from the first game are back with a wide selection of special weapons, bigger bombs and upgrades for you to purchase with the money you collect from slain baddies (now represented by paper bills as well as coins), but this time, instead of floating around at random, they’re located in a stationary place and can be entered at any time, even multiple times. Sadly most of the special weapons still have timers and have to be equipped upon exiting the shop, but you don’t fight the boss until you enter the red warp, meaning you can buy and equip your armament just before the confrontation.
Overall the gameplay works pretty well, including the easy-to-use responsive controls, however the difficulty is just as tough as the first cart, if not even tougher. Enemies will constantly come at you fast and furious, especially in the later levels, forcing you to be on your toes. Not surprisingly when you die you lose any upgrades you have and your next ship starts in the default mode, forcing you to buy the upgrades again. One real annoyance is how sluggish Opa-Opa is when you start out each life, which can lead to some frustrating deaths when you’re unable to dodge incoming enemies in time. Not to mention no continues when the game ends. Despite these few frustrations the game is never really unfair and can be beaten with enough practice.
As great as the graphics were in the first game, the visuals in this sequel surpass it. The stages all look excellent with some great crazy-looking backgrounds, and the parts of each level have different looks while keeping a similar theme. The characters are nicely drawn and have good animation and the bosses are also well-designed and detailed, though once again you get plain-colored backgrounds for your battles against them. The one slight downer to the presentation is the soundtrack; while the background tunes are nice they don’t quite match up to the cool music from the original game. Plus the sound effects aren’t much more than the standard beeps and so on.
So despite a few issues, Fantasy Zone II is a fine sequel and a well-done shooter for the Master System. Granted this game has a few flaws and the difficulty can often be discouraging but the fun gameplay far outweighs the negatives and the new additions keep it from feeling like a glorified expansion pack. Overall FZ2 is a definite must for any SMS library.