In 1987, the videogame company Compile (actually called Compile Heart) released this shoot-em' up title on the NES and the MSX computers (and later re-released on the PlayStation as Zanac X Zanac), and to be fair, this game was an innovation on the shmup gameplay with a "Power Play Feature" called ALC (Automatic Level of Difficulty Control Function), which works like this: Depending on the player's performance the enemies strength, number, and attack pattern and location will be adjusted, this is also adjusted game by game, so there was no way to be familiarized with the enemy formations and attack patterns, so if you don't have an idea of what should you do, you'll have a very bad time with this game. But you'll not be helpless under those circunstances during your mission, because in the ever-changing heat of the battle you'll have eight different types of weapons, each one has it's "Learning Curve" for the player, like Type-2 which is a shield, ideal for those who prefer to be more defensive, and the Type-7 which is the "Death Beam" because it destroys both enemies and bullets, this one is my personal favorite in this game.
There's some special items hiding in this game, like the "destroy all enemies" item and the Fairy which will destroy the boss as soon as it appears on the screen, this is helpful in situations where you're sub-weapon's ammo runs out.
Speaking of bosses, if you're an expert player and have the Type-7 weapon, you can "milk" the boss by leaving one of the "cannons" firing at you, the special weapon will destroy the bullets/missiles fired at you, giving you some points, but just make sure you can destroy it before the time hits zero so you can get the stage clear bonus too. This trick is very useful to reach extra lives.
Did you know there's a way to destroy the indestructible "Red Metroid-Wannabes" in Area 8?, first of all, it needs both time and timing to do this:
1.- Get a Power Up item.
2.- Then you'll have a 2 second invincibility to ram the enemy. If you do it right, the enemy will be destroyed and you'll not die.
Just remember: Time and Timing, those are the keys to survive on Area 8.
Graphically, everything in this game reflects the word "Speed", and despite the 8-bit graphics, the game manages to give the high speed feeling with simple, but effective visual tricks with a "double background" effect, one small "block" passing fast above a still second background, a basic three dimensional effect which was impressive back then, and is even surprising on this days where 3D visuals are the common thing on present day games. Even if there's a lot of objects on the screen the game doesn't suffer any flickering which means a "solid" programming which prevents cheap deaths like other shmups such as Sky Shark. The ship sprite animation when it moves looks fluid and realistic on the time it takes from turn and go back to its straight position after moving. There's one instance of engrish in this game, every time you see which area are you on; "ARER (Number)".
The sound department is another good one, with nice, adventurous and energetic tunes and sound effects that sounds above the average level of NES' standards, fluid and fast, just as the graphics and the gameplay of this game, there's some reminiscence to The Guardian Legend in some tracks of the game. If i have to criticize something about the sound, then my only complaint about is there's not too much variety on some themes, just like in the boss themes 'cos there only two boss themes: Stage boss and Final Stage boss.
Overall, we have an ever-challenging, shooter which always bring the player a constant challenge due to its ever-changing patterns and attacks, which will keep the player on a constant struggle on the way to victory. To put it simple, this game learns from your skills, it analyzes them and use them against you.
Compile Heart, you should take a break from Hyperdimension Neptunia for a while and bring more of Zanac and Aleste 'cos shmups were the real "Heart" of the company, just forget the RPGs for a little while.
Zanac's Final Score: 10/10
Ready to Shmuppin' again... No Guts No Glory!