Out Zone

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Out Zone
Out Zone arcade flyer.jpg
North American flyer
Designer(s)Naoki Ogiwara[1][2]
Composer(s)Tatsuya Uemura
Genre(s)Run and gun
Arcade systemToaplan Version 1[4]
CPUM68000 (@ 10 MHz)[3]
SoundSound CPU:
Z80 (@ 3.5 MHz),
Sound chips:[4]
YM3812 (@ 3.5 MHz)
DisplayRaster, 240 x 320 pixels (Vertical), 2048 colors

Out Zone[a] is a run and gun arcade video game developed by Toaplan and published in Japan by Tecmo, North America by Romstar and Europe on August 1990.[3][5][6] It is notable for being one of the few titles by Toaplan that has not received any official port to home consoles as of date.[7] Set in the future of the year 2097, where an alien race from the fictional planet Owagira are threatening to wipe out humanity after multiple failed attempts to defend Earth against their attacks, players assume the role of cyborg mercenaries recruited by the United Nations in a last-ditch effort to overthrow the invaders on the titular galaxy system.

Out Zone received positive reception from critics since its release and has been praised by reviewers in recent years for its visuals, sound design, gameplay, multiplayer, challenge and overall intensity but some lamented the lack of a console release. A spiritual successor, FixEight, was released for arcades in July 1992. As of 2019, the rights to the title is owned by Tatsujin, a company founded in 2017 by former Toaplan member Masahiro Yuge and now-affiliate of Japanese arcade manufacturer exA-Arcadia alongside many other Toaplan IPs.[8][9][10][11][12]


Gameplay screenshot.

Out Zone is a science fiction-themed vertically scrolling run and gun game reminiscent of Commando and Ikari Warriors, where players assume the role of two cyborg mercenaries hired by the United Nations through seven increasingly difficult levels, each with a boss at the end that must be fought before progressing any further, in a last-ditch effort to overthrow an alien race from the planet Owagira from invading Earth as the main objective.[7][5][13][14][15] As far as run and gun games go, the title initially appears to be very standard, as players fights enemies on foot and move upward through the level. Players are equipped with a number of bombs at the start, which obliterates any enemy caught in its blast radius, however player characters are not rendered invincible for any period of time after using a bomb.[13]

A unique gameplay feature is the weapon system;[7][5][13][14] unlike other games in the run and gun genre, players are equipped with two main weapons at the beginning that can be upgraded by picking up to two "P" icons in a row and can switch between them by picking up a "C" icon. The semi-automatic forward gun shoots forward no matter which way players move, but shoots three bullets in a slight spread each time the fire button is pressed, while the all-direction laser fires in the direction of movement, creating a sweep of bullets as the player character changes direction. The laser also shoots rapidly when holding down the fire button and each weapon is useful in certain situations, as players will often have to switch based on the enemy configuration. Other weapons that appear on certain occasions as different colored "SP" icons can also be acquired, like a flamethrower and a rotating energy ball capable of piercing walls.[7][13][14]

Another gameplay feature is the energy bar; Similar to Wonder Boy, player must remain aware of the energy bar, which constantly runs down at a steady pace and can only be refilled by collecting "E" icons scattered throughout the stage.[7][13] However, the energy bar itself does not act as health, as players can still be killed with a single enemy shot.[7] Various other "SP" items can also be picked up along the way such as 1UPs, a speed increaser, shield and an energy extender that increases the length of the energy meter.[13]

The game hosts a number of hidden bonus secrets to be found, which is also crucial for reaching high-scores to obtain extra lives, as well as cameos of characters from other Toaplan games such as Flying Shark, Truxton and Zero Wing.[3][7] The title uses a checkpoint system in which a downed single player will start off at the beginning of the checkpoint they managed to reach before dying. Getting hit by enemy fire, colliding against solid stage obstacles, falling off the stage or running out of energy will result in losing a live, as well as a penalty of decreasing the characters' firepower and speed to his original state and once all lives are lost, the game is over unless the players insert more credits into the arcade machine to continue playing. Although there is an ending, the game loops back to the first stage after completing the last stage as with previous titles from Toaplan, with each one increasing the difficulty and enemies fire denser bullet patterns.

Development and release[edit]

Out Zone was released in arcades worldwide on August 1990 by Tecmo, Romstar and Toaplan.[3][5][16][17][18] The game ran on Toaplan's Version 1 arcade board, which used a Motorola 68000 clocked at 10 megahertz, as well as Zilog Z80 and Yamaha YM3812 chips for sound, while its visuals were rendered at 240 x 320 pixels with 2048 colors and displayed 256 sprites onscreen.[3][4][19] The soundtrack was composed by Tatsuya Uemura, who also created the sound effects.[3][1][2][20][21][22][23][24] On October 21, 1990, an album containing music from the title and Snow Bros. was co-published exclusively in Japan by Scitron and Pony Canyon, featuring an arranged song composed by Uemura.[3][25]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Review scores
Sinclair User85%[26]
Your Sinclair84° / 100°[27]

Out Zone received positive reception from critics since its release and has become a well regarded title from Toaplan by reviewers in recent years. Sinclair User praised the fast-paced gameplay and frenetic action, stating that "Outzone is one hell of a challenge, particularly past the initial stages, but is sure to set the pulse racing if you've got the reactions to match it!".[26] Likewise, David Wilson of Your Sinclair praised the frenetic gameplay, although he drew comparison with Mercs.[27] Retro Gamer's Mike Bevan gave positive remarks to the presentation but lamented the lack of a console release.[14][28] Similarly, Malcolm Laurie from SHMUPS! lamented the lack of a console port but praised the visuals, sound design, gameplay and multiplayer.[29]

Out Zone was included as one of the titles in the 2010 book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.[30] A spiritual sequel, FixEight, was released in July 1992 for arcades.[7] In more recent years, the rights to the game, its spiritual follow-up and many other IPs from Toaplan are now owned by Tatsujin, a company named after Truxton's Japanese title that was founded in 2017 by former Toaplan employee Masahiro Yuge, who are now affiliated with arcade manufacturer exA-Arcadia.[8][9][10][11][12]


  1. ^ Japanese: アウトゾーン Hepburn: Auto Zōn?


  1. ^ a b Iona; VHS; K-HEX (June 2009). "東亜プラン FOREVER". Floor 25 (in Japanese). Vol. 9.
  2. ^ a b "Translation - Toaplan Forever [3/5]". gamengai.com. Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Out Zone [TP-018]". arcade-history.com. Archived from the original on 2019-11-10. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  4. ^ a b c "Toaplan Version 1 Hardware (Other)". system16.com. Archived from the original on 2019-09-16. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  5. ^ a b c d "Out Zone (ARC)". Postback (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2018-01-19. Retrieved 2019-09-06.
  6. ^ Wovou (2019). "L'histoire de Toaplan – page 2". neo-arcadia.com (in French). Neo-Arcadia. Archived from the original on 2019-08-21. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Zverloff, Nick (5 February 2011). "Toaplan Shooters (Page 4) - Out Zone". Hardcore Gaming 101. Archived from the original on 26 February 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  8. ^ a b "ライセンス事業" (in Japanese). TATSUJIN Co., Ltd. 2019. Archived from the original on 2018-12-25. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  9. ^ a b Bravo, Roberto (September 12, 2018). "Nueva compañía "Tatsujin" asegura tener gran parte de las IPs de la extinta Toaplan" (in Spanish). Gamercafe. Archived from the original on October 21, 2019. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  10. ^ a b "Tatsujin". exA-Arcadia. 2019. Archived from the original on 2019-10-21. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  11. ^ a b Bravo, Roberto (January 25, 2019). "Tatsujin, los dueños de Toaplan, anuncian que están trabajando para exA-Arcadia" (in Spanish). Gamercafe. Archived from the original on October 21, 2019. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  12. ^ a b "[JAEPO2019]TATSUJINやナツメアタリの参入が発表されたexA-Arcadia。出展コーナーの模様を紹介". 4Gamer.net (in Japanese). Aetas Inc. January 26, 2019. Archived from the original on October 21, 2019. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  13. ^ a b c d e f "OUT ZONE" (in Japanese). Shooting Star. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  14. ^ a b c d Bevan, Mike. "Rogue's Gallery: O is for... - Outzone (Toaplan- Arcade)". Destroy All Monsters!. Archived from the original on 2019-01-19. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  15. ^ "Welcome to the Outzone Worship page!". The Out Zone Worship Page. August 31, 2004. Archived from the original on January 13, 2007. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  16. ^ Out Zone arcade flyer (Tecmo, JP)
  17. ^ Out Zone arcade flyer (Romstar, US)
  18. ^ Out Zone arcade flyer (Toaplan, EU)
  19. ^ "Toaplan Hardware - Truxton, Zero Wing, Hell Fire, and Out Zone". The Toaplan Museum. Archived from the original on 2017-02-17. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  20. ^ "東亜プラン シューティングクロニクル". SweepRecord (in Japanese). SuperSweep. 14 November 2011. Archived from the original on 21 October 2019. Retrieved 2019-10-15.
  21. ^ blackoak. "Toaplan Shooting Chronicle Box Developer Interviews". shmuplations.com. Archived from the original on 2018-07-11. Retrieved 2019-10-15.
  22. ^ "東亜プラン". Shooting Gameside (in Japanese). Vol. 4. Micro Magazine. February 3, 2012. ISBN 978-4896373844.
  23. ^ blackoak. "Tatsuya Uemura – Toaplan Interview". shmuplations.com. Archived from the original on 2019-09-06. Retrieved 2019-10-15.
  24. ^ "Out Zone with guest Tatsuya Uemura". pixelatedaudio.com. Pixelated Audio. March 2017. Archived from the original on 2019-10-23. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  25. ^ "PCCB-00044 | Out Zone • Snow Bros". vgmdb.net. VGMdb. Archived from the original on 2017-01-11. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  26. ^ a b "Coin Ops - Out Zone - Toaplan". Sinclair User. No. 105. EMAP. November 1990. pp. 54–55.
  27. ^ a b Wilson, David (December 1990). "Slots Of Fun - Out Zone (Taito)". Your Sinclair. No. 60. Future plc. p. 70. Archived from the original on 2016-06-10. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  28. ^ Bevan, Mike (October 1, 2008). "Outzone". Retro Gamer. Archived from the original on August 3, 2015. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  29. ^ Laurie, Malcolm. "Out Zone". www.shmups.com. SHMUPS!. Archived from the original on 2018-07-09. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  30. ^ Mott, Tony (2 August 2010). 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. Quintessence Editions Ltd. ISBN 978-1-74173-076-0.

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