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Zanac MSX 1

Zanac FC

Zanac EX MSX 2

In 1986 the first realesed ZANAC was the MSX 1 one, a ROM cartridge, then came a FAMICOM version (disk system) and finally in 1986 / 87 the MSX 2 version also in ROM cartridge, ZANAC EX. All these versions were distributed by PONY. These last days, COMPILE released a ZANAC for palmOS, to know a little more go and check this rubric.

Zanac jacket MSX 1
300x400 (21k)

I think it's important to explain my concern for this game, and why the annoucement of a new episode cheers me up so much.
Since the first opus of ZANAC on MSX 1, we got a technically good game with a vast number of sprites and a good vertical scrolling with changing stages trough levels of the game. This was not common for a MSX 1 game, most of scrolling games were using poor scenery as deep balck space, it was easier. Moreover this difficult game provide many emotions, with for example, the limited time system for fight against boss, time out could mean failure in entering the next stage, and with the time running, more and more enemies were attacking as penalty.

Zanac on MSX 1

Zanac EX on MSX 2

But more than sensation, the programming of this game (and of those which followed as the ALESTE series) has granted COMPILE a master-rank in shooting game domain for ever, it's my deep belief. Indeed, the games are so well conceived that every play seems to be different, with a difficulty level which vary according to player level ; impossible will you say ! But really it is, when you see in the first stage enemy ship which don't appears before the second stage, you understand that the perfect play you were leading has annoyed the computer. In fact, enemies are generally coming randomly, but some factors change their way of acting as the position your ship have in screen, the place where you last died, the enemy and boss shoot speed will also vary, especially if you succeed in getting in front of the boss with all your lives and a max weaponry, time and boss life are also factors of variation etc...

All these parameters added, the games become difficult indeed, but so varied, so spontaneous and unpredictable, something rare in this domain where so many games propose the same wave of assault, at the same place and the same time, because their programming were basic, memory was more important than skill (think of so many shooting you played, I won't quote names but...).
That's why, after so many years, I still play COMPILE shooting series and feel as pleasure as the first time. I could say the attack technics of ZANAC were among the more vicious, but even if it's a difficult game, the difficulty level is always surmountable, in the contrary of some arcade shooting game which propose waves of shots impossible to avoid (if you don't have a bomb) in order to kill the player, with no escape possible but to insert more coins, strange coincidence. ZANAC is a consumer game, so there is no search for profits in killing the player (he has already bought the game, no coins to steal here), fight is tough but decent. The game feeling of arcade shooting game always bothered me, I don't find as pleasure as in COMPILE games, in these games there's always a little space to escape (sometimes it's a real tiny space but it remains), but everyone is free to think different.

Ending, spoiler for those who want to waste the suspense, and all ZANACs Staff

To crown it all, ZANAC EX and ZANAC on NES (FAMICOM) have hidden warp system in severals stages, and other hidden bonus, you can stroll for hours in the stages warping from one to another, a rumor also says there is an hidden stage with no end (warp plan of ZANAC soon ? only if I get 100 requests). No warp plan by now but a music section :


For the production, it's better on NES / FAMICOM than on MSX 1, but the best and most beautiful version is ZANAC EX on MSX 2, in my opinion. Every shooting fan might absolutley finish this game (but as many other game in this history rubric).

By now, only NES or FAMICOM screenshots are available on galleries.


Sound test : when you are dead, type on keyboard "C", "D", "S" and "T" at the same time to access sound test, this one works with directionnal keys.