Video Game: Zanac

"First it was probably a tiny dot"
— Game story manual

Zanac is a shoot'em up made by Compile. It has produced 3 main games:

  • Zanac - 1986. MSX. Two versions, both with simple graphics, differing mostly in levels.
  • Zanac - 1986. NES/Famicom Disk System, MSX2 (as Zanac EX).
  • Zanac X Zanac - 2001, Playstation 1. Contains a classic version and its variations and the main game, Zanac Neo. Zanac X Zanac was one of the last two games Compile published before going bankrupt.

Zanac is also one of the first shoot'em ups to feature dynamic AI. Zanac series gameplay focuses on defeating normal enemies rather than bosses.


Zanac contains examples of

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The System was designed for killing those who opened the Icon improperly. It was supposed to stop when the Icon was opened properly, but didn't.
  • Asteroid Thicket: "Arer" 5 in the original.
  • Awesome but Impractical: Weapon 2 provides you with a frontal shield that lasts for 50 hits, and can be made stronger and wider by collecting more 2's. But most of the time, it's highly advised that you never, EVER pick it up, as it will make the Dynamic Difficulty explode with anger.
  • Berserk Button: The System will not take kindly to you picking up Weapon 2 in the original game.
  • Big Bad: The "System" in the original. The "Original system" in the Zanac Neo.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The manual of the original game tells the rather weird story of a system going berserk because "someone opened the icon improperly". Also, areas in the NES port are called "ARER"s and Compile "desinded" the game. Fixed in Zanac X Zanac.
  • Boring but Practical: Weapon 0. You start out with it, and it isn't fancy nor does it have high DPS, but most importantly it can shoot in any of the eight basic directions, making it ideal for hitting enemies to the side of or behind you.
  • Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": The "System" refers not only to the Big Bad but also the game's Dynamic Difficulty mechanic.
  • Chain Reaction Destruction: Capital ships and final boss in the NES version.
  • Chest Monster: The boxes that give you power-ups for your normal shot come in three varieties: the kind that actually give you a power-up, the kind that don't give you anything, and the kind that shoot at you when you break them open. All of them look identical (though at least if you shoot the box a couple of times it'll start flashing and you can see whether it contains a power-up or not.)
  • Collision Damage: It's a shmup series so it's pretty much given.
  • Cores and Turrets Boss: Every boss in the original except a few capital ships.
  • Covers Always Lie: Subverted - the default player ship is different from the one in the cover, but holding A and B when starting the game changes the sprite of your ship to one that matches it.
  • Deflector Shields: Weapon 2 on the original game.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: One of the first in shoot'em ups. The NES/MSX games also has sprite limits to keep the difficulty level from getting too high. (and to keep away flickering/slowdown).
  • Easter Egg
  • Expy: Some enemies from Zanac actually originate from E.I. Exa Innnova.
  • Flash of Pain: Present in Zanac Neo.
  • Flunky Boss: Most bosses have normal enemies fighting alongside it.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Weapon 4 in the original is a vibrating projectile weapon. Hence, it's called the Vibrator.
  • Idiot Ball: Someone who opened the "Icon" improperly.
  • Last Ditch Move: Capital ships in the original which spawn projectiles when destroyed.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: One of the songs doesn't play in any level. Although it still can be accessed by pressing certain buttons after defeating each fortress in area 10.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The enemies shoot out missiles. There is one enemy that shoots out an endless stream of missiles so tight that they're pretty much head against a tail.
  • Magikarp Power: Weapon 5 on the original game. Known as the Rewinder, the first four levels fire relatively slow, but strong energy balls that yo-yo back to your ship and can neutralize enemy bullets. Takes finesse to use, but can quickly destroy turrets on enemy fortresses.
    • Once it's powered up to level 5, it completely changes into a viciously fast narrow laser that pierces enemies and only gets longer and stronger with each level of power, all the way up to level 10. And it still neutralizes enemy bullets!
  • Marathon Level: Levels are either really short or absurdly long endurance runs with multiple bosses.
    • The final level of Neo is the grand champion of this.
  • Mercy Invincibility: Inverted. Collecting power chips and special weapons is the way to grand 1 or 4-second invulnerability time.
  • Minus World: Area 0 (Zero)
  • Nintendo Hard
  • One-Man Army: It's a shmup, so what else do you expect. Handwaved by describing the "System" as being able to cope with large-scale attacks but not small-scale ones.
  • Precursors: Organic Intelligence Body.
  • Recurring Boss: In the NES version, 3 of the capital ships and many of the fortresses.
  • Sentry Gun: Basically any surface-mounted turret.
  • Sequential Boss: The final boss in the original and several bosses in Zanac Neo.
  • Shoot the Bullet: Pretty much every projectile is destroyable in some way. Certain "indestructible" enemy bullets can only be destroyed by some Subweapons.
  • Shows Damage: In the original, capital ships and boxes belong to category 1 while the final phase of the final boss belongs to category 3.
    • In Zanac Neo, most of the enemies with multiple hitpoints blink red when low on health.
  • Smart Bomb: Enemy Erasers and weapon 6 in the original which clear all the non-boss air targets. Fairies are even stronger since after they're used as such, they blow up the fortress as soon as you reach one.
  • Space Is Noisy
  • Spy Satellites: Sarts in the original which fly around.
  • Stalked by the Bell: Each boss (save for the Final Boss) is on a timer. Fail to defeat the boss in time, and you continue the stage (or advance to the next in the case of an endboss)...and the Dynamic Difficulty goes up.
  • Super Prototype: Your Zanac fighter.
  • Warm-Up Boss: The first boss in MSX and NES versions of Zanac is a simple ground turret.
  • Warp Zone: Smiling Icons in the original game spawn Enemy Erasers which then turn into these. A few of them take you backwards though.
  • Womb Level: Area 8 in the original NES version.