Space shooter week begins with one of the great early shooters from Compile. This game is legendary...and incredibly difficult. Ask your doctor if Zanac is right for you! (Protip: It probably isn't)
First of all, this game has ROCKIN' title screen music!
This is a vertical shooter along the lines of Gun Nac. The developers would later go on to make the Aleste games, including the super-awesome Space Megaforce.
...wait a minute. Gun Nac is a play on the title of this game! Now it finally makes sense.
This game is full of brown and various shades of brown. This color palette... it's kinda shitty.
The game starts out pretty relaxing...for the first eight seconds, then you get mobbed on all sides. This game doesn't have difficulty levels, and it's as difficult as most shooters are on their highest difficulty. The good news is that if you lose a life, you start right back on the same screen.
All of the bosses are immobile vent-platforms with a bunch of squares to destroy. It's very barebones.
The B button fires your forward laser while the A button fires your special weapon. The forward laser gets upgraded quickly, turning into a three-pronged death beam. The special weapons are more along the lines of Aleste, though they tend to all suck unless you last long enough to build their levels up (by grabbing more weapon powerups of the same type).
Finish a stage, and the ship does the same zip-off that it does at the end of stages in Space Megaforce. Since that game is my favorite shooter of all time, this is pretty trippy for me.
This background is horrible because it's the same color as most of the enemies. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING
There are a number of minibosses in the game that are actually mobile, which is cool.
I think I'm flying over water now. Taste the early NES graphic engine!
At some point I acquired the Circle weapon... AKA the best weapon in Space Megaforce. It causes circular orbs to spin around your fighter rapidly, blocking enemy shots and destroying weaker enemies. Since most of the special weapons in this game seem to suck, the Circle weapon is a godsend. Things are much easier once I get ahold of it.
Note: I'm sure there are some other good weapons in this game, but like I mentioned before, they all start out pretty awful...resulting in me dying before I can upgrade them, more often than not. Circle is good from the start, so I stuck with that and never saw the evolved forms of other weapons. Also, Circle is practically cheating when powered-up, which is great for someone like me... who isn't good at this game.
The toughest part of the game for me was defeating this boss. I lost Circle shortly before it, and my understanding of the game mechanics wasn't yet at the level it needed to be to skate by this. As a result, it was a drawn-out, difficult war of attrition.
This boss would (sort of) appear again in Space Megaforce, only that version of it is mobile. If anything, playing Zanac has given me even more appreciation for my favorite shooter.
Ah, finally we get away from the poop-colored planet. Time for SPACE.
Here's some impressive NES 3D!
More gun platforms! Now I've got two Circles, which is unfortunately the max. Can't have six of them spinning around you like in Space Megaforce.
Aw damn, it's the return of this thing. Luckily, I now know what I'm doing and how this game operates, plus I have much stronger weapons.
The final levels are very similar to the final levels of Space Megaforce. It's almost like this game is the prequel and not Aleste. Speaking of Aleste, I'm going to check that out next.
The last stage has all of the minibosses returning for a rematch. There are these extremely annoying little red metroid things in this stage that follow you around the screen (and are nearly indestructible)... this makes the miniboss fights a lot more irritating. I'd bunch them all up and just stay ahead of them.
The final boss is not one, but THREE brains. They're protected by invisible shields that are generated by the weird door-looking things next to them, which means destroying those doors first. Only problem is, one of the doors is in the back where you can't reach it without flying up to it, which almost guarantees the loss of a life or two.
Luckily, you probably have a bunch of lives by this point. The game heaps extra lives on you like crazy, and as long as you gain them faster than you lose them, you're fine.
And that's it for this game. I am now THE MESSIAH OF EARTH.
And this is the entirety of the end credits. I like how it's "prodused" by "All". Did... did I produce this too?
This game, sad to say, didn't live up to its reputation for me circa 2014. Without nostalgia goggles on, it's drab-looking, repetitive, difficult, and the weapons kinda suck. For the time, it's very good, and certainly something that could develop the fanbase needed to warrant further sequels. As a result, great start for Compile.
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