Given that the original Fantasy Zone achieved quite a cult status in arcades and on the various 8-bit consoles of the time period, it's certainly no surprise that the game spawned a few sequels and spin-offs. Super Fantasy Zone represents what many fans of the series consider to be the best overall Fantasy Zone release and it doesn't take long playing the game to see exactly why that is. Super Fantasy Zone takes everything that was good about the original and adds in brand new ship and weapon upgrades, a much improved scrolling system, and a host of new levels to play through. The end result is a very worthy Fantasy Zone sequel and a solid addition to the Virtual Console library.
The game play idea in Super Fantasy Zone is a simple one. You take control of Opa-Opa, a tiny egg-shaped space ship, and you have to shoot your way through each of the game's many levels. You're task is to destroy the enemy pods that are found throughout the level. You'll have to deal with a constant barrage of enemies coming at you, some from these very enemy pods. Once all the pods in the level are destroyed, you'll then be rewarded with a very intense and challenging boss fight. Super Fantasy Zone even introduces a new rapid-fire option to save your thumb the abuse of having to constantly press the fire button. Opa-Opa also drops bombs that can be very useful in taking out stronger enemies and the pods themselves. Coins will be dropped out of defeated enemies which you can collect and spend in one of the many Ballon Stores that come floating by on occasion. In these stores you can purchase ship and weapon upgrades ranging from Jet Engines to give you more speed, to devastating Laser Beams and Homing Missiles that will come in very handy when taking on the bosses.
The play control in Super Fantasy Zone is fairly smooth and responsive. Thankfully the camera controls have also been fixed in this sequel allowing you to see what's in front of you before crashing into it. The new ship and weapon upgrades are also a welcome addition since the difficulty in this game is pretty steep. Even on the Normal setting, this game will give veteran shooter fans a fun for their money. There is an Easy and Hard setting, but there's not a huge difference between the three. Super Fantasy Zone is basically everything that was fun about the original Fantasy Zone release, but featuring a number of improvements that make the overall playing experience a much more rewarding one.
Visually, Super Fantasy Zone is outstanding. The Mega Drive's graphics capabilities are put to very good use and the sugary-sweet pastel visuals the game makes use of have never looked so good. Sure, it's not the most impressive looking Mega Drive title, but compared to various renditions of the first Fantasy Zone title, this one is a huge step up. Even the enemies and bosses in the game are very well drawn and animated. Some of the bosses are absolutely enormous and make for an impressive visual presentation that you'll catch yourself looking forward to at the end of each level.
As good as the game play and visuals are, it's the game's musical score that really shines. The arcade original was solid, but the Mega Drive does an impressive job of bringing the many upbeat musical tracks to life in each level. There's not a bad track in the entire game and the boss music is particularly impressive. The sound effects are very simple, but they almost seem to get lost in the background since the music is likely what most gamers will be focusing on given its overall quality. If you can appreciate a great cute 'em up soundtrack, you're in for a real treat with this one.
It's worth mentioning that even as good as this game is, it's not the type of game that will appeal to everyone. It might look like a standard horizontal scrolling shooter, but this game has a very different feel to it once you begin playing it. The game's high difficulty is also something that might turn some gamers off, especially those that are easily frustrated. Having said all that, if you can enjoy this unique shooter for what it is, you're likely to find a very engaging game and one that you'll find yourself coming back to quite often. It's not perfect, but it's still a very entertaining Virtual Console release.