Nanostray 2 Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Nanostray 2 Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

A Million Against One

The unforgiving difficulty and fast-paced thrills of blasting away wave after wave of incoming fighters is part of what made arcade space shooters of the mid-eighties and nineties so addictive.

Nanostray 2 screenshot

Large machines promising tense, twitchy space action marked by massive sprays of laser fire and endless explosions consumed many quarters during the height of their popularity. Shoot-’em-ups may not be quite as prevalent as they once were, but their retro appeal is still undeniable. Nanostray 2 unapologetically wears its classic roots on its sleeve while adding some exciting visual updates and a full payload of play options.

Developers Shin’en – who were also behind the conceptually similar Iridion series on Game Boy Advance – kept the genre alive on the DS with Nanostray in 2005. With a hefty nod to the oldschool days, Shin’en left the basic formula intact while making enough changes to keep the action feeling fun and fresh. The sequel improves on the design and offers more of the same fun (and genuinely tough) gameplay as the original.

Though slapping anything but the barest of stories on a space shoot-’em-up is virtually unheard of, Nanostray 2 actually contains a meager plot – something that was unsurprisingly absent in the original. The story revolves around discovering the origin of the Nanostray virus in order to stop it from destroying everything. Apparently, this is accomplished by traveling to different planetary systems and blowing the crap out of everything and anything that moves, since that’s basically the whole of what you’ll be doing. In-between levels, impressive 3D cutscenes keep you apprised of the situation, but the eerily cheerful-sounding voice over work is way too upbeat for the dire situation, and it quickly becomes irritating. Also, the minor plot points are a nice touch, even if they’re completely unnecessary.

The intense gameplay unfolds across eight different planets, which are all different visually and in terms of the foes you’ll encounter. You’ll be flying through both vertically and horizontally scrolling missions as well as some that even shift direction mid-level. While most enemies are fairly standard, the 3D graphics and level designs are superb. Each level features a mini-boss located at its mid-point and a larger, often more grueling boss encounter at the end.

Nanostray 2 screenshot

Nanostray 2 offers two different control variations, but neither is completely without fault. The stylus-driven touch control method returns as an option for those who loved the feel of the original. Touch controls give you a greater level of precision for maneuvering the ship, but your hand will frequently obscure portions of the screen, making it harder to see dangerous obstacles or incoming fire. The default control scheme uses the d-pad to move, the L or R buttons to adjust attack pod directions, and the face buttons to fire. This feels more natural than the stylus controls, but d-pad movement is less responsive. Most players will likely gravitate towards one control scheme or the other, and it’s possible to enjoy the game with either method.

Weapon-wise, the inclusion of two attack pods is a great new feature. A single button press can configure them in mid-flight to attack either forward, up and down or behind your ship. It’s incredibly helpful for taking out incoming waves approaching from unexpected directions. Fine-tune adjustments can also be made in between levels to alter the specific trajectory of the attack pods to give them a wider or more narrow range. Your ship can also be equipped with unique special weapons, which are crucial when going up against the game’s bosses. From the onset of the game, a few mid-range special weapons will available, and additional armaments are unlocked as you progress.

Nanostray 2 screenshot

Ample patience and skill are required to progress through the game even on the easiest of difficulty settings (although being able to quickly memorize attacking enemy wave patterns will help greatly). A finite number of lives and only three continues makes Nanostray 2 a punishing experience. Things get chaotic on the Easy setting (which is quite a challenge to complete on its own), but Hard mode is insanity. Fortunately, the game is highly addictive, and you’ll find yourself (against all better judgment) wanting to go back for more even after being brutalized time and time again.

Nanostray 2 screenshot

Overall, the game may be a bit on the short side, but the broad range of play options and unlockables make frequent replay almost guaranteed. It’s designed to be played over and over again. Most players will find it damn near impossible to make it through the entire game on the first go-around, and replaying tougher levels to get better at them is a necessity. It’s best to start in adventure mode to get the flavor of the story and unlock levels for use in other modes. Arcade mode lets you hand-pick a level and play through to get a high-score, which allows for a slightly different experience.

Challenge mode pits you against increasingly difficult goals that are typically accomplished in brief spurts that last from 30 seconds to about a minute. Goals consist of obtaining a certain score in the allotted time, destroying a specific number of enemy waves, surviving in a chaotic battle for a set time period, and numerous other interesting challenges. Each is quite difficult and extremely satisfying to finally complete after repeat attempts. Finishing all eight challenges in each of the four tiers will unlock bonus mini-games that can be played in simulation mode. If all that doesn’t manage to keep you thoroughly occupied, you can pair up with a friend for limited co-op and competitive local multiplayer matches.

Shoot-’em-up fans who own a DS would be remiss to pass-up Nanostray 2, especially since there’s not much else currently available in the genre for the system. The game simply delivers some no-nonsense, hardcore space shooter fun that’s decidedly tough to beat but easy to pick up and jump right into. Nanostray 2 doesn’t bring anything particularly new or amazing to the genre; it’s great because it stays true to its roots.

Slick 3D visuals and excellent settings make for some fast-paced eye candy. 3.6 Control
Classic d-pad controls and button controls or stylus controls will get the job done adequately. Neither method is perfect. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Interesting musical selection and sound effects. Voice over work is a good touch, but it’s way too peppy. 3.9

Play Value
It’s a tough game, but lots of play options and addictive gameplay will keep you coming back for more.

4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Blast your way through more than 16 gigantic bosses, 100 unique enemies, and seemingly impassable obstacles.
  • Unlock and configure your ship’s six different weapons to adapt your armaments to a particular challenge.
  • Choose from three control styles: Classic (no touch Screen necessary), left-handed or right-handed touch control.
  • Compete in the N2 Championship. Upload and browse your scores online with the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection. Go, and beat the best!
  • Alternating vertical and horizontal view level styles add to the rich gameplay.
  • All new Nanogauge lets you earn multiplier bonuses for each enemy shot. Fill the gauge as you eliminate swarms of enemies simultaneously.
  • Features more than 30 energetic songs and over 200 unique sound effects.

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