Review: Nano Assault

I never played Nanostray, Shin’en Multimedia’s scrolling space shooter for the DS, nor did I pick up its sequel, Nanostray 2, so when the cousin of the family, Nano Assault, showed up for the 3DS, it nearly sailed right under my radar. It would’ve been a shame if it had, because while the game isn’t exactly the most complex or demanding experience around, it’s definitely an entertaining way to spend a few hours.

Like Nanostray, Nano Assault has you piloting a ship loaded with a variety of explodey-bits which you will use to blast your way through the waves of baddies blocking your path. Unlike Nanostray, though, Nano Assault takes the “Nano” part of its name a bit more literally by making your spaceship tiny, and your field of battle the infected cells of the human body.

Ever seen the movie Fantastic Voyage? Or the Magic School Bus TV series? It’s sort of like that, if you add Trauma Center, and also Space Invaders.

The premise is really simple: there’s a horrible virus running rampant, and you must hunt it down and destroy it to prevent its spread. The controls aren’t much more complex; you move your ship with the analog stick, and shoot with the A, B, X, and Y buttons, each of which corresponds to the direction in which your ship will shoot when they’re pressed.

There are two types of levels to traverse. The majority are ground stages, which function very similarly to the planets in Super Mario Galaxy; they’re three-dimensional maps of cells on which you must use your ship first to collect three segments of DNA scattered over the cell’s surface, then to eradicate the viruses infesting the cell itself. Once both of these tasks have been accomplished, the cell is “purified,” and you can move on to the next.

The ground levels are interspersed with more traditional on-rails sections that play a bit like a twin-stick shooter…only with just the one stick. I found these levels a bit more difficult to navigate than the ground ones for that very reason; your targeting reticule is more sensitive than your ship’s movement, but they’re both controlled by the same stick, so if you find yourself in a situation where you need to move around quickly and/or precisely, it can feel like your ship is simply lagging a bit behind your crosshairs.

Difficulty scales to you, but it seems to err on the side of caution as it does so; I never felt particularly challenged, and I breezed through all 32 stages in a few short hours. If I can do that, I imagine it’d be even easier for someone who’s actually good at this genre.

There’s precious little in the way of story to be found in Nano Assault, but fortunately the visuals are good enough that it doesn’t matter a whole lot. The stages themselves aren’t drastically different in style, but they are quite pretty, and the bosses make up for any lack of variance by being creative and impressive in scale.

It’s also worth noting that the 3D is implemented quite well, particularly in the rail-shooter sequences and aforementioned boss fights. It’s no slouch in the cell-roving sections either, and in fact got me daydreaming about how sweet an iteration of Mario Galaxy on the 3DS could be.

If you’re looking for a deep, engrossing adventure, this really isn’t it. If, however, you’re interested in a straightforward, well-realized 3D shooter to entertain you for a while, Nano Assault is worth a look. Replay value is low, but while you’re in it, you’ll have a good time.

6/10

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