It’s a sequel, a much better sequel…
The shooter: It’s a classic genre that requires little more innovation than something to differentiate one title from the next. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t welcome a novel take on scrolling action. Shin’en’s Nanostray, was an early DS shooter with a maligned control scheme and overly-forgiving gameplay. Yet, for all of its woes, the game managed to produce impressive visuals and still-compelling action. A few years later, we now have the follow-up sequel aptly named, Nanostray 2.
Whereas the first title threw tacked-on touch controls and unlimited lives at gamers—arguably to appease the casual crowd while using the new technology—Nanostray 2 is a return to the classics. The forced touch screen mechanics have been replaced by the D-pad, face and shoulder buttons, to deliver a much more fluid handheld experience.
Much like the Gradius series, with a bit of Galaga thrown in, Nanostray 2 rewards players with additional “satellites” to aid them through the many game modes with extra lasers. By taking out a wave of enemies you’ll first be awarded with two satellites, which can be arranged in three different positions to fire about your ship and that are assigned prior to each outing, and then with tokens that charge up one of six special weapons, or gold tokens for points. The setup isn’t anything new to the genre, but is a welcomed change from the pre-assigned directional firing of the first game.
No touchy, unless you really want to…
With the change to a more traditional D-pad scheme, you might be wondering how the game integrates the DS’s trademark touch screen. Although you’re able to tap on various menus throughout the game, you can also choose to play with the touch screen by controlling your ship via the stylus. Surprisingly, this setup works fairly well as the traditional controls feel slower and less responsive than dragging the ship around the screen; the only draw back is sometimes your hand can get the way of on-screen commotion, causing you to miss the shot that ultimately kills you.
That being said, it won’t be your hand that kills you most of the time: Nanostray 2 is no casual-friendly title. The game is based around repetition, and you’re going to need to play over and over again to get through the game. The story—which is actually compelling compared to the first game, as you track down the origins of the Nanostray virus—may consist of only eight levels, but they each require you to memorize where each enemy will be and where the next obstacle is.
Earmuffs might be appropriate for others while you play…
Such a setup creates an experience teeming with replay value. The first game was criticized as being too easy with unlimited lives, but with only five lives per three continues, Nanostray 2 ensures you will be cringing each time your tiny ship explodes. It can be frustrating, but eventually there aren’t any surprises on what to expect next as each level follows the same pattern, with a mini-boss and final boss for each world.
But you’re going to want to replay each level to get things just right. With the ability to download hi-scores over Wi-Fi Connect, perfection is key. There are several other modes which expand the life of the game, and require just as many repeats as the story does. By playing through objective-based Challenges you’ll unlock more objective-based gameplay in the Simulator, but there’s also the option to just play through each of the levels arcade-style for hi-scores once you’ve unlocked them through the Story mode. Each of the various modes is no less challenging than the story gameplay, and will be a treat for any hardcore shooter fan.
If you ever get tired of playing by yourself for hi-scores, however, you can always challenge a friend in both single and multi-card game types, which play out in both competitive and cooperative options.
I thought I was a pretty good gamer, until I met you, Nanostray 2…
Ultimately, Nanostray 2 caters to the hardcore, traditional shooter fan. With limited continues and frustratingly-difficult level design (even on easy), the game will test anyone who claims to be a competent gamer. Visually, the game is still stunning with great background animation, and objects popping in and out of your shooting-plane; it’s just a shame the art direction for enemies feels so recycled. Aurally, the game holds up just as well, complete with voiced narration and synthesized music. The game is a much welcomed step up for the series, but casual gamer, consider ye be warned.
+ Looks great with interactive backgrounds
+ Enormous replay value for any hardcore shooter fan
+ Refined gameplay mechanics, with choice of control scheme
Oh, hell no:
- Frustrating even on the easiest of settings
- Not a lot of replay value for non-hardcore shooter fans
- Nothing special for character design