Jaleco seems to be good at making a game of just about any genre. We've seen fighters, sports games, a firefighting game and more, and this one can probably be best described as a mix of The Legend of Zelda and Commando, similarly to the original Metal Gear, in a way.
Like many old games there's not much of a story. You play as two mercenaries who infiltrate a large fortified complex to defeat a nondescript enemy and save the day. Upon starting you're immediately plunged into the first area, a wooden fort of sorts. You'll quickly discover that your character controls much like the main characters from games like Commando — rather slow, and with bullets actually coming from the barrel of your weapon rather than your character, meaning you need to line up your gun with enemies, not just your hero.
Meanwhile, the level design is curiously like the dungeons in the original Legend of Zelda, with each room having up to four exits leading up, down left or right to another room. In each you'll find enemies that respawn every single time you enter, and you'll have to go around finding key items, power-ups and defeating minibosses in order to reach the final room where a boss lurks. You can view a map of the current level on the pause screen whenever you want, as well as being able to change between your two characters — they don't share a life bar, so if your life is getting low switch to the other until you find some health.
It won't take that long to find health though, as there's a ton of it scattered around, making the game generally pretty easy. If that wasn't enough, you'll also find items like upgraded gun shots, life extensions and powerful grenades, which combined with the fact that your character can actually jump across obstacles means you'll make short work of just about any enemy along the way.
The game doesn't seem long, with just four stages total, but while the first two are pretty short the other two span two different floors each and as such can take a good while to navigate. There's a password system if you prefer one stage over another, so you can start out anywhere you want as well.
The graphics are nothing to write home about, with many enemies looking quite similar and the levels generally repeating themselves over and over, but the music is fairly good, with some catchy tunes spread out here and there.
Curiously, this game is actually the first in a series of three games in Japan, but is a completely standalone title in the West, much like Jaleco's other games Rival Turf!, Brawl Brothers and The Peace Keepers, all on the Super NES. Known in Japan as Ikari no Yōsai, Fortified Zone had a direct sequel on the Game Boy, as well as a third, somewhat unrelated game on the SNES. Only the SNES game was also released elsewhere, as Operation Logic Bomb. Maybe we'll see it on the Wii Virtual Console sometime?
Overall, Fortified Zone is a strange but working mix of two completely different types of games. It's not particularly long, and there's never really any moments that elevate it to fantastic levels, but it's a fun game throughout and well worth a try in these early days of the 3DS Virtual Console, as most people probably will not have originally played it.