System: NES

Release Date: October 1987

Developer: Compile

Publisher: FCI

Genre: Shoot ‘em Up

Here’s our second Compile/FCI collaboration this month, Zanac. Here’s another space shoot ‘em up. And I’ll tell you that it’s really busy.

Shooting with upgraded lasers.

Your star fighter shoots lasers with the B Button. They can be powered up if you collect pale yellow glowing orbs. You can also shoot a special weapon with the A Button. This special weapon begins as an orb that can be shot in any direction you’re moving. However, you can find seven other special weapons that can be used. Here’s my first problem with this game, the weapons are numbered, so now I have to remember what each number equates to. This is problematic for my whiskey addled brain.

Fighting one of the stage bosses.

After playing for awhile, I liked weapon number 4. It’s called the Vibrator and created a circle that moved forward a bit, then moved back and forth quickly to kill any opponents it touched. The weapons power up as you collect more of the same number. The shield, number 2, is a nice helper if you have trouble avoiding the bullets from your enemies. The others were fine, but I found them less useful.

Check out my sweet shield powerup.

The instruction manual touts a dynamic difficulty control programmed by the AI. Apparently, if you’re good, the AI gets stronger. If you’re bad, the AI gets easier. I did notice things were different in each of my attempts, so maybe they were on to something here. The first time I died, I held both A and B, because I thought that would allow a continue, but it took me to a sound test, instead, which was a novel discovery.

That’s the Vibrator up top.

At the end of each section, you fight a boss. You have a timer, so make sure to get through them quickly. It seemed as if there were four sections to an area. My first attempt, I was moving along without a whole lot of problem and thought that the game was either really easy, or I was really good at it. Immediately as I thought that, I died. I tried a few more times and came to realize that this has some potential, but isn’t my kind of shoot ‘em up.

Graphics: 1.0

The backgrounds are kind of nauseating. The way they randomly change wasn’t pleasant.

Sound: 2.5

I actually liked the music and the sound wasn’t making me want to tear my ears off.

Gameplay: 1.5

Having to learn what weapons the numbers equate to was more annoying than fun. There’s some decent ideas here, but the execution for me was lacking.

Difficulty: 3.0

The adjusting difficulty is a cool concept. I don’t know if any other games have pulled this off at this point.

Fun Factor: 1.5

I thought I was having fun, then I found myself frustrated and didn’t want to play anymore.

Overall Grade: 1.9

Zanac earns a C. It’s an average game that some might get fun out of. I didn’t so much.

ZANAC Video Review on YouTube