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Nanostray 2 (Nintendo DS) Review

Review for Nanostray 2 on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Shin'en Multimedia - you may know these guys for developing the best-looking WiiWare game, Jett Rocket, as well as Art of Balance, and a slew of licenced games for Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance. When it came to developing their own franchises on portables during the last decade, it seems their main genre was the shoot 'em up. We already got Nanostray on DS, around the system launch period. Apparently doing well enough to warrant a sequel, as Nanostray 2 was later released. Does it improve on the original?

Story is rarely very deep in this type of game. In Nanostray 2, the Nanostray virus is spreading throughout the galaxy, though some people have found a way to prevent it from contaminating the whole universe. The only way to defeat the virus would be to start looking for the ‘patient zero’. The only clue you have is a distress signal which came from the Tepekki Dock Outpost. The SHN-4 space fighter - your ship - is sent there to investigate. The story is told through voice dubbed cut-scenes that use the game's real-time 3D engine. They happen between the different missions you'll take on. These are a nice touch, which marks a nice evolution from the more austere way of story-telling in the first game.

Gameplay-wise, it's your traditional 2D shoot ‘em up fare. The fact that you get stages with views from above and the side á la Axelay - I'm not talking about vertical and horizontal scrolling, as both of these views tend to scroll in all directions - is an awesome choice, and an improvement over the Silpheed-style perspective view from the first game which has known problems. You move around, shoot things down while avoiding attacks, as one hit will destroy your ship. The usual... The only new thing Nanostray 2 brings to the table is the new satellite drones mechanic. You pick up these satellites as soon as you destroy waves of enemies at the beginning of a stage. Before you start any stage, you can then set three formations the two satellites can take around your ship. While playing the stage, you can switch between these formations using the L and R buttons. It should also be noted that, unlike the likes of R-Type or Last Resort, these satellites can't be used as a shield against enemy bullets. Attacks go right through them so be careful. This system is a nice way to keep things fresh when compared to its competitors.

Screenshot for Nanostray 2 on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

You get two control types: the classic one, using the D-pad and buttons, and the touch-screen one (for both righties and lefties). The classic one needs no introduction. All the controls are assigned to the buttons in an intuitive way (no more weapon switching via the touch-screen nonsense, which was the most annoying flaw in its predecessor). Shin’en designed the touch-screen method to help newcomers to the genre to get into it more easily. It lets the player move the ship using the touch-screen while using the D-pad or buttons (depending on which hand holds the stylus) to shoot, switch weapons, etc..

While the touch-screen mode is nice to play around with for a moment, it's not as accurate and won't allow for the same reflexes that the classic controls allow. Indeed, if you play using the stylus, you can't help but mask a part of the screen with the stylus or your hand, so you won't be able to spot the dozens of bullets being shot at you. For the best controls and experience, the classic scheme is still the best. The other problem I have with the touch-screen controls is that I have a hard time figuring out the point of them bothering to include a mode that's supposed to help newcomers to get into the genre in a difficult game such as this. Nanostray 2 is so challenging to begin with that I wouldn't recommend newcomers to the genre to start with this game, unless I wanted them to become frustrated and never play a shoot ‘em up ever again.

The game has ‘only’ 8 different stages. This may not sound like much, considering that beating one lasts no more than ten minutes at most, but being a shoot ‘em up, and a challenging one at that, don't expect to be able to beat it on your first sitting, unless you're a veteran master of the genre. All the different modes you unlock will get you to come back for more even after you beat the game. There are also a few secrets to find in each stage. Three special locations in each stage which if you touch with your ship, award you an 8000 point bonus. Looking for them is fun and a nice idea to get you to try all the stages again and again, though this is nothing new, as it has already been seen in Jikkyô Oshaberi Parodius, where you had to look for hidden fairies.

Screenshot for Nanostray 2 on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Nanostray 2 has quite a few game modes. Adventure mode is the main one. You take on the 8 levels in a sort of nonlinear way. Once you clear the first stage, you get to choose in which in order you do stages two to four, and then four to seven, before descending upon the final stage. You have a limited amount of continues and lives in this mode (three continues and five lives per continue) and, no matter which difficulty setting you choose, once you use those up you have to start the whole game again, which is the main reason why this game will be off-putting to newcomers to the genre. You don't unlock additional credits as your play time increases either, as is the case in most modern shoot ‘em ups. This is a bit of a disappointment.

The other modes include Arcade, which lets you try any of the stages you beat first in the Adventure mode, and go for the best score. These scores can be shared on the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. This leaderboard feature is also the only online functionality of this game. Challenge mode is what the name suggests. You complete different objectives, such as flying through a fast-scrolling stage with no enemies but avoiding the tons of obstacles that get in your way, or get a specific score within a time limit without getting hit. Once you beat a group of challenges, you unlock the next group. As far as I know from battling through them, there are only four groups of eight, but this is no easy task. This mode is actually a comeback from the first Nanostray, though much more inventive this time around. This mode was my main source of fun in Nanostray 2, aside from the Adventure mode.

Screenshot for Nanostray 2 on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

There are also a pair of two player modes. The first one, which can either be played with one cartridge or two, is called Duel, and lets two players duel in a score attack. The two players face waves after waves of enemies, and the first one to score 50,000 points, or the last one to survive, wins the duel. That's as simple as it gets. The other mode however, which can only be played if both players own a cartridge of the game (and which I couldn't experience myself) lets you take on the Adventure mode in co-op, and even save your game so that the two can continue their co-op game later. Apparently, this mode can make the game a bit easier to beat, as it is said in the manual that once a two player adventure is continued after saving the game and turning the consoles off, both players will get their five lives back. Additionally, in two player co-op each ship can only hold one satellite. This makes the whole gameplay very interesting and unique in that it must be the only game to propose such a mechanic in a two player co-op mode. It's a shame that a player with another Nanostray 2 cart is hard to come by... and that this mode can't be played online. Finally, there's the simulator mode. Basically, these are mini shoot ‘em up games that are unlocked every time you beat a complete group of challenges in challenge mode. Four mini games in total can be unlocked.

This game is gorgeous. Then again, previous Shin'en games look absolutely great, so it’s hardly a surprise, but the fact that they did it again is admirable. The sound part is equally as good. The female voice between the stages is just passable as far as voice acting quality goes. The sound effects are awesome, and the music, once again composed by Manfred Linzner, is astounding... though I tend to prefer the soundtrack from the first Nanostray - but that's no big deal, as this one is still top notch.

Screenshot for Nanostray 2 on Nintendo DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

Aside from the satellite drone mechanic and the interesting co-op mode with one satellite per player, it's nothing new, but rather a quintessence of a lot of things good from other shoot ‘em ups. The touch-screen controls are fun to play around with but aren't enough to fulfill the purpose Shin'en gave them, so the targeted audience will most likely stick to the classic controls.

Graphics

It's quite the looker, seriously. It's what you would expect from Shin'en anyway. A game that really tries to squeeze as much visual flair as possible out of the hardware that runs it. And everything runs smoothly too!

Sound

Manfred Linzner is a genius. We knew that already from his work on Iridion I & II and Nanostray. This is still true in this game.

Value

For those who can stand the difficulty and go for the completion of all the challenges, there are hours of gameplay to squeeze out of Nanostray 2. For the more average shoot ‘em up player, the challenge will prove a bit off-putting though.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

Shin'en listened to the players' complains and addressed all of the major issues of the first game in this sequel. However the difficulty makes this game hard to get into for newcomers to the genre; it's clearly aimed at hardcore fans. Those players will find in Nanostray 2 a game that doesn't stray too far from the standards, but implements perfectly what it borrows from existing games in the same genre, while bringing its small set of elements that you won't find anywhere else. A highly recommended title to all shoot ‘em up fans out there, looking for their fix of action to play on the go. They're scarce on DS to begin with, and that's even truer in Europe, so this one shouldn't be avoided.

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05.01.2011

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Developer

Shin'en Multimedia

Publisher

Majesco

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

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I have the first game and I'm not sure if I finished it. I am not very good at shoot 'em ups and tend to avoid arcade games like 1945 since I could easily burn dollars on it.

graid (guest) 06.01.2011 21:49#2

Simply the best DS shmup ever. Hope the continue with it on 3DS. Would be aaaaaaawesome!

Paul (guest) 06.01.2011 21:49#3

Nicely written review.
This is, IMO, one of the best shmups of all time. The graphics, audio, level design, extras - all feel absolutely spot on.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Between this, Metal Torrent on DSiWare, Big Bang Mini, Bangai-o Spirits DS, and Ketsui Death Label, I'm loving the DS shmup scene Smilie

Thanks for the review, Rudy - the more people know how fantastic Nanostray 2 is, the better. Here's hoping for a third game on 3DS Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I played Ketsui Death Label. I'd like to buy it but it's hard to come by these days. Not too much a fan of Bangai-o style of gameplay though.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
Staff Member

If Shin'en's 3DS launch window project isn't Nanostray 3, I will probably kick my brother.

...nah, I'll kick him anyway.


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