20th Century Fox
You want a vertical shooter that has it all, this is your game. A lot of people probably have no idea what this game is or even that it exists, but it sits there quietly being one of the best vertical shooters for the VCS.
Fantastic Voyage is loosely based on the film of the same name wherein a team of sailors are shrunk to microscopic size and injected into a human patient to relieve a blood clot in the patient's brain. By the same token in this game you take command of the microscopic submarine in the bloodstream fighting your way to the blood clot(s) and ultimately saving the patient. You'll have to navigate the bloodstream, blasting dangerous elements like bacteria, avoiding helpful agents like blood cells, and trying to keep the patient alive long enough to blast the blood clot.
What's great about Fantastic Voyage is the variety of challenges you face in the course of the game. First you have to navigate the blood stream successfully. Touching the walls or anything else in the bloodstream will cause the patient distress and increase the heart rate which is essentially your HP meter. If the patient's heart rate gets too high the patient will flat line and die and your mission will be over. As long as you can keep the patient's heart rate low, you will keep playing, no matter how many hits you take to your submarine (obviously you cannot take too many or it is game over anyway). So you have to be extremely careful just moving around.
You'll be pressed into action pretty quickly as bloodstream elements appear ahead of you. The diversity of elements in the bloodstream is impressive. You'll have to shoot out deadly bacteria (which take three hits to kill), defense cells that launch from the walls, and anti-bodies which are sent out to destroy you if you touch the walls. You must shoot these things for if they pass you by, the patient's heart rate will spike. Not all targets must be shot, however. A couple must be avoided entirely. Blood Cells can be shot, but they are helpful to the patient, so taking them out will mean a quick end to your game. Blood Clotlets will start appearing as you near the clot itself and are indestructible. You'll need to avoid them entirely. This is extra difficult because the artery narrows as you approach the clot. The Clot itself takes 15 hits to destroy. With the clot gone, the patient is saved and you can move on to other patients with the exact same problem. Along the way you can restore the patient's stamina by shooting enzymes that appear.
That's quite a challenge you've got there and once you get pretty good at that, the game gets faster and the patient's tolerance for trauma is greatly diminished.
Fantastic Voyage features minimalist graphics, but the various sprites are well rendered and the game is full of color. None of that will matter when you are zooming down an artery shooting bacteria while dodging blood cells and praying for enzymes as the walls close in on you.
This is a truly great vertical shooting game. It has fast-paced action, numerous game play elements that increase the level of challenge, and an interesting concept that elevates it above the basic vertical shooter format. If you have not played Fantastic Voyage, I highly recommend it, but be ready for a challenge. I always look forward to taking another trip into the bloodstream.
My Top Fantastic Voyage Score: 253,342