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Review: Zanac X Zanac for PS3, PSP and PS Vita

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Title: Zanac X Zanac
Price: $5.99
System(s): PS Vita (Also playable on PS3, PSP)
Release Date: December 4, 2012
Publisher (Developer): Gungho Online Entertainment America (Compile)
ESRB Rating: N/A. I’d say it’s good for ages 10 and up.

You have to hand it to Gungho Online Entertainment America. When the company decided to get involved in the PS1 Import business, it didn’t play it safe. Of the six games it brought to the PlayStation Store, half were conventional and the other half just plain weird. However, even their “conventional” games were atypical. Only one in the batch was close to what we would consider normal and that’s Zanac X Zanac. Coincidentally, it may also be the best of the six games.

Fighting alien ships because mankind needs you to do so.

There’s no story proper in Zanac X Zanac. At least, none popped out at me while I was navigating the menus (which are all in English, by the way) and getting started in either Zanac or Zanac Neo. It was only after doing some research online that I learned the original Zanac was about shutting down defense systems for a Pandora’s Box device called the System that had been unlocked before people knew how to properly unlock it and was destroying everything because of this.

That isn’t important. Here’s what matters. Players get into a ship and start flying through levels, shooting down anything that crosses their path. 95% of the things coming towards the players are enemies that will do everything in their power to shoot them down. The other 5%, perhaps its even less than that, are power-ups which upgrade the ship so it’s both stronger and faster. If people play smart, they survive. If not, use the Continues as necessary to power through and save the universe.

Zanac X Zanac is constantly learning and evolving.

First, I have to point out how awesome the Zanac X Zanac overall package is. When you buy this game, you’re actually getting two games. The first is Zanac, the original game. Actually, it’s three versions of the original game, each with its own minor tweaks and adjustments reflecting the fact that it was released on the MSX, NES and PS1. The second is Zanac Neo, which was an upgraded version of Zanac created for the game’s 15th anniversary. It’s a great value.

Another extraordinary thing about Zanac X Zanac is that all the games included include scaled difficulty levels. The game is watching you. It sees how you play and react. It then takes that data and uses that to determine the intelligence of the opponents faced. When I first began playing Zanac, I was just fooling around, grabbing every weapon upgrade to see what it did and how it changed the additional extra weapon. I wasn’t putting much effort into the experience and was feeling things out. Zanac recognized it and made things easier. When I went back in after briefly testing both Zanac and Zanac Neo, ready to play for real, there were more enemies who were much smarter when it came to trying to hunt me down.

The weapons system is handled wonderfully as well. As I mentioned each version of Zanac in Zanac X Zanac has two weapons available, a primary gun and a secondary gun. The primary gun fires straight forward, as you’d expect, with the secondary attack sending off a different kind of bullet with a completely different pattern. In each case, the main gun fires differently and can be stronger, depending on upgrades, and there are multiple secondary options. You really have to pay attention to what you’re doing and note which ones work best for you. I preferred the weapons system in Zanac Neo especially, since there was far more variety. There were different bullet patterns, AOE attacks and even one weapon that acted like a boomerang. The only downside to this system is that it can be easy to accidentally give up a weapon you like. If you accidentally grab another power-up, the weapons you had before are gone and you’re stuck at the base level with a new weapon. Even if you do get the chance to go back by grabbing another power-up, you start at the base level again.

Still, that’s a minor quibble. Especially since the weapons system and AI in place mean every round of Zanac X Zanac is different than the last. While the level backgrounds were the same, the waves of enemies I faced always seemed different. Every time I played, it felt like I was experiencing something new. I really appreciated this, as I could tell after my fourth time playing that I was actually getting better. Zanac X Zanac was making me better at shoot’em ups and you can’t put a price on that.

Zanac X Zanac is the most accessible and conventional of Gungho’s first PS1 Imports

Zanac X Zanac is a solid investment. It gives people two fantastic shoot’em ups that move quickly and will always keep you moving, attempting to avoid enemy ships and their bullets. Players will do that a lot, since the AI in each game scales to keep up with them. That, combined with tons of power-ups that constantly increase both a player’s ship’s weapons and speed makes for a game that never fades into obscurity. Each playthrough will be different because people are growing as players and Zanac X Zanac recognizes their progress. If someone is only going to take a chance on one of Gungho Online Entertainment America’s PS1 Imports, they should grab Zanac X Zanac.

Site [Zanac X Zanac]

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