When Sega 3D Classics Collection‘s North American release was announced, I was excited. It was the first time Puyo Puyo 2 and Power Drift were being officially released here! It looked like a solid collection of ten games! Then I remembered that three were Fantasy Zone titles. It took me aback for a moment, seeing three similar games in one compilation. Shouldn’t there be more diversity? The excitement about playing the other seven kept me from focusing on something that seemed initially awry.
It was only after spending a substantial about of time with Sega 3D Classics Collection that I understood why there’s so much Fantasy Zone there. They’re perhaps the most enlightening three games in the assortment. Sure, the premise of each game is the same. Opa-Opa needs to defeat the bases in each area in order to warp to the boss and advance, but it never feels repetitious. The three games’ similarities never damage the experience, because the manner in which this is accomplished is different in each one. New landscapes and elements make every entry detailed and unique. Instead, it becomes a learning experience that shows how games grow with time.
The first Fantasy Zone in the collection is the most basic. It’s a port of the eight stage, Sega Master System game. While it’s the most simple entry in the series, only requiring people to defeat six bases in a single area, many mainstays are established. The stationary bases, spewing enemies, are established. You can occasionally access shops to purchase limited time or single use upgrades for Opa-Opa. It sets a standard and elegantly implements gameplay elements. You proceed at your leisure, with no restrictions on your range of movement or time limits, in what can be best described as a serene shooter.
It makes the transition to Fantasy Zone II W and Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa, the Sega Master System and its System 16 remake more educational and entertaining. While the objectives remain the same, the means of accomplishing them are entirely different. Gone are the days of a single area to clear. One has a player traveling between three different zones, with one offering a shop and another a warp point to that location’s boss. The other allows Opa-Opa to jump between parallel dimensions, with the Bright Side being easier and the Dark Side offering better rewards. People can even earn different endings, depending on if players stuck to the Bright Side, Dark Side or purchased specific upgrades.
With these three games, we see marked growth. Fantasy Zone is the base. We see the first few, original upgrades and systems. With the first iteration of Fantasy Zone II, the game grows. Opa-Opa can travel to more areas, allowing for more exploration. The planets feel more distinct, since we’re visiting different locations. The final remake adds the element of choice. You determine Opa-Opa’s path and the story is altered accordingly. There are consequences to the player’s actions. The games grew. By playing them one by one in Sega 3D Classics Collection, we grow too.
After spending time with all three Fantasy Zone games in Sega 3D Classics Collection, it’s easy to see why they’re there. No other elements in this assemblage offer such an understanding of how Sega games evolved over the years. But with Fantasy Zone, Fantasy Zone II W and Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa, someone can see within fifteen minutes how one series evolves. By playing all three, we see how how enduring some attributes are and appreciate how quality premises withstand the test of time.