We reviewed 3D Fantasy Zone a few months back, and though there were gripes, we generally enjoyed the classic shooter. Here we are then, nearly at the end of Sega’s second wave of 3D Classics, and we’re provided another opportunity to pilot the sentient spaceship Opa-opa through the bullet-laden, candy-colored world of 3D Fantasy Zone II W some 28 years after its initial release on the Master System. But while some games age like a fine glass of wine, others sour quickly. Has 3D Fantasy Zone II W managed to withstand the test of time, like so many of its fellow 3D Classics titles?
The gameplay is basically the same as in 3D Fantasy Zone; players maneuver their spaceship through wrap-around stages that don’t just push from left to right, but instead give freedom to choose direction, effectively allowing traversing the stage in said traditional way, or going from right to left. Players dodge bullets and other deadly projectiles, all the while collecting coins to spend in shops that, unlike in the past title, are randomly generated. Upgrading one’s ship makes levels easier, helping bring about a more timely end to each level’s final boss. For a better understanding of the gameplay mechanics, please consult our 3D Fantasy Zone review, since the core has not been modified at all.
What has changed is the inclusion of new “dark world’s,” paths that crop up once certain enemies are killed, and can then be taken by the player so as to decrease the difficulty level of each stage. These are welcome too, especially considering they are completely optional and because the degree of challenge is once again high. It’s one of the aspects that will be super enticing or completely off-putting for players; but with the implementation of these new dark worlds, folks may find that 3D Fantasy Zone II W is more accessible than its predecessor simply because players can now essentially choose how punishing they want things to be.
By easing the difficulty, players may not just find that enemy bullets are more sparse, but that they collect coins faster due to the new auto-pick up feature. Part of Fantasy Zone’s challenge on its standard difficulty is having to maneuver around enemies and projectiles in order to pick up coins that have merely fallen straight to the ground from defeated opponents. This clearly requires precision flying; not having to worry about this thanks to the auto-acquire mechanic lets players focus more on killing then, instead of fancy flying so as to snatch up those lovely coins off the ground. This auto-pull concept ultimately means one’s cash reserves sky-rocket quickly. This in turn allows folks to purchase upgrades more easily, which results in burning through baddies like its nobody’s business. And with the returning ability to bank coins — one of the staples we really enjoyed in the first 3D FZ — it’s safe to say that Fantasy Zone has never been this pick-up-and-play.
But the largest addition to II W is Link Loop Land. In this 3DS exclusive mode, players embark on an endless score attack setup which has been inspired by the likes of NiGHTS and Geometry Wars. Meaning to say, gamers are tasked with staying alive and extending their combo chains through effective targeting. Because this is basically a score-chasers dream, it’s easy to get lost in the addicting nature of point multipliers. After a little bit of playing, we found ourselves finding a nice cadence, swooping in and out of harm’s way and trouncing bad guys with a hypnotic rhythm. And finding that personal sweet-spot of bobbing and shooting affects the overall score too, since the game tracks how long a player’s survived, how many enemies have been taken out, combo chains and overall score. This is absolutely 3D Fantasy Zone II W‘s claim to fame, and is just what the first title was missing.
Aside from that, where II W pales in comparison to its older sibling is the in the audio department. This time around it feels like a chirpy mess, primarily because the first game’s OST is so strong. Here though, the tunes are not as catchy and some arrangements are disjointed, uninspired and lacking any memorable segments. At least the graphics are just as good though; they’re still bright as can be, helping define the game’s identity. In fact, Fantasy Zone is significant sometimes only because of its memorable, charming aesthetic.
It’s also disappointing that the game does not feature any time of cooperative play or leaderboards, carrying over that pitfall from the first title. On the contrary, the stereoscopic 3D continues to look great thanks to M2 being experts at getting the most out of the 3DS’ feature. Coupled with the stable-3D of the New 3DS XL and Fantasy Zone II W can be vivacious as all get-out. In fact, like with many of M2’s 3D Classics’ endeavors, one would be doing themselves a disservice if they did not check out the game with the 3D slider cranked all the way up.
In the end, 3D Fantasy Zone II W is better than its predecessor, though not by much of a margin. It feels like the definitive version of Fantasy Zone, yes, but it also still suffers from many of the same problems as the first game. Thankfully, it manages to offset those qualms with some effective enhancements. In fact, the only part of Fantasy Zone II W that pales in comparison to the original title is its soundtrack, which is now a bit of a chirpy mess. Overall though, this is a solid 2D shoot-em-up that will test a player’s manual dexterity and patience. If you’re wanting a challenging blast of Sega nostalgia, we can think of worse ways to spend $5.99.