Posted 05 Sep 2005 at 04:07 by Nik
The shoot'em up genre has lacked a DS game thus far, so the release of Nanostray brings an end to this era. Fans of the genre can rejoice and get shooting.
Nanostray works with the same ingredients as other shoot'em up games. You control a small fully armed spaceship against hundreds and thousands of alien aircrafts. At the end of every level awaits a traditional end boss. The developer of Nanostray, Shin'en, didn't even bother to add a story to this game, if that bothers you at all; spares me a cheesy tale to tell at least though! Speaking of the makers of Nanostray, these are the same guys behind the two Iridion games for the GBA, a fairly unknown, and well received, shoot'em up series. Nanostray is definitely inspired by these games.
In Nanostray you have eight levels to lead your spaceship through, busily evading the bullets flying around your ship. Next to this you constantly shoot the enemy aircrafts moving around you, resulting in very hectic gaming. The upper-screen of your DS shows the top-view action; the lower screen shows radar, some health and weapon meters, your score and a weapon selection area. You control the ship and weapons with the regular buttons, so little use is made of the touch screen unfortunately. Not so much a bad thing though, since touch screen isn't a solution for all games, though the makers did decide to include some touch functions - not to the best effects.
Nanostray works with four standard weapons, available all the time. It would be easy if you could just change weapons by pressing a button; but no, you have to press the touch screen to do this. Taking your stylus out of the back of the DS in the heat of the action, every time you want to change the weapon type, is way too much work. To do this the fast way you have to use your fingers. Yep, resulting in a dirty screen. Another touch screen function is the scan-option. This appears when fighting the end bosses. After pressing the button the weak points of the enemy appear. These sure aren't the most revolutionary uses of the touch screen we've seen thus far.
While the gameplay is something everybody can get used to, the difficulty level sure isn't. Nanostray really is damn hard. Even the normal mode makes the average gamer quickly want to take this game as far away as possible to forget the travesty of an attempt to succeed that just occurred. That's if the game card manages to stay in one piece of course. Hitting an enemy in this game makes you immediately lose a life, and with all the flying objects around the spaceship, you can imagine how this can happen a lot. Especially annoying is when ships suddenly appear at the bottom of the screen. It also takes some skills to evade the hundreds of bullets around your ship. A couple of impacts are enough to explode your hopes and dreams...hardcore isn't the word, but would you expect anything less from a game like this?
Nanostray sure isn't an accessible game for all gamers, which is a real shame because it makes the tiny DS produce some great graphics Beautiful meteoroids flying around the spaceship, PSP-style, while the world below twists and turns as you go through. This beauty has his downsides though. With the screen filled with bullets and enemies, the power of the DS processor gets squeezed to its limits resulting in quite a few slowdowns; annoying for some, a moment to relax for others, but mainly just a damn pain after jolting back and crashing into a bullet. The music in Nanostray is pretty decent though, it's very futuristic and it adds to the experience.
The most important mode of Nanostray is the adventure mode. Here you get to play through the eight different levels it has to offer. Each level can be played through within five minutes and with no additional weapons to gather throughout the level and little variety in play, you can gather that this is a rather thin experience which won't keep you entertained for very long once you master it.
In fairness, next to the regular adventure mode, Nanostray does offer a couple of extras. There's the challenge mode with different tests for your skills - for example, try to complete a level without sub-weapons, or get a 600.000+ score. The arcade mode lets you try for some high-scores too, which you can share on the Nanostray internet site by entering 'Nanocodes'. The game also has one-card multiplayer included. You can play with a friend on four different levels for various goals; most modes are about whoever scores most points. But, as mentioned before, this multimode is a nightmare for frame drops.
After reading the above statements you might conclude that Nanostray isn't really worth playing, let alone buying. Truthfully, it isn't a bad game, but its appeal only reachs a small niche. It has one big advantage, however; at this moment Nanostray is 'the best' as it's the only shoot-em up game you can get for the DS. If you're desperate for one, then look no further... 'cause y'know, you won't, erm... find any others.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Old school shooter fans get their challenging DS game. Other players shouldn't bother.
Provides a good challenge for fans
Too hard for the big audience
Bad touch screen functions