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Zanac A.I. (NES)

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Title Screen

Zanac A.I.

Developer: Compile
Publishers: Pony Canyon (JP), FCI (US)
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.

NotesIcon.png This game has a notes page

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


Miscellaneous tidbits that are interesting enough to point out here.

Debug Mode

Time to Recc-tify the situation!
The game contains a debug mode that allows you to skip levels, give yourself any weapon, or maximize your lives. The method of activating it is a real doozy: it requires the US cart, a Famicom, and a Family BASIC Keyboard!

  1. Power on the console.
  2. Soft reset the game 9 times.
  3. Type @COMPILE and press Return. You should hear the 1-up jingle play.
  4. Start the game as usual.

You should now 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 the previous area (if at Area 1, warps to Area 12).

Curiously, the original Famicom Disk System release of the game contains the keyboard-reading routine, though it is not referenced anywhere else in the code. The rest of the debugging code doesn't seem to have been programmed in yet by the time of its release.

NOTE: FCE Ultra and its derivatives have a bug that prevents this code from working properly. Please see the Notes page for more details.

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 in the NES 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

Famicom Disk System NES
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 A.I. for the Famicom Disk System. While Compile released an NES game named Guardic Gaiden two years later (known overseas as The Guardian Legend, as mentioned before), it has no relation to this message whatsoever.

Regional Differences

Title Screen

Famicom Disk System NES
Zanac NES - FDS title.png Zanac-Title.png

Compile's name, the copyright symbol, and three of the periods are rendered in a new font that's also used in the game's new menu and ending screen. "Designed" is now misspelled "desinded". Pony Canyon's copyright and logo were moved up to make room for Nintendo of America's credit, that logo no longer appears with a "wipe" motion, and the year was pulled against the copyright symbol. The area number is one space further to the right when it's a single digit.

Extra Menu

Zanac (NES)-levelselect.png
The NES version added a screen to select "GAME START" and "CONTINUE". The FDS version requires holding Select while pressing Start to continue from the latest area reached.


Area 1's music is one whole step lower in key, going from A to G. Area 3's version is affected the same way but still skips the introduction.

Famicom Disk System NES

Area 4's music was raised two whole steps, from F to A, and the lead was given a rougher tone. It now debuts in Area 2.

Famicom Disk System NES

The NES version also added additional music.
Area 6/9 (Sound Test 31)

Area 5/7/11 (Sound Test 32)

Alternate Area 10 (Sound Test 33)

Alternate Game Over (Sound Test 35)

The last two tracks are only accessed through a secret. The alternate Game Over music plays if Select is held during the start of a Game Over, and the alternate area music plays if Select is held while destroying a fortress in Area 10. This is just one of several button codes that only work in the cartridge version.

(Source: StrategyWiki)

Mini-Boss Palettes

In the NES version, the "Capital Ship" mini-bosses change color from blue to gold to pale-yellow-with-red-lines as their life is depleted. In the FDS version, those same mini-bosses remain blue for their entire existence.