By Compile NES 1986


(Above) US release published by FCI - box front cover.
(Below) The blurb from the box back cover.. ;)

GAMEPLAY: Operate your AFX-6502-ZANAC and destroy the enemy. Your main cannon begins as a single-shot pea shooter, which can be upgraded  by picking up orbs into a dual-shot and finally a triple shot. You also have a secondary weapon system which can use any of eight different kinds of weapons, which are activated by picking up icons numbered 0 through 7.
You start the game equipped with Fire 0, a large fireball that can be fired in any of eight directions. Picking up  another Fire 0 icon makes it a dual-fireball cannon. Other options are Fire 1, which sends a fireball slowly up the screen taking out anything  in its path, Fire 2 is a shield that lasts for a limited time, Fire 3 creates a fireball that orbits your ship, Fire 4 is some vibrating  doodad that I can't remember exactly how it works, Fire 5 is a fireball  that drifts slowly up the screen and then falls back down, Fire 6 is a very powerful weapon that eliminates all onscreen objects when it hits something, and Fire 7 is
a rapid-fire cannon.

  No big deal so far, right? Well, here's where ZANAC gets interesting. The placements and frequency of airborne objects such as most enemies and the Boxes that contain cannon powerups are not set in stone, but  rather depend on your performance. Start firing like a madman at nothing in particular, and the difficulty goes up. When a powerup appears, the difficulty goes up. Take out a reconnaissance plane, and the difficulty
goes down.

Your major objective is to try and take out the various Fortresses scattered throughout the game's 12 levels. When you reach a Fortress, you have a limited amount of time to destroy it. If you do, the difficulty goes down. If you don't, the difficulty goes up. There are also a lot of neat secrets, most of which are just as unpredictible as the enemy formations you'll face. Sometimes you can  ram into a Box that contains a cannon powerup and have your cannon completely powered-up. Other times you can do that and just plain die. I once managed to find a stage warp once, but have no idea how and have never done it since. If your first shot in a level is destroying a Sart recon plane with Fire 0, it'll turn into a 1-Up. (Sometimes.)

(Above) Stage Three is where things begin to hot up -
with 4 nasty fortresses to defeat, culminating in this big bad
mutha here.. If you haven't powered up enough by this
point you could be in trouble..

Cheers Zach! Yep.. Zanac is a good'un alright, and the unintentionally hilarious manual is a hoot also. Don't take my word for it, take a look at a scanned copy of the whole thing at the Zanac page here. I must admit that while I was a fan of Compile's Super Aleste (aka Space Megaforce) on the SNES I'd never heard of this game till recently discovering it through emulation, and similarities between the two games are very clear, which is no bad thing at all. Do yourself a favour and track it down if you still have a NES, or failing that get hold of Nesticle, download the Zanac rom here
and enjoy! (And if you like this game be sure and check out
Gunnac also..) Mike
Compile's first of many classic shooters,
and one of the NES's finest, Zanac is still
a damn fine blast in anyone's book..

Long before Final Fantasy 2 US set the standard
for horrible translations, there  was
ZANAC. More specifically, ZANAC's instruction manual. While still  more or less readable, whoever wrote it obviously never heard of a  spellchecker, with such beauties as "a long time agp"(sic), "Automativ"(sic), "Rclocate the NES with respect to the receiver" (sic..and I bet you never  read those FCC Regulation pages. :) Fortunately, ZANAC is not an RPG, so it can get away with all the mis-spellings and awkward translations it wants...

  STORY: "The System", whatever the heck that is,
was created by an  organic intelligence body a long
time agp.. It started out very small,  then grew enough to take up the entire universe, and remained active  after the "organic intelligence body" perished. Of course, after some  "System" takes up the entire universe, I can't imagine anything would  be still alive. Its purpose.. to give wisdom to those who "opened the  icon properly" and wreak havoc on those who "opened the icon  improperly." (Don't look at me, I didn't write this manual.) Naturally, some git opened the icon improperly, causing mass destruction until someone opened the icon properly. However, "the  System" ignored this fact and went on killing people anyway. So, after  a large human offensive force gets zapped, the humans determine in  their infinite wisdom that one ship could succeed against "the System" where an entire fleet had failed.

(Opening icons causing mass destruction? How could the folks at  Compile possibly have known about Microsoft Windows?)

  PLAYERS: Unfortunately, only one player can fight
the System.

(Above) The first couple of stages of Zanac aren't too hard, at least until you reach this fortress at the end of level 2. Remember Commando, where you stopped at the enemy base at the end of a stage only to be accosted by scores of viscious bad guys?..
well it's a little bit like that..

DEATH PENALTY: Your next ship begins with single-shot main cannon and a  low power Fire 0.

  CHALLENGE: This game is hard. Not cheap hard like
RayStorm for the most part, but the unpredictability of the enemies causes quite a bit of a challenge. Not to mention the fact that the Fortress love filling up the screen with bullets, or launching these buggers that are difficult to destroy and make it difficult to hit the weak points of the fortress. You're given (I believe) unlimited continues, but  continuing at level 11 or 12 takes you back to level 10. Ouch.

  GRAPHICS: Simple, but there's little slowdown or breakdown, both of  which have plagued far lesser NES games than this. There is not too  much varience in the backgrounds (at least not in the stages I've been  to), as you seem to spend a lot of time in a desert-like level, with a  forest or ocean or ice-land every once in a while to break up the monotony. (There's a space level or two later on, though.) However, you'll be far too busy dodging to notice.

  MUSIC: Quite good for an NES game. It won't get stuck in your head  like Radiant Silvergun's first level music does (to me, anyway), and it  won't make you wish you could pop it in your CD player like Darius Gaiden does (to me, anyway). But it sure beats the hell out of
1942's constant whistle" music". :)

  CONTROL: No problems here. Your ship moves fairly quickly compared to some other shooters, but not to the point of being uncontrollable.

  OVERALL: 9/10. The ever-changing difficulty is quite innovative for  the time, and keeps this game interesting, if not difficult. This game is to the NES like
The Raiden Project is to the PSX, IMO. If you're a shooter fan and you own an NES, get this game goshdarnit! And try to  get a copy with the manual intact. You definitely don't want to miss out on that. :)

Score out of Five:

Zach Keene

Zach is the author of many FAQs including G-Darius,
Gradius III, Einhänder,CSOTN, and the AGVS FAQ

For further information on Zanac take a look at this
Zanac Information page
as well as the review archive at Shmups.

Other Zanac resources: Zanac Manual (text) (at
Zanac review (at Calgary Flame Nes Review Archive)
Zanac Review (at Rage Games)
Play Zanac 2 online! (at's The Vault)
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