Fantasy Zone(Arcade/Sega Master System/Sega Game Gear, 1986)
In the great annals of game design, there are few rules that serve as testament: A cutscene introduces a level. Enemies become more difficult as the game progresses. A boss serves as a climax to a level and probably the most engraved of all the rules; Move from left to right.
However, when a game does not follow these rules, it can lead to some quite interesting situations. Take Fantasy Zone, a game wherein you can move the character left and right.
If that doesn’t blow your mind, then you need to reevaluate your life.
Okay, it isn’t quite as simple as being able to move a direction. The levels in Fantasy Zone essentially started the player in the middle of the map, so the enemies were situated on both sides of the character, meaning that the player would have to go both left and right.
Most games of this era went from left to right as to co-inside with the linear storyline. If the storyline says to start out as a humble plumber, then rescue a princess from a castle, the level design should be based in a similar way: Start small, then build and build and build. However, when a game doesn’t follow a straight forward storyline and instead focuses on a flying character defending a planet from invasion, then the gameplay has to be adjusted around the storyline to compensate.
Fantasy Zone allows the character to move left and right to give the player a choice in play. The purpose of the game is to defend, not to get from point A to point B, so the gameplay reflects that.
Back in the earlier days of video gaming, the industry wasn’t seen in such a high regard as it is now – Because of this, there was no specialized audiences. No FPS fanboys, imagine such a world! Video games were often very simplistic, usually revolving around themes that a young child could understand. A five year old could play Fantasy Zone and so could a ninety five year old.
Fantasy Zone was developed and published by Sega, which is a Japanese company, it therefor makes sense that Fantasy Zone falls into the Cute Em Up genre, which is very popular in Japan. It was here where Fantasy Zone had the most success, to then become one of the defining characters in Sega’s history.