The original Fantasy Zone release kicked off a series of shooters that's still quite popular to this day. When the game was released on the Sega Master System, it immediately became one of the more beloved titles for the console so it was pretty much a given that a sequel would come sooner or later. Fantasy Zone 2: The Tears of Opa-Opa basically takes everything that was great about the original Fantasy Zone title and adds in larger levels, a few new game play twists, and an increased difficulty to form one of the best cute 'em ups to come out of the 8-bit era.
The same trademark game play from the original Fantasy Zone remains pretty much intact. You still fly through the various stages shooting down the enemy bases, but this time the developers have thrown in a few new twists to mix things up a bit. Now when you destroy certain bases, they will turn into warps that you can fly Opa-Opa into. There are two types of warps in the game. The blue warps will take you to another area in the level where you'll find even more enemy bases to destroy and the red warp will take you to the boss once you've destroyed all enemy bases in each area of the level. While this might seem a little overwhelming at times, these warps will quickly become your best friend when you need to quickly escape a barrage of oncoming enemies.
Opa-Opa has two weapons at his disposal, a standard cannon and a bomb. You can upgrade your ship and weapon by flying into one of the shops that's located somewhere in each level. While these shops were floating around in the original Fantasy Zone, they're stationary this time around, which makes them a bit easier to locate in a pinch. You will need to collect coins from destroyed enemies in order to purchase the needed ship and weapon upgrades.
The play control in Fantasy Zone should feel quite familiar to fans of the series, as most of the basic controls have remained the same. Your ship is still a bit on the slow side at first, but once you earn enough money you can purchase a ship upgrade in the shop and add speed and responsiveness to your ship that will make maneuvering through the various levels much easier. The same goes for your firepower, as upgrading your cannon fire can make taking down the bosses in the game much easier.
The difficulty in this sequel is probably the single biggest change from the first Fantasy Zone release and marks a noticeable step up in challenge. If you're one of those fans who felt like the first game was a bit of a pushover, you'll certainly appreciate the added difficulty in Fantasy Zone 2. Of course those who found the first game already challenging might find this game a bit too much of a handful.
The visuals in Fantasy Zone 2 are even more sugary sweet than those in the first game. The vibrant and contrasting colors really jump off the screen and give the game its unique charm and personality. Each level is very distinct in look and feel, and even the various areas within each level show a lot of variety. The bosses are also a bit more imaginative this time around and some are downright enormous in size, especially considering that this is an 8-bit title. There is quite a bit of flicker and slowdown in certain parts of the game, but considering how visually ambitious the game is, it's a small price to pay in the long run.
Everything about Fantasy Zone is bigger and better, except for the soundtrack. While most of the sound effects have remained intact, the new musical score just doesn't have that catchy charm found in the original game's soundtrack. While it's certainly not what you would call annoying, it just has a very bland sound to it and doesn't seem to add anything to what is an otherwise charming gaming experience. As good as the other facets of the game are, it makes you wish the developers had put a little more time and effort into the musical production.
The Fantasy Zone series has always had a certain charm to it that's made it so popular among shooter fans over the years and Fantasy Zone 2 is certainly no exception. It's basically everything you could want from a sequel and more. The levels are bigger, the game play is a bit more varied, and the visuals are about as impressive as anything you'll see on the 8-bit Sega Master System. It's safe to say that if you've enjoyed any of the other Fantasy Zone releases, you're going to love Fantasy Zone 2. And if you haven't tried any of the Fantasy Zone titles out yet, now might be a good time to do so.