Zanac is a famous and very difficult vertical shooter created by Compile in 1986. It was a very revolutionary game which is based off of the Aleste games (Some early Compile games) and also added several mechanics. One of the most notable aspects of Zanac is the game's AI.
Note: This is a by memory approximation.
Zanac involves the fight of a lone fighter sent out to destroy an ancient alien battle system.
When humanity traveled into space and explored, they happened to find an ancient artifact that they attempted to decipher. After some time, several members of the expedition decided to force the artifact to activate by firing upon it, which unknown to them, activated an ancient battle system set up by the creators of the artifact to punish those who used violence to solve the riddle of the artifact.
In time, the battle system located Earth and attacked it mercilessly with the goal to destroy humanity. However, other scientists eventually solved the artifact's riddle and discovered that the artifact was a method of communication for other races. If the artifact was deciphered via peaceful methods and analysis, then it would reveal all the data that the aliens had. If however the artifact was attacked in an attempt to get the data by force, then it would activate the battle computer and target the offending race with the mission to eliminate all of that race.
With the correct activation of the artifact, the battle system should have deactivated but it did not. Due to many years of deactivation, the program degraded and once it activated it could not be stopped. However, the alien data also told of the battle system's operation, which explained a potential weakness.
The battle system was designed to attack large battleships and obliterate fleets. It was also able to endure long battles, where it would release waves of ships for counter-defense. Based on this, it was determined that a small but very powerful fighter might be able to penetrate the battle system's defenses and destroy it. Thus the AFX-6502-ZANAC fighter was born and the story begins.
Zanac pits the player against numerous waves of enemies and several bases that sometimes need to be destroyed in order to continue. The weapons system is exactly like the Aleste series in that you can collect powerups with numbers that represent different weapon types. Each time you collect the same type, it gets upgraded and gets more powerful. Also, there are powerups that increase the power of your main gun. Where Zanac branches off of Aleste is the many secrets in the game and most notably, the game AI which changes based on several factors. It is noted as being one of the most sophisticated AI's to date in a game.
As stated before, weapons in Zanac come in the form of numbered powerups that when the same type is collected multiple times, the weapon becomes powered up. Most weapons either have a limited number of uses or is timed. Picking up a powerup resets this limit to max. Your main gun has 4 levels of power, with the last one being more of a secret and is the best type to get. Below are the different weapon types and their maximum level.
- Main Gun - Level 4
- 0 - All Range Cannon - Level 3
- 1 - Straight Crusher - Level 5
- 2 - Field Shutter - Level 5
- 3 - Circular - Level 5
- 4 - Vibrator - Level 5
- 5 - Rewinder - Level 10
- 6 - Plasma Flash - Level 4 (Level 5 is a one time special)
- 7 - High Speed - Level 5
The game AI is the most interesting aspect of Zanac and will make every game experience different due to it's sophistication. The AI adapts to many aspects of the player, for example what weapons the player has and what level they are. Most importantly, if the player fires more, the AI reacts by sending more powerful enemies. The AI is designed to exploit any potential weakness in the player's current weapons and also how much of a threat the player presents due to the amount of shots fired and the power of the current weapons. This means that very few things are static in the game. The AI's difficulty can be lowered under several conditions, one being the destruction of a SART, a type of enemy that occasionally files along the sides of the screen then darts back up. On that note, the AI reacts very violently on the use of the Field Shutter and will send out many waves of enemies in an attempt to destroy the shield and the player.
Zanac is filled with many secrets and makes for a very good experience to get them. Listed below are the types of secrets in Zanac and a short description of them.
Main Gun Level 4Edit
There are two ways of getting the main gun to level 4. The first way is to activate an Eye-Eye, which will also powerup your weapon to max. If you use this method, be sure the main gun is level 3 or else the next gun powerup you collect will revert the main gun to level 0-2. The next method is to collect 32 main gun powerups without switching weapons and dying.
The Lander is an icon for Compile, stemming from some of their earlier games. In Zanac, it gives you a 1-up and is gotten by destroying SARTs and weapon carriers. This is not exactly a random event for there is a complex scoring scheme designed around how many shots are fired from the main gun, your other weapons, and the score.
In order to earn 2 Landers in the beginning, shoot the first SART and nothing else using only your secondary weapon. The second Lander is earned by shooting nothing after the first Lander and once again shooting the SART with only the secondary weapon.
Red Landers and Bullet LimitEdit
Red Landers not only give the player a 1-up, but also lowers the bullet limit, which allows the main gun to fire more frequently. There are 6 levels of the bullet limit and at max, this can make the main gun the most powerful weapon in the game. In order to get the Red Lander, simply shoot the Blue Lander until it turns red. Another small benefit is instead of moving to the top of the screen, the Red Lander moves towards the bottom, making it easy to get.
Level 5 Plasma FlashEdit
Level 5 of the Plasma Flash is a one time use weapon. In terms of firing, it is exactly like the earlier levels in that a ball is released and when it hits something, almost everything is destroyed. What's so special about this one is that once it flashes, any enemy that was destroyed by the Plasma Flash turns into Blue Landers! Using this in places of high enemy/block concentration can help get the bullet limit up to max and net many lives.
Fairies and Eye-EyesEdit
Fairies are a very special type of "powerup". When they are released, they are blue and do nothing but slowly move upwards. Once touched, they act as a screen clearer and also follow the ship around. Once you reach a boss, the Fairy instantly destroys the boss.
Eye-Eyes are a special panel type. When deactivated they are blue and turn red when shot enough times. These when activated, instantly increase your main gun to level 4 and also increase your secondary weapon to max.
There are certain screen-clearer panels that look like a smiling face instead of just the eyes. When shot enough times, they release a screen cleaner as normal, but if you wait a short time, the middle becomes hollow. If touched at this time, you warp, usually to the next area. There is one stage where warping can actually put you in an earlier area.
Ports and RemakesEdit
Zanac was originally released multiple times for the MSX before coming out on the NES. They are...
Zanac X Zanac FAQ - A much more through explanation on the numerous game mechanics of the Zanac games.