Nano Assault Neo (Wii U) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 15.12.2012 5

Review for Nano Assault Neo on Wii U

Unfortunately, receiving troubled releases of games across the different markets of the world has become the norm. It is something that has been apparent since the days of the SNES and this has only become more obvious with the rise of the Internet, allowing gaming news to be shared across the globe at lightning speed. You may have heard of Nano Assault for 3DS, a retail title from German developer Shin'en that was released in Japan in 2011, planned for a release in the West as well, until its eventual cancellation for the European region. This was a follow-up to the now long-running series of shmups Shin'en has become notorious for, which started on GBA with the two Iridion games and was followed by two Nanostray titles on DS. The 3DS game was eventually revived as Nano Assault EX, now a 3DS eShop title with no firm release date at time of writing (other than it should become available before the end of 2012), with updated graphics and a few more features to complete the experience. The game at hand, however, didn't meet any delays and made the launch of the brand new Wii U hardware in Europe. Find out about Nano Assault Neo for the Wii U eShop by sticking with us for the rest of this review.

The Nanostray virus fought in the games by the same name on Nintendo DS isn't totally dead it seems, and it has to be fought again to save the Nano Cosmos from destruction. That's as much story as there is to this game. It makes no mention of it whatsoever and even the bundled digital user's manual makes no reference to any story. The Nintendo eShop summary is the only source of information directly available on the console as far as story goes.

Never mind that, because whereas some might have this silly idea that RPGs don't need a story (yeah, no kidding), shmups truly don't need a deep one to be great. That's not to say that an interesting backdrop isn't a welcome thing either, but dismissing a shmup for its lack of plot would be a grave mistake.

Imagine now a game world similar to Super Mario Galaxy, in that the little ship, instead of being pulled forward by an automatic scrolling like in most other games of the genre, has the freedom to move around what looks like a little planet, in every possible direction. That's pretty much the basis of the gameplay in Nano Assault Neo, right there. In each level, the nanite ship moves around a living cell that is being infected by viruses, bacteria and other parasitic microscopic creatures. Moving the ship is done by moving the left analogue stick on the Wii U GamePad, while shooting, interestingly enough, is handled with the right analogue stick. This is identical to Geometry Wars and the much older arcade classic Robotron: 2084, which initiated the genre in the early 1980s. Here, however, bullets follow the shape of the tri-dimensional cell around which the ship is travelling.

Screenshot for Nano Assault Neo on Wii U

Being able to move in all directions while shooting in any direction at the same time takes some getting used to at first, especially since camera angles aren't always helping gamers in keeping their sense of direction. Past an initial short period of acclimatisation though, they should feel right at home.

Enemies come in various species types, with their own behaviour and attacks from all directions, instilling a constant sense of thrill and panic in the player as the difficulty rises with the different sets of cells. Each cell must be disinfected before moving to the next. To do so, the player has to exterminate 90% of the enemies living on it, which in turn primes the cell's automatic sanitisation process and opens the exit to the next cell. A countdown then starts, and 30 seconds remain to reach the exit. During these remaining seconds, one can either reach the exit and leave the remaining enemies to be destroyed automatically, which yields no bonus, or aim for the 100% purification of the cell which is rewarded with a beefy bonus. Failing to reach the exit before the countdown ends destroys the entire cell but opens the path to the next one, just with absolutely no reward.

Cells are grouped in sets of four, the fourth one always housing the boss of the difficulty level selected. There are four of these sets of cells, each with an increasing level of difficulty named after letter of the Greek alphabet, which amounts for a total of twelve standard levels and four bosses, each lasting a mere few minutes. Between each cell, players get to spend credits they picked up during the previous stage on extra weaponry, bonuses and more lives, to further help them in facing the ordeals to come. Additionally, beating smaller enemies with a certain requirement within each stage makes letters appear, that spell the word "BONUS."

Screenshot for Nano Assault Neo on Wii U

Collecting all five letters opens access to a bonus stage that plays much like the tube tracks in an F-Zero game, where the player fast-forwards inside of it and has to avoid crashing into obstacles while collecting as many credits as possible, to be spent in the aforementioned Nano Shop. Crashing once ends the bonus stage instantly. The longer one survives in it, the more extra points this adds to the overall score for that set of cells.

There's no real ending sequence after clearing each of these sets, which is in line with the total lack of any introductory plot, and a huge disappointment altogether, since it removes some of the sense of accomplishment that comes from actually beating the game...

Unless, of course, there actually is an ending awaiting at the end of the Survival mode, which pits players against all the levels in the game in chain, with their order randomised and with one single life and no way to gain any additional ones. However, that challenge proved a bit too hard to beat for your servitor, so that can't be presently checked. That mode has to be unlocked. Arcade mode, on the other hand, lets you choose from any cell completed in solo, to try and get the best score possible on it.

Shin'en was kind enough to allow for a two-players co-operative mode. Player 1 plays on the GamePad, while Player 2 plays on the big screen, using either the Wii U Pro Controller, a Wii Classic Controller (Pro), or the traditional Nunchuk and Wii Remote combination. The first two play just fine, given that they come equipped with two analogue sticks and allow for the exact same input scheme as the GamePad itself. However, the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination requires aiming with the D-Pad, which obviously won't allow for the same degree of precision in directing shots. Also, it should be noted that the single player game can only be played with the GamePad.

Screenshot for Nano Assault Neo on Wii U

In co-operative mode, both players play the exact same way as in the regular single player mode. They don't share their weaponry and credits count. However, if one player runs out of lives first, they can steal one from the other, if the latter has any remaining. Bonus rounds are also available in co-op. Strangely enough, a mini map is there to help players keep track of each other's position around the cell, as well as enemy units and even the exit once it opens. It would have been handy to have it available in single player mode as well, since it proves extremely useful. Lastly, Player 2 on the big screen can see Player 1's nanite ship being labelled with a tiny bubble in which Player 1's face is displayed, filmed through the camera of the GamePad. It's gimmicky, serves no purpose, and can be deactivated in the options, but is a fun inclusion nonetheless. Seeing as that has been implemented, it can only be wondered why online co-op wasn't included. It would have worked extremely well, coupled with voice chat since co-operation in that mode really encourages players into making verbal exchanges.

The game ultimately feels extremely short. It offers a decent challenge for moderately skilled players, but still shouldn't last more than two or three hours at most, unfortunately. However, online leader-boards are there as an incentive for players to come back and improve on their previous performances, and the co-operative mode is extremely fun. Finally, as anyone can witness, the game looks gorgeous. It offers the possibility to be played in single player without the TV. However, the best experience remains the one on the big screen, since then you get the full 1080p experience, and the larger display allows for an optimal visibility of enemies and their shots.

Screenshot for Nano Assault Neo on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

With only a few levels on offer, each lasting only a few minutes, it would be easy to conclude that Nano Assault Neo is a total rip-off. Deeper observation, however, reveals a quite addictive experience that will have fans of the genre coming back for more, trying to complete every single one of the downright insane challenges it throws their way, as well as attempting to climb atop the online leader-boards to become the best player in the world... or perhaps aiming for the more reasonable goal of becoming the best Nano Assault player among their friends. The visual and aural experiences on offer are quite stunning, to say the least. Running at a native 1080p resolution and sustaining a consistent frame rate of 60 without any signs of slowdown, the game is a success on the technical side of things, as would be expected from Shin'en. With all these things considered, the price tag of £8.99 ($9.99 in the US) is a bit easier to bear than if you focus on what's directly observable, but it all comes down to whether you are much of a high-score seeking person or not. If this still seems like a steep price, it might be wiser to wait for an eventual sale happening on the Wii U eShop, similar to what happened on 3DS. No matter the choice, this is certainly a shmup to consider for Wii U owning fans of the genre, especially considering it's the only representative of the genre on the system, at time of writing.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date Out now   


I keep coming back to this game, even though I'm not a huuuuuge fan of it. It took me maybe 4 hours to beat the first 3 worlds. Now I still need to beat the 4th.

I hope they'll release Geometry Wars for Wii U. ;D GW: Galaxies for Wii is one of my best buys. So many hours of crazy fun for just €5!

Dual stick? Sounds odd to me, but visually wow - these guys really know how to pull off some utterly stunning stuff. Shame about the lack of length in terms of value, but it sure sounds like good fun for shorter bursts! Good stuff Mr Rudy Smilie

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

What I love about Geometry Wars and don't like in Nano Assault is how you choose your levels. In GW you jump into a single level and go for a high score. After you die, you usually think "I can do better." So you immediately restart it and go for a better score.

With Nano Assault you can't do that. Well, not in the main mode anyway. You have to go through 4 levels.
The sphere-shaped levels are a bit too big, which means you can just run away when it's getting too hard. And that's boring.

But I still like the game and I think a 7 is also what I'd give it.

YeahRight (guest) 16.12.2012#4

Funny, all the comparisons being made, but failed to mention Stardust HD. Curious...was this done on purpose?

Our member of the week

YeahRight (guest) said:
Funny, all the comparisons being made, but failed to mention Stardust HD. Curious...was this done on purpose?

I had never heard of Stardust HD... Most likely because I don't own a PS3 and am absolutely not interested in what gets released as exclusive digital downloads for consoles I won't own Smilie.

But from what I can see, it's highly similar indeed Smilie. Hard to see it as a pure coincidence now.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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