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Zanac (NES)

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Title Screen


Developer: Compile
Publishers: FCI (US), Pony Canyon (JP)
Platforms: NES, Famicom Disk System
Released in JP: November 28, 1986 (FDS)
Released in US: October 1987

AreasIcon.png This game has unused areas.
DebugIcon.png This game has debugging material.
SoundtestIcon.png This game has a hidden sound test.
LevelSelectIcon.png This game has a hidden level select.
RegionIcon.png This game has regional differences.

Zanac is the greatest vertically-scrolling shooter ever to grace the NES, although it originated on the MSX... Oh well, it's still amazing.

Debug Mode

Time to Recc-tify the situation!

This game contains a debug mode that allows you to skip levels, give yourself any weapon, or maximize your lives. Previously, the only known way to enable this feature was to slowly eject the cart from the NES until the screen glitched, and even then it didn't always work. The proper way to enable debug mode was finally discovered after digging through the game's code for a few hours, and it's a real doozy - it requires the U.S. cart, a Famicom, and a Family Basic keyboard!

However, thanks to the magic of emulation, you can try it yourself with merely a copy of the ROM and FCE Ultra. Here's how:

  1. Load the ROM.
  2. Soft reset the game 9 times (press F10). It's recommended that you make a save state at this point in case you mess up a later step.
  3. In the "Input..." configuration window, enable the "Family Keyboard".
  4. Press the Scroll Lock key. This enables the emulated keyboard.
  5. You'll need to hold down the F8 key to keep the keyboard from conflicting with the controllers (the game will freeze or the controls will go haywire if this is not done). A piece of tape or a wad of paper jammed between the key and the surrounding shell works nicely.
  6. Type the word COMPILE and press Enter. You should hear the 1-up jingle play.
  7. Start the game as usual.

Once you've gone through all that craziness, you'll have the full set of debugging features at your command. All of them are activated while the game is paused. The known functions are as follows:

Controller 1:

  • SELECT: Select weapon

Family Keyboard:

  • CLR: 255 lives
  • INS: Warp to next area
  • DEL: Warp to previous area (if at Area 1, warps to Area 12)

Area 0

Welcome to Minus World.

Use Stage Modifier 0091000 to access Area 0. Area 0 uses Area 12's music, loops endlessly, and is devoid of the numbered weapon powerups. It appears to be either a memory filler stage or possibly a test stage. It seems like it could have been used to test enemy patterns, and in particular, the game's AI system and the effects on it caused by shooting or not shooting the Sart enemies (seen in the screenshot, to the left of the Zanac ship) that lower or raise the AI.

Area 0 became an unlockable bonus stage in the PlayStation remake on Zanac X Zanac.

(Source: GameHacking)

Sound Test


As with The Guardian Legend, another game by Compile, hold A + B and hit Reset to access the game's Sound Test. This feature is US version only.

Alternatively, press Start + Select + A + B when "Game Over" appears.

Area Select

Zanac (NES)-levelselect.png

Press Reset 13 times. Press Start to go in the main game menu. Press Left or Right to choose the level, then choose the "continue" option and press Start. To start at Area 11 or 12, hold Up on Controller 2 as well. Do the same if you want to continue the game after Area 10.

Hidden Message

Japan US
Zanac NES - FDS Ending.png Zanac NES ending.png

In the ending scene, press A + B on Controllers 1 and 2 to display "SEE YOU AGAIN IN GUARDIC". Guardic is another shooter by the same company for the MSX, released the same year as the original Zanac for the FDS. While there is a game named Guardic Gaiden on the NES released two years later, it has no relation to this message whatsoever.

Regional Differences


Japan US
Zanac NES - FDS title.png Zanac-Title.png

The US version also added a screen to select "GAME START" and "CONTINUE".

Zanac (NES)-levelselect.png


AREA 1 music is different tone.

Japan US

The US version also added some music: