Nano Assault EX (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Shane Jury 09.04.2013 2

Review for Nano Assault EX on Nintendo 3DS

There are very few Third Party developers that will resonate more so with Nintendo fans than Shin'en, a German studio with worker numbers that can be counted on two hands and fan-proclaimed hardware miracle-workers. Beginning with Iridion 3D on the Game Boy Advance, there has scarcely been a non-licensed Shin'en title that didn't push the visual boundaries of its host machine. As its first retail release on the 3DS, Nano Assault took cues from the DS Nanostray games and shrunk itself to microscopic proportions to give gamers an atom-sized 360-degree shooter that mimicked the twin-stick setup that popular downloadable titles like Super Stardust and Geometry Wars went for previously. Although that version never saw release for Europe in cartridge form, Shin'en has brought an improved version to the eShop worldwide at a more accessible price point under the new name of Nano Assault EX, in the wake of a successful Wii U outing for the series, Nano Assault Neo. Is this edition of Nano Assault extinguished at the molecular level or does it prove that good things come in small packages?

Wii U owners that start up Nano Assault EX may notice one immediate sign that the game differs from its big brother in that this one takes much more of a narrative story direction. The game takes place in a space station outpost that seeks to discover the internal weaknesses of a killer virus by sending in Nanite ships to blast away at its defences. This story is told through cut-scenes and voiceover exposition, and as such, the main Story mode of the game is cut into more bite-sized chunks of gameplay to better facilitate it to a handheld system, and it works well, giving over 30 missions with each going for roughly 10-15 minutes depending on the player's ability and high score tendencies. This change of platform and game style also affects the game's difficulty in that lives are present but a life meter isn't; one hit and you're gone, three and it's over. This adds a different layer of strategy in that all shots need to be avoided instead of potentially taking a couple of hits to get in closer to a foe, for example.

Screenshot for Nano Assault EX on Nintendo 3DS

Nano Assault EX puts the player in the cockpit of a teeny-tiny Nanite ship as it cruises around electron spheres and shapes of varying size and mass, with the task of eliminating all the bacterial foes that try to blast it to bits. This free-roaming style of play is the most prominent one in the game and makes use of a twin-stick method of shooting, allowing for a full range of run-and-gun movement. Eagle-eyed 3DS owners will undoubtedly notice only one flat-mushroom on their handheld, so in this instance the diamond buttons attempt to mimic a stick with mixed results; not a full range of shooting but a functional 8-way one instead. Those players with access to a Circle Pad Pro, however, will have the best option available - with the ease of play the game always needed and two sliders to make that happen.

Other kinds of stages in the Story Mode consist of boss fights that take place on varying plains with unique genetic make-up and automated tunnel stages that bear a strong resemblance to Star Fox's linear starship levels, albeit with less stage interactions and manoeuvrability options, but with an equal amount of satisfying shooting action and enemy pattern variation.

Screenshot for Nano Assault EX on Nintendo 3DS

These linear scrolling levels, in particular, are an excellent example of where the use of the 3D screen in the game really shines, taking an already striking amount of visual polish and dumping yet more of it on top. Every section of the game, whether in the stages, on the menus, in the gallery (or Nanopedia) section that allows for viewing enemies on a pedestal, every part of it shines with some of the strongest visual oomph the system has yet shown, and makes for a potentially ideal title to show off the capabilities of the unit to others. The music for the game fits the otherworldly abstract feel of the game's art style quite well and holds up to Shin'en's other works, becoming a non-obtrusive part of the stage backgrounds. There is, unfortunately, some ghosting against darker backdrops for some areas of the game in 3D mode, however, and the frame-rate can chug slightly at times, but the results are so far in favour of the pros over the cons that dismissing the 3D slider with EX is quite the mistake to make.

Screenshot for Nano Assault EX on Nintendo 3DS

One highly notable addition to the game that undoubtedly boosts its Activity Log numbers to greater levels is the online leaderboards system, and the Missions Mode that goes with it. This mode takes a completed stage from the main game and tasks players with eradicating all the enemies within the stage against a time limit, and scores are posted online to compare against the rest of the world, or just friends, if so chosen. There is also Boss Rush mode that is as it is named and puts players up against all the mighty beasties sown across the Story mode intervals, again with results that can be uploaded to the leaderboards. Lastly, there is the Survivor mode that gives the daunting task of going through the game as far as possible on one life. All of these modes add considerable value to the overall package and help make up for the lack of multiplayer options.

As far as value goes, Nano Assault EX doesn't end there, either. There's a use for the oft-forgotten 3DS play coins here, too; to trade in for Nano coins to use on buying songs from the game to listen to or stages to play in other modes. There is also the wide range of sub-weapons to utilise alongside the main blaster, each with a variety of effects and conditions but each still providing a satisfying amount of blasting power to proceedings. Nano Assault EX may have hit the download scene after big bro Neo, but even for the upper-tier £12.49 asking price the game provides an even stronger overall experience.

Screenshot for Nano Assault EX on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Visual niggles aside, Nano Assault EX takes everything that went well with the retail release, adds more features and puts it up for easier access at more than half the price. Following on from Fun! Fun! Minigolf TOUCH! and Art of Balance TOUCH!, Shin'en has again provided a greater version of previous software that places itself firmly in the upper echelon of 3DS eShop games in both cost and quality.


Shin'en Multimedia







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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


Agree with this review. It's a real nice shooter, lots of content, good gameplay.

It really helps to have a circle pad pro, though.

Heywes (guest) 11.04.2013#2

I've got Nano Assault Neo on the Wii U. Great game. If this one is more story driven I hope they bring it to the Wii U. I'd love to buy it for the Wii U. It just looks so pretty on there.

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