|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Shin'en||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Majesco||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 11, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
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.
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 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.