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Nanostray 2 Review

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Developer: Shin’en Publisher: Majesco
Release Date: March 11, 2008 Also On: None

Shin’en created a pair of decent 2D shooters for the Game Boy Advance; Iridion and Iridion II. These games influenced Nanostray, one of the DS’s early titles. It was rated as a good game by many critics, and was one of the only 2D shooters on the DS for a long time. Nanostray 2, the sequel, is a better game than all of them. It is quite a lot of fun to play, and fans of 2D shooters will enjoy what this game has to offer.

First of all, the Adventure mode features 8 levels that test every bit of your reflexes and patience. Each stage generally consists of interchanging vertically- and horizontally-scrolling sections, and sometimes the stages will rotate as well. Although it may come off as disorienting on paper, it only adds more to the challenge. Like almost all 2D shooters, Nanostray 2 is rough at times. Enemy ships, bullets, and turrets will begin to fill the screen in stages with a strong level of enemy resistance. I only played the game on the Easy difficulty setting because I could hardly stay alive for more than a few minutes on the harder ones, and the number of lives and continues depleted harshly.

One of the cool parts of Nanostray 2 is its weapon customization. Before each level, special weapons can be selected, each with a different energy expense and function. They are very similar to the ones found in the first game, but they are effective nonetheless. My personal favorites were a electric force field that destroys anything close to the ship and a missile that could be remotely controlled and detonated. As waves of enemies are destroyed, blue orbs can be collected that replenish lost energy. Also, gold coins can be collected for a higher score.

Challenge Mode is interesting, as it throws several different scenarios at the player. Simple examples include staying alive for a set amount of time or trying to destroy 50 ships within 30 seconds. An Arcade Mode is also available, and is as straightforward as one would assume it is. Probably the most impressive part of the game is its extensive multiplayer features. Although playing with friends requires the use of multiple game cartridges, it is a lot more fun to play this way: the adventure can be played cooperatively or competitively, and there are online leaderboards through Wi-Fi.

It seems that these days, 2D shooters are only 2D in their side-scrolling mechanics: even Nanostray 2 utilizes almost exclusively 3D models and backgrounds. Enemy ships fly in and out, toward and away from the screen. The explosion effects are impressive, particularly after defeating one of the screen-filling bosses. Although the sprites for the player’s ship and the energy bullets are pretty dull, there is something impressive about sailing along at a steady pace (and frame rate), avoiding what appears to be a blizzard of death raining from the right side or top of the screen. The music and sound effects are not half bad, either. There is voice-over between missions, although it sounds pretty standard for the space sci-fi theme.

Nanostray 2 is a fun game to play, but it is not for everyone. It should be known, in fact, that 2D shooters are not for everyone. As I mentioned before, almost all of them present a very harsh challenge to inexperienced players. I myself was not the greatest at the game, but getting killed and replaying the game is what it is all about. Like many other classic-style games, success is generally only achieved after a lot of wall-punching failure.

Also, Nanostray 2 presents three different control schemes, but only the Classic style works (d-pad and A/B). The right- and left-handed stylus controls are an absolute misery to use, and make the ship feel slippery and sluggish. Shooting with any buttons other than the A/B buttons is foolish and feels strange; these methods of control are basically just worthless. Avoid them.

With that said, approach Nanostray 2 with some caution: it requires patience, and fans of the genre will definitely find that it is an entertaining game to play. It is not going to suddenly revive 2D shooters or restore them to their former glory, but those seriously missing their favorite classic genre will be happy with what Shin’en has put together.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 8.5
Final: 7.9
Written by Cliff Review Guide