Zanac (ザナック) is an arcade-style shoot 'em up video game designed by Compile and published in Japan by Pony Canyon and in North America by FCI. It was released for the MSX computer, the Family Computer Disk System, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and for the Virtual Console. It was reworked for the MSX2 computer as Zanac Ex and for the PlayStation as Zanac X Zanac. Players fly a lone starfighter, dubbed the AFX-6502 Zanac, through twelve levels; their goal is to destroy the System a part-organic, part-mechanical entity bent on destroying Mankind.
Zanac was developed by main core developers of Compile, including Masamitsu "Moo" Niitani, "Janus" Teramoto, and "Jemini" Hirono. All of these developers went on to make other popular similarly-based games such as The Guardian Legend, Blazing Lazers, and the Puyo Puyo series. The game is known for its intense and fast-paced gameplay, level of difficulty, and music which seems to match the pace of the game. It has been praised for its unique adaptive artificial intelligence, in which the game automatically adjusts the difficulty level according to the player's skill level and rate of fire.
Zanac was initially released in 1986 for the MSX computer by the Japanese video game company Compile the same company responsible for other games such as Blazing Lazers, Devil's Crush, and the Puyo Puyo series. Compile then re-released the game for the MSX2 computer later that same year as Zanac Ex, which featured improved graphics and sound over the original MSX version. Zanac was then ported and heavily reworked again for release on the Family Computer Disk System in Japan on November 28, 1986 (1986-11-28), and then in North America for the NES in October 1987. The NES version was later re-released for Wii's Virtual Console service on December 3, 2007 (2007-12-03) and published by D4 Enterprise. This version is identical to the NES version released in 1987.
Compile released a compilation titled Zanac X Zanac for Sony's PlayStation console in Japan on November 29, 2001 (2001-11-29) to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the original. This compilation features an updated version of Zanac titled Zanac Neo and three versions of the NES version of the game, including a version featuring enhanced graphics and sound. The game features two-player cooperative gameplay as well as a remix of the game's soundtrack.
Zanac, in retrospect, has been considered a unique shoot 'em up game, combining gameplay elements from games such as Xevious, especially with the extensive power-up system and vertical-scrolling gameplay that features both air and ground targets. Brett Alan Weiss of Allgame praised Zanac, calling it an extremely fast-paced shooter in which the player is almost completely surrounded by enemy ships and bullets. He praises the game for its music which seems to flow along with the action of the game; he calls the music "at least as close as you can get to a Zen moment while playing a shooting game on the NES". Frank Provo of GameSpot lauded Zanac for its difficulty level, its ability to handle many sprites on the screen without slowdown or other glitches, and its unique AI, which placed this game in a sub-genre of its own. However, criticisms include mediocre and primitive music and sound, a steep learning curve in gameplay and difficulty level, and, most notably, presence of Engrish in the game itself and in the game's instruction manual. In addition, Weiss says that enemies in Zanac, while fearsome, "don't have much personality."
Source: Wikipedia, "Zanac", available under the CC-BY-SA License.