Published on December 18th, 2011 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Nano Assault Review
Price: MSRP USD 29.99
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Shin’en Multimedia
Life on a cellular level may not jump out and grip gamers with excitement. For some, science is strictly part of the education realm and should stay as such. Many of the prior arcade style space shooters play off sci-fi fiction more than anything else. The glory of spilling tons of alien blood in outer space and having the option of secondary weapons firing from a tiny ship is common in these types of games. As seen in Nano Assault, scaling this space exploration formula down to fit the design of a cell produces a similar result. If exploring cells doesn’t sound all that enticing, killing off a Nanostray virus that threatens to end human existence might.
In Nano Assault, the action begins right away as we are dropped into the Nanite Ship and are off to eliminate the viral infection. The story mode itself consists of exploration of cells and arcade style shooting. Both involve eradicating further spread of the Nanostray virus. In each area, there is a new cell cluster introduced and a smaller Nanite exploration ship is sent down to eliminate enemies and “purify” the area. No matter how big or small the cell size; there are always three DNA strands to remove from the area. The exploration sequence itself resembles the same type of 3D wrapping view that you would see in Super Mario Galaxy–but also mixed with something you would find in a top down arcade shooter.
Graphically the game looks great. These are some of the best graphics on the console to date and can contend with first party development. There is not much detail involved in the simplistic design of cellular structures vs a giant detailed city, but the game does bring some top notch environments. Bright vivid colors and unique enemies flourish in the “electron microscope” inspired world. Even with the gameplay focused on blasting away enemies, it draws on the aspect of object interaction and not just “destroy enemies to clear the level”. Some examples are exploding ground obstructions to reach flying enemies around the cell cluster or objects used as destructible barriers providing a challenge during level exploration. Although these structures could have been designed without care, or enemies just strewn about the map, it was obvious that Shin’en Media wanted an authentic experience. Another area of such success can be found in the games controls.
Some games on the Nintendo 3DS have failed in comfortable placement for action buttons. There are many times that the lack of button customization may leave an uncomfortable layout and drive a person stir crazy. In the case of Nano Assault, the buttons are easy to use and appropriately mapped ,such as th‘L’ and ‘R’ shoulder buttons. This was an easy transition for wiping out enemy swarms and not mistaking them for other actions. Other controls in the game were just as responsive.
The swivel pad was our basic navigation for the ship, whereas the ‘Y’,‘B’,‘X’, and ‘A’ buttons shoot in directional correspondence of their position on the control pad. The ‘L’ button changes the pulse and spread of the cannon and the ‘R’ fires the secondary weapon. The secondary weapons are unlocked over the course of play. It is disappointing to not have the ability to gain power-ups for the pulse cannon, especially when changing the ‘spread’ of the cannon. This lessens its effectiveness in certain areas.
Here are a few descriptions and uses for these secondary weapons:
The Seka VR
This purple glowing set of homing missiles takes out the nearest set of enemies. The single shot will blast through an enemy and ricochet onto the next before completely exploding. This is great for the arcade style levels, in which this weapon can be used in the air and levels consisting of large quantities of enemies.
This powerful weapon throws out a timed bomb that can easily wipe out some of the larger baddies. The drawback is that it uses more of your Zero Point Energy Capsule storage, but it is highly effective. This one can also be used on the ground and in air.
The Garan Q
Feeling overwhelmed? This moving electro-magnetic gun has static arms that trail around the ship and take out nearest enemies. Although it is not particularly a “force field” it does provide some safety from enemy collisions. This will take out nearby enemies and has a 70% power rating. It can only be used on the ground and proves most effective when there are multiple enemies firing on your ship.
Similar to the Garan Q, the Eyram/XS also encircles the ship. It takes out, or highly damages nearby enemies. It also has an 80% power rating and seems more effective than the Garan Q. This weapon can only be used on the ground exploration missions.
These weapons and buttons change based on whether the mission is for exploration, or arcade style shooter. One thing about Nano Assault that players will notice is that the view/layout changes based on level and mission. The arcade-style-head-on action will only use two of the four unlockable secondary weapons, and only require ship movement and a firing mode similar to what you would find in Star Fox. Just like the game’s change of pace and differing viewpoints, there is also quite the selection of playable modes and extras to explore.
Boss Rush, Arcade, and the Nano Shop gives players a place to take on previous defeated bosses and explore the games various enemies. The Arcade allows you to play previous levels, get achievements, and post your high score online. The score can be ranked among friends, or simply in the top ranks of overall owners of the game. Players can also use the achievement coins here to purchase additional songs in the Jukebox or descriptions in the Nanopedia. The Nanopedia details on enemies and keeps them on display for when you catch that “collector’s bug”. Play Coins outside of the game can also be converted and used here.
The only real negative aspects that can be said about the game are limited to specific sections. There were a few times during larger sections where the game slowed down with the action on screen. Also, during some of the exploration areas, there were noticeable “dead zones” with the swivel pad while traveling diagonally around structures. I had previously calibrated my swivel pad to attempt to fix this, but still noticed some dead zones while chasing down enemies. At this point, I have had no other games that have suffered from the same type of folly.
The unlockables of the game are great and all, but they are somewhat lacking in the feel of earning something cool. Yeah, the Nanopedia gives names and faces to all the blobs and bug lookin’ crawlies you’ve managed to blast, but other than the modes to unlock, I was looking for more.
Often times we see a lower priced game and think, “Huh, $29.99 on release date? Sounds like that game must suck.” If you live by this snooty rule of thumb, you will be missing out on some great games. Nano Assault happens to be one of those titles.
The game provides a genuine experience for Nintendo 3DS owners. There are multiple levels to complete, varying enemies, and a nice selection of weapons. Players can also post their scores online and provides a great arena for replay value. The game is graphically easy on the eyes and varies level to level. If you are thinking that you can’t find a lower priced, quality game for the Nintendo 3DS–you will be sadly mistaken and regret passing up Nano Assault.
+ Level Design
+ Achievements/Online Leaderboards