Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Zanac (NES, 1987)

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.

Other Related Posts:


  1. I don't wanna leave a bad impression on this blog by having my first post on here make me look like some sort of Japanese obssessed weirdo, but have you ever tried Touhou? It's a very difficult but rewarding and fun shoot em up. The character art is a little bad early on, but it gets better and the music is great. Standard shoot em up stuff with multiple shot types and nifty bombs. The bosses are very mobile and their special attacks look awesome. In fact, the whole series looks really impressive and it's nice and light-hearted.

    I was asking because I noticed you said this is shooter week and I wanted to spread my opinion on my favorite shmup.
    (Insert generic stuff about long time lurker first time poster yadda yadda)

    1. Thanks for the comment! I hope to see more from you. I've never heard of Touhou. What system is it on? Looking up the word on Gamefaqs got me a lot of results, but I don't see any shooters.

      As far as Japanese shooters go, I was planning on doing a post for Robo Aleste this week, but I found it too hard to play (seriously...and I got through Zanac). The shots blend in with the background way too much, and the subject matter wasn't the Aleste-style space shooter I was expecting. It's more like the Parodius of the Aleste series, except with a serious Gundam-style tack. Regardless, you might want to check Robo Aleste out if you've got Sega CD emulation.

    2. Touhou isn't a console game, sadly. It's all PC. ZUN(The creator) has stated he's fine with Americans downloading it for free because the shipping costs to come over here would be more than the playtime for a normal game. It's all in Japanese, but the english patches are very well known and the community does a great job.
      This link has all sorts of fan and official downloads. The first 5 games require a Pc-98 emulator and all (aside from 2) are in Japanese. Also 2 and 3 have no focus button and 1 isn't a shmup at all.
      Personally the first 5 aren't too superb, I recommend you start with 6. Although if you wanna get a feel for them don't hesitate.

    3. Looks interesting. I might check out one of them. If I were to only play one out of the whole series, would 13 (Ten Desires) be a good call? It looks like the most advanced shooter there.

    4. Double Dealing Character (14) is actually the most advanced, but from what I can tell, there's no English Patch yet. So if you don't mind not being able to read dialogue, that's fine, but if you do then Ten Desires is definitely the way to go. From what I've heard it's also a little bit easier, so go with it also if you do plan to get into the rest of the series.
      Really, if you start with TD you can't go wrong. I've also heard DDC is easy, but I haven't played much, so I can't be sure.

  2. I like the zip-off too.

    You're the messiah of earth? Holy shit!

  3. I see what you mean about the background and bad guys blending. Even I got a headache.
    "New-fangled game designers wouldn't even know how to do this today" said All when asked for comment about NES 3D.
    Zanac looks like a prototype drug, indeed.