Before we start talking about Fantasy Zone II Double, a little history lesson is in order: yay back in 1987 Sega released Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa on the Master System. This was an all-new home exclusive sequel to the previous year’s arcade hit Fantasy Zone and as you can see in our review Sega still managed to turn out a fine shoot ‘em up even with the massive hardware downgrade. Fast forward to 2008 and M2’s masterful work on the Japanese PS2 release Fantasy Zone Complete Collection, which with its usual attention to detail included a “what if” arcade reimagining of Fantasy Zone II that was so accurate it made a functioning physical version using a slightly modified version of Sega’s 80’s-era System 16 arcade hardware. This is the version that forms the basis for the 3DS release.
This is also why the game lacks the numerous CRT TV emulation options and Japanese/international variants included with most of the other games in the 3D Classic series, as even M2 would find it difficult to emulate something that simply never existed. This does make Fantasy Zone II Double feel a little light compared to OutRun or AfterBurner II – especially as the surely-this-should-have-been-in-there Master System original isn’t included; yet a quick glance at other titles on the eShop shows that Sega’s idea of a slim package still soundly outdoes almost any similar retro offering available.
The game itself plays out in a very similar manner to the original Fantasy Zone – each wraparound level is populated by a number of bases that must be destroyed before the boss will appear that upon defeat will allow you to move onto the next stage. Where this sequel sets itself apart is the use of a dual light/dark side to each stage, with the dark side being noticeably tougher but also tempting daring players with the offer of greater rewards. Warps between these two sides appear throughout each stage, and the player is free to ignore them completely, dip in for a risky coin boost, or completely devote themselves to the tougher challenge. As well as the welcome return of the stage select present in the original’s 3DS port, Fantasy Zone II also keeps track of whether an area has been cleared in light or dark mode (or both) on the lower screen, giving completionists another goal to work towards.
If Opa-Opa’s return to the Fantasy Zone starts to wear a bit thin there’s always the new Link Loop Land mode to try – this is an all-new score attack mode that lasts exactly as long as you do. Fantasy Zone’s familiar floating shops are removed entirely and instead Upa-Upa is equipped with an unlimited 3-way shot and a speed boost as standard, the only slight downside being that he has just one life with which to hoover up as many coins as possible and maintain that all-important score multiplier bonus. Exactly how much this new mode grabs you depends almost entirely on how deeply you feel the need to climb up the high score table, but even those that prefer playing just for pleasure will enjoy the change of pace.
The relative lack of features and M2’s quick return to the Fantasy Zone would suggest that Fantasy Zone II Double was perhaps more of a rush job than the labour of love we’ve come to expect from the team; on the other hand this is still an excellent game that does nothing to tarnish the 3D Classic’s series reputation as the high-water mark for all retro remakes.