Sega Ages Fantasy Zone Review – The Original Cute ‘Em Up

Fantasy Zone Review

Fantasy Zone is a hilarious, loving version of the original arcade shoot ‘em up from 1985. This is not the Sega Master System port, or a port for any other system, it’s the much more graphically impressive original. This is a real piece of gaming history, as the player’s ship, Opa Opa, was Sega’s original mascot. And Fantasy Zone, along with Twin Bee, is the reason we now have the cute ‘em up game subgenre.

Before writing about the game itself, I should clear up that the Sega Ages games shouldn’t be confused with the games found on the Sega Genesis Classics collection. Even though both are available for the Switch, the Sega Genesis Classics collection is a single purchase with over 50 Sega Genesis games, The Sega Ages games are all individual game purchases and are comprised of mostly 80s and 90s arcade and Sega Master System games. There are also a few Genesis games, but it looks like the priority of the Sega Ages collection is to provide games not found on the Sega Genesis Classics collection or the Sega Genesis Mini.

Diggin’ the Whole Vibe

Fantasy Zone’s gameplay is basically a clone of another arcade classic, Gradius. Opa Opa can fly in any direction, and must locate and destroy enemy bases before a boss shows up. The two main forms of attack are a straight rapid fire, and a bomb that arcs downward. Coins are collected to buy power ups. There are 8 levels, and each is designed with a cartoony, pastel aesthetic, created to set it apart from other shmups of the time. There are lots of little details I appreciated like the way Opa Opa gets little feet when he touches the ground. The music is catchy and has a jungle vibe I really enjoyed.


Just like the other Sega Ages games, Fantasy Zone is full to the brim with modern extras. There’s an original arcade mode, with a stage select option. The Upa Upa Mode allows the player to switch between power ups freely with the L and R buttons. There’s also a time attack mode. Games can be saved, scores ranked and replays can be saved and viewed. There’s an online scan of the manual, which unfortunately couldn’t be accessed at the time of this review, and there’s also 4 difficulty settings that can be selected. The number of lives can be set from 1-5. The version of the game can be changed from the North American version to the Japanese version. There are unlockable extras which open up in exchange for coins and controls can be mapped. That’s not even the end of it. There are several display modes, and selectable wallpapers as well. An enemy base marker can be turned on and off and finally, background music can be selected and played.

Fantasy Zone is an excellent, and difficult shoot ‘em up. For fans of any Gradius-style game, I highly recommend you play this classic that still holds up. Its cartoony visual aesthetic gives it a charm, and its difficulty will keep fans shooting for a long time.

*** Switch code provided by the publisher ***

The Good

  • Cartoony pastel aesthetic 
  • Is the arcade version, not a port 
  • Tight controls 

The Bad

  • Basic game design 
  • For Gradius fans only 
  • Short length