Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Fortified Zone (Game Boy, 1991)


Another of the Game Boy Player's Guide games that I wanted to check out for a long time. Man, that Game Boy guide sold me on games so well that I'm still checking out stuff from it 30 years later.

This is a decent, if very short, game from Jaleco. Looked cool in the guide but wasn't expecting much, got a pleasant surprise.

First off, here's the guide coverage. This game has four levels (yep, what you see in the guide is the entirety of it) and what amounts to six maps since level 3 and 4 are both double-sized. You have two characters to switch between, and if both fall, it's back to the beginning of the current level. You get passwords, so you never have to start the game over. Not that passwords are necessary because this game is only four levels yo. It can be finished in like an hour on a first go.

Even as a kid I was a boss-thusiast, and I remember really liking the boss designs in this game. The two mechs in level 4 are particularly good-looking for the system.

The two characters play very differently. Only Masato can use all the special weapons and weapon powerups, so his attacks do way more damage. There's almost no reason to ever use Mizuki, except that she moves a little faster and can jump. So you can break her out every time you find a room with pits that need to be jumped over. That's right. Mizuki is basically the Roc's Feather.

Back of the box. Mizuki has the defense, eh? That's one way to say that she's a Roc's Feather.

"If only I could JUMP" says Masato while ineffectually hopping an inch into the air. "So...HEAVY"

In Japan, this game went by the name of Ikari No Yousai, and had a sequel on the Game Boy as well. Very different cover art than the super-American box at the top of this post.

In the sequel, Mizuki is now a redhead, and still really into short shorts.

Time to get this thing started and hope for the best. Generally games that were covered in the Game Boy Player's Guide have all ended up being worth their salt...mostly. There's a clunker or three in that guide.

Masato sports a big ol' Rambo-style machine gun and one-arms it the same way.

In this ingame closeup he looks like he's about 14 years old. A hardened veteran, in Japanese game years. However, in the full-body shots he looks like an adult.

Same deal here. Poor Mizuki, all she gets is a lowly plinking pistol. At least she is also... The Roc Feather.

Closeup. It actually kind of looks like Mizuki might be wearing pants. Hard to tell with this grayscale. However, in all of the game's artwork she's in short shorts.

Stage 1...Stage 1 is always a field, isn't it? A field, or grasslands, or plains. Everybody copied Mario.

The game begins! ...I don't know what to do. Immediately, this game feels very similar to a Zelda dungeon. You go from square room to square room and defeat all the enemies to unlock the doors. Combine this with Mizuki being a Roc's Feather and...yeah.
Though this game also came out more than a year before Link's Awakening did, so the jumping is coincidence. That or...Fortified Zone did it first? My God! Shigeru Miyamoto is a thief!

Most of the enemies are just generic soldiers, though we have some cool minibosses sprinkled around like this gun platform. Shoot, run to the sides to avoid boss shots, shoot more. It's like if the first Zelda game on the NES only had distance attacks and no melee attacks.

Another miniboss is this artillery truck. Masato can fire 5 shots at a time and bosses have almost no i-frames after being hit, so he can really stack on the damage.

At any point you can switch characters. They both have their own life meter. Picking up First-Aid Kits heals the character you're currently using, and if that character is at full health, the kits get "banked" like E-Tanks.

I switch characters out for a sec. Mizuki's ingame sprite looks more like she's wearing a bikini. You can even see some Plumber Crack!

Mizuki demonstrates her leaping power to get over some spike pits, then she quickly gets back into her Pok├ęball.

The first major a bunch of gun turrets on tables or something. I didn't even know this was a boss fight and thought it was just more regular enemies.

Level 2 is basically indistinguishable from Level 1, with the same enemies and minibosses, just a new floor layout. As you progress, you find various Heart Container type things that add to your total life meter. However, if both characters die or you restart, they reset back to 3 hearts. This is kinda awful because there are fewer and fewer of these things as the game goes on. It's clear that it expects you to reach the full 8 ticks of health by level 3 because after that there's very little. Going through the game in one sitting makes level 4 way easier than restarting with a password.

A gigantic tank is the level 2 boss. This fight is awesome and it has multiple parts you can blast. The whole game should have had more traditional military hardware like this to fight.

Level 3 gets weird though, and suddenly you're fighting...aliens? Or something.

Some of them are CRAB PEOPLE.

Level 3 boss is the first really difficult thing in this game, some kind of dragon. Blast it in the head, just don't actually bump into it because it ONE-SHOTS YOU.

Staying to the side is advised. I could see this thing ending a lot of kids' first run at the game.

Level 4 is like, the enemy base, and you can tell. Suddenly the enemies are robots instead of soldiers, and the floors are full of spikes and conveyor belts. Doesn't help that this game has terrible collision detection on spike pits, meaning if you're unlucky you can skirt around them and still take damage as if you bumped them.

I break out Mizuki for all of this platforming. Most games this would be no problem since you could just walk in straight lines along the walkway. This one, though, for whatever reason it's just painful. The collision detection plus your characters being bulky means rooms like this are awful.

Speaking of awful, this one miniboss in a room full of conveyor squares that just randomly move you around... this was just Ass, and it's right before the final bosses no less.

Final boss 1. METAL GEAR?

Final boss 2 is less impressive and seems to be some kind of computer core.

Had less trouble with either of these mechs than with the dragon in level 3. Once that part is over the rest of the game is smooth sailing with 8 health.

Well, except for this. When the final boss is basically defeated, it sits there spamming lasers along the one line of fire that you need to be in to shoot the core and finish it off. Mizuki is basically required now to duck between the lasers and shoot back, so hopefully she didn't get knocked off yet.

End screen. Very short game, could have used 3-4 more levels. It's a Game Boy game from 1991 though. I've learned as I've played more things from that era that most Game Boy games were very short.

Our heroes stumble to safety as the enemy fortress crumbles in the background. Now maybe Mizuki can put on some pants! And get Masato a shirt! Nobody wants to see these sexy people!

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