I could’ve easily given both the Sega Ages games Shinobi and Fantasy Zone separate review pages. But, in honesty, they both deliver exactly what they’ve set out to originally accomplish — producing retro bliss for a very convenient price. It’s just a matter of deciding whether you’re all about ninjas or weird spaceships blasting enemies in a confined zone.
Shinobi is based on the original arcade game of the same name, not the following Sega Genesis games. So it’s simpler in nature, but presents Joe Hisashi in all his classic glory as he cuts enemies down to size while rescuing hostages. Along the way, he’ll also need to deal with bosses, including a technical terror with an army of robots and a helicopter filled with ninjas. That’s right, a helicopter filled with ninjas.
M2 handled the conversion of this game, and it holds up beautifully. There’s even an option to switch the button configurations around, in case you need rapid fire or want to set things up a different way. The visuals and audio are pretty much a perfect reproduction of the arcade game, though obviously the graphics are a step below what the Genesis games provide in terms of technical beauty. No matter. We’re going old-school here.
There’s also an Ages mode that’s a welcome sight for newcomers, as Joe can take more hits this way. It’s ideal for those who grew up on the newer Shinobi games. Loving this addition.
Then there’s Fantasy Zone. This quirky little shooter puts you in an enclosed fantasy space (think Defender or Resogun with its “infinite loop”) as you blast enemies big and small from the sky. Along the way, you can acquire new weapons from a floating shop with the coins you’ve acquired; and you’ll also need to deal with boss enemies with varying attacks.
This one’s just like Shinobi, light and breezy at first, but then challenging as it goes on. The arcade version holds up fundamentally well, though I do prefer the more complex sequels that came to consoles years later, which aren’t really represented here. At least the original game is intact, and that’ll be a treat for fans.
What’s more, there’s a bonus mode in Fantasy Zone as well. Upa-Upa mode does away with the shop in favor of just letting you switch between what weapons you want to use. Like Ages mode in Shinobi, it makes things fairly easier — and a little easier to stomach.
Fantasy Zone’s presentation is simple for the most part, and not nearly as complicated as its sequels. Still, it looks delightful on the Nintendo Switch, either in handheld mode or on the TV. And the music’s not bad either.
So you’ve got two more great games in the Sega Ages library, handled exquisitely well by the developers at M2. If you’re smart, you’ll go ahead and add both to your collection, as they’re worth your time with their pinpoint accuracy and extra features, including the ability to rewind in spots and even set up scanlines, if you’re in an old-school visual mindset. Now that’s fan service — and I can’t wait to see what these guys do next.