Community Retro Let's Play for November 2020. Fantasy Zone was one of Sega's hits of the 80s, with its little sentient spaceship protagonist their mascot before Alex Kidd and Sonic. I don't think it was too popular in English speaking countries with its psychedelic pastel styling, but it was a pack-in with my Sega Master System console, and I've only recently given it a good play. The Master System version was an excellent port of the System 16 arcade version to 8-bit hardware. The game has no autofire, and the SMS pads were terrible for shmup-style button pressing, so a rapid fire controller (emulated or real), Rapid Fire Unit, or arcade controller that can take a beating are needed. I had none of these when I first had the game, which is why I've parked it for so long. The game is a shooter on horizontal free-scrolling looping levels (Defender was an inspiration), and it was ported to a few systems (SMS, 2 NES ports, TG16, MSX, MZ-700), and the arcade version has been improved and rereleased under the Sega AGES label on modern systems starting with the Saturn/PS2/Wii. For screenshots, comparisons, and a great writeup on the series, see the HG101 article: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/fantasy-zone Recommended ways to play If you've never played the game before and don't have an easy way to get one of the M2/Sega AGES versions, then the MAME version is probably the best place to start. It's playable on archive.org's Internet Arcade here: https://archive.org/details/arcade_fantzone I don't know if it's possible to configure autofire in the JSMAME setup that Internet Arcade has, so if you have a controller with rapid fire or experience with controller emulation software, that's recommended. Otherwise, to make progress in the game you'll probably want to run MAME on your computer with the autofire plugin: Grab fantzone.zip and put it in your MAME roms folder, if you don't already have a full set of ROMs installed. Start MAME, go to "plugins" in the machine selection screen (tab key moves between sections, esc goes "back"), and enable the autofire plugin. Load Fantasy Zone, then press tab to bring up the machine menu Select "Configure Plugins" to configure the autofire plugin for this machine. What you're configuring here is a new key that acts as an alternative to an existing button, but with autofire. Select P1 Button 1 as the "Input" button, any unused keyboard key (I use Z) as the "Hotkey", then select "Create". This adds the Z key as an alternative fire button but with autofire. You can play with the speed by choosing how many frames the button is "on" vs. "off", if you want to make it more realistic of how fast a person could spam an arcade button. If you've never used MAME before (it's not really intuitive), you can post questions here or in the dedicated MAME Retro FAQ. 5 adds a coin/credit, 1 starts the game, ctrl and alt are regular fire and secondary fire, arrow keys move, p pauses. I've been focusing on the SMS and 3DS versions recently. The 3DS version is an M2 port of the arcade/AGES version, and uses the 3D display to put the sprites and background planes at different depths. It has some excellent mod cons to alleviate the hardcore-ness of the arcade version: Rapid fire Stage select for any stage you've reached Tunable difficulty and extra lives (ie. machine DIP switches) An ongoing "bank" based on the amount of money you earn in a playthrough, that can be used to unlock secrets or pre-load a playthrough with cash The 3DS version also has a hidden menu option to Spoiler increase the rapid fire rate to something like MAME's 30hz option. The SMS version is more for nostalgia/redemption, but I do have a taste for the PSG square-wave renditions of the music (FM tracks are often too "soft" for my liking, but the arcade music is excellent). After a few hours of solid play over a few weeks, a cheat/secret to increase firepower availability, and a Youtube video to discover a technique for taking down the final boss, I finally made it through the "redemption" part. The SMS version (with rapid fire) is a fair bit easier than arcade, with fewer enemy bullets on screen and fewer bases to take down on every level. I also used the Australia cheat of playing with my unmodified SMS running at 50hz, but I plan to have another go at 60hz this month. In the last week or so I managed to beat the final boss in 3DS arcade version (using the level select to start from the last level) too. This unlocks a slightly different play mode, where the main character is Upa-Upa, the brother of Opa-Opa. Normally I give up on a game after I've seen the ending, but it might be possible to string together a 1CC here. If you want to play vicarously, you didn't have to wait until 2005 when YouTube was launched. There was an official "superplay" of the arcade game released on home video (VHS and laserdisc) by Sony: This isn't a 1CC, there's some delightful sequences showing multiple deaths (the machine DIP switches did have an "infinite lives" mode that you can select in MAME), but the player shows some movement skills that I'd swear were tool-assisted if it was a modern video, and a different secret technique for beating the final boss. Sequels Beyond nostalgia and redemption, one of the reasons I was interested in FZ1 was to lead up to its direct sequel, Fantasy Zone II. This was developed for the SMS directly rather than the arcade, so it was tuned for 8-bit graphics. When M2 came along to bring this to modern systems, they famously felt like the game hadn't reached its potential, so they remade the game for the Sega System 16 as Fantasy Zone II DX. From there, there's Super Fantasy Zone on the Mega Drive, as well as some spin-offs, including a Pac-Man mashup "Fantasy Zone: The Maze". As part of Sega's 60th anniversary celebrations, they also made a mashup of the "Endless..." series and Fantasy Zone, called "Endless Zone".