Review – Endless Zone

Despite loving and feeling nostalgic for most of what Sega released in the mid to late 90’s, I don’t exactly have the same nostalgic connection towards their 80’s arcade titles, mostly because I wasn’t even alive back then. Whenever I play Hang-On or Space Harrier, I do have a good time with them, certainly, but I don’t feel the same joy as if I were playing Daytona USA or House of the Dead, for instance. The one exception to the case is Fantasy Zone, one of the earliest and most innovative shoot ’em ups from back in the day. As to be expected, it’s a cult hit that had little to no sequels over the past thirty-ish years. At last, Sega decided to surprise us with a “new” Fantasy Zone released from out of nowhere: Endless Zone.

Endless Zone

See these floating heads? You gotta kill them in order for the boss to show up.

A few things must be explained before proceeding with this review. Endless Zone is a free game, not in the sense that it is F2P, but in the sense that it is a full-fledged (but minuscule) title that is free to own. It is part of Sega’s 60th anniversary celebration. The company partnered with small studio Eccentric Ape to create small but neat takes on some of their most fabled franchises. They have released them for free on Steam, albeit only allowing users to download these titles from the 17th to the 19th of October. There is a big chance you will read this review after these games have been removed from the Steam store, without the chance of actually playing it. Which is a shame, because Endless Zone is also pretty decent, all things considered.

Endless Zone maintains the classic Fantasy Zone gameplay loop of letting you control a small and frail spaceship in a horizontal and constantly looping plain. Your objective is to destroy a set amount of spherical, face-shaped starships located throughout the free-roaming level in order to summon its big bulky boss. Destroy it, and you’re transported to the next level. You can also blow up lots of smaller enemy ships and collect currency that can be exchange for limited use upgrades or extra lives whenever you find a shop icon flying through the screen. In short, it’s exactly the same game from 1986, but with a new coat of paint and setting.

Endless Zone

Once you upgrade your ship’s blasters and engines, the game becomes exponentially easier.

This new coat of paint and setting is the most interesting bit. It’s set on the Endless series of games developed by Amplitude. Instead of the adorable Opa-Opa ship from the classic Fantasy Zone games, you control one of the staple starfighters from Endless Space. Most enemy ships are taken straight from those strategy games as well, and backgrounds are based on mysterious planets instead of cutesy gardens and fantasy settings. Basically, it’s a cute ’em up, as Fantasy Zone was labeled as, but without the “cute” bit.

For a free game with a painfully short running time, Endless Zone does feature decent graphics. Sure, most assets were stripped right from the Endless Space games, but they sure look good in a shooter setting. The game features decent lighting effects and runs on a high framerate even on less powerful hardware. Its Steam page specifies you need a GTX 900 series card at least, but that certainly isn’t the case. The soundtrack is comprised of great electronic tunes, but the issue here is that they are looped ad nauseum, becoming a nuisance after a while. There is not a lot of variety in here, as to be expected.

Finally, you need to understand that a game based on Fantasy Zone will always feature a design flaw that makes it quite annoying at first. This is a game about collecting resources and spending on ship upgrades, so you will be slow and underpowered at first. You need to destroy a few ships and upgrade your fighter as quickly as possible, and once that is done, you will finally be able to mow down everyone in sight without ever caring. This is not exactly a fault, but something that has been carried over from the original Fantasy Zone’s gameplay loop. This is an arcade game, a quarter muncher, so it’s meant to be challenging and even a bit unfair at times.

Endless Zone

Just like in every other shooter ever made, the key to defeating a boss is figuring out its attack pattern.

I cannot complain that much about Endless Zone, though. It has flaws, of course, but as a free game, it’s certainly worth your while. As a brand new take on the classic Fantasy Zone series, it’s also a cause for celebration. Sega certainly did not need to develop a full-fledged sequel to one of its most underrated franchises and release it for free, but here we are. They could have pulled a Nintendo, reselling old ROMs for ludicrous prices for a limited time, but what we ended up getting instead was an adorable little gift that shows that even the most forgotten Sega franchises still have a chance to shine once again, thirty years later.


Graphics: 7.0

A bunch of assets that look they came straight from other Endless games, but they still look decent enough on a shoot ’em up setting. There are some good lighting effects in here and the framerate is stable even on lesser hardware.

Gameplay: 7.5

The same acclaimed Fantasy Zone gameplay loop from more than three decades ago, which aged surprisingly well. Just make sure to understand that your ship starts off severely underpowered and it’s up to you to upgrade it as time goes on.

Sound: 6.0

The songs themselves aren’t bad, on the contrary, but there aren’t lots of them in here. They are looped ad nauseum, meaning that you will get bored of the soundtrack in a jiffy.

Fun Factor: 7.5

It’s Fantasy Zone, without the cuteness. The good gameplay is still there. The occasionally unfair arcade tropes are also there. All in all, a love letter to the classic franchise, but with a brand new coat of paint.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Endless Zone is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.