Super Fantasy Zone by Sunsoft is one of my favourite childhood games. It’s still one of the games I come back to as a retro gamer and game developer. Released in 1992 for the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis in the US) the game was massively original with loads of cool mechanics that made it stand out. I spent hours taking turns with my brothers sat in-front of our clunky wooden housed TV taking turns, life by life, to try and beat the game.
A STORY OF REVENGE
Super Fantasy Zone started with a cool animation and a load of text. The story explained how O-Papa the father of the game’s hero Opa-Opa died at the hands of the dark forces of Menon. Opa-Opa swore to avenge his father’s death, take out the forces of Menon and restore peace to the Fantasy Zone. The story was simple but was enough to spur me and brothers on for days and days of play. Blasting through the first level, taking down those evil flowers and then the giant pumpkin head boss felt awesome. The low difficulty of the first level meant that we were ready to continue our rampage in the coming more difficult areas.
ORIGINAL RETRO GOODNESS
The game had a really unique concept in that the world would loop back round on itself. This wasn’t like in Asteroids or Pac-Man where you can see your character appear on the opposite side of the screen. In Super Fantasy Zone the game’s ‘camera’ followed you sideways. Then without any transition looped back to the left or right when you reached the opposite edge of the area. It was as if the level was wrapped around a cylinder.
You can see this effect in the much more recent Resogun by House Marque. The only difference is that, in the voxel based Resogun, the levels are literally wrapped around cylinders. In Super Fantasy Zone there was a rudimentary map of sorts at the bottom of the screen. The map showed you where you were in regards to the level’s main baddies and how many of the main baddies you had taken out.
SUPER FANTASY SHOP
The game also had a shop. A red blimp would appear during levels and if you flew over it you’d enter the shop. In the shop you could spend credits that you collected from the Menon forces you had destroyed. Things like big-wings, turbo-engines, bombs, and laser beams were available to purchase and could really give you the edge over the multitude of bosses.
There was a catch to buying things though. No upgrades were permanent and as soon as you lost a life you’d lose your fancy new weapons, wings, and engines. This lead to many long debates between me and my brothers. We tried to figured out the best tactics and items to buy for each level and boss. Trial and error was the order of the day. The three of us were on the edge of our seats until one of our plans finally came to fruition; another boss annihilated.
SUPER FANTASY HOLIDAY COME TRUE
In 2016 I went on a three week holiday to Japan with my fiancée Tony. Japan is a place I have always wanted to travel to and the experience was absolutely amazing. I ended up spending a whole day in a retro gaming arcade in Akihabara, Tokyo. One of the games I played was none other than Super Fantasy Zone. I spent a good few hours blasting through levels. I could have done with my brothers there to take out the bosses they were best at. It’s amazing how gaming and retro gaming are seen as an every day thing to do in Tokyo. Everyone from business people in suits on lunch breaks to young trendy people were playing games all around me. Every block seemed to have an arcade. Gaming doesn’t seem to be just a part of nerd or geek culture like it is in the west.
BOSS LIKE INSPIRATION
Super Fantasy Zone also inspired me and taught me a lot as a game developer. When making Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo I gave tribute to the game by making a Super Fantasy Zone inspired boss. I added the shop allowing players to upgrade their weapons, although in Space Blaster the upgrades are permanent. I also added a simple written story for the game and each mode. It adds context for those that need it, although its not animated like Sunsoft’s game. Like in Super Fantasy Zone the story can be completely ignored and the game fully enjoyed without it. It’s their if you are the kind of person who has enough imagination to expand upon the text.
Super Fantasy Zone is an amazing retro gaming experience that I will come back to again and again to both play and learn from. It will continue to inspire me as both a gamer and a game developer as it truly is a classic game. As many modern games focus on online interaction which often isolates players from the real world it is sometimes nice to sit down on your couch with another ‘actual’ person and talk through tactics as you take it in turns blasting through a fun retro game. This is what Super Fantasy Zone was made for. It’s still just as fun today as it was 25 years ago. And yeah, I don’t feel old at all.
Well I’m off to continue developing the update for the Nintendo Switch version of Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo adding load of improvement, and fixes as well as some new content. Looking forward to seeing the game launch on Xbox One on 12th February. Hopefully soon after I’ll be able to get back to work on The Flawless: Art’s Tale. Got more space blasting to do for now and that’s always fun. See you in space. To keep up to date with everything BKD join the Discord or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Ste Wilson is a director, game developer, and programmer at Bare Knuckle Development Ltd. When not coding away on BKD games he can be found playing video games on console and PC. He also makes music under the music maker name of ‘Electric Fan Death’ and loves playing guitar, writing tunes, and producing music.