Nanostray – NDS – Review

Nanostray has been released,
bringing laser beams of joy to players everywhere.  Big bosses, hard-to-avoid
attack streams, beautiful graphics and an enjoyable victory theme are the
highlights of the game.  Level construction is top-notch with ships, fire,
force fields, and other barriers that pop out of nowhere, blocking the path
ahead.  The game makes no claims of being a 3D shooter, though the
polygon-heavy backdrops and ship models are very well crafted, making the act
of watching just as exciting as the gameplay.

Could this be love I’m
feeling for this magical space shooter?  Judging by the beat of my heart, I’d
say it has to be so.  I’ve fallen for a shooter!  (Pretty ironic when you
think about it.)

What’s that dear?  Huh,
you’re leaving me!?  What are you talking about, we just met an hour ago.  But
I love you!  Please don’t go! 


The preceding was a
reenactment of the first 60 minutes I spent with my new love, Nanostray.  Like
many of my past lovers, Nanostray wasn’t in it for the long haul.  It wanted
to keep things simple: we dive in for an hour of fun, then exit through the
back door.  No questions asked.  No numbers taken.

It wasn’t that simple for
me.  I became attached to the blistering blast of adversarial ships and their
predictable attack patterns.  Laser balls, beams and other deadly,
ship-burning bursts of energy launched from enemy spacecrafts unrelentingly. 
The cluster of beams form laser damage fields shaped like circles, triangles,
rectangles and other shapes.  Easy to see on paper, in Nanostray these shapes
become more than a learning tool for pre-schoolers; they become a nightmare of
pain that’ll have players squirming to get out.

Avoidance is the key to
success in this game.  Learning how to maneuver in and out of the tiniest of
crevices without making contact is a skill not easily obtained.

You had me at "nano." 
Nanostray’s classic combat system turned my hardened interior into cookie
dough.  Call it love at first touch.  The controls are persistent and
reliable; if you can’t learn ’em in under 30 seconds you must not be playing
the same game.

Button placement isn’t
worth mentioning other than to say it uses the Japanese standard for firing
(the A button instead of the B button).  Since Final Fantasy VII’s release on
the PSone (which also used the Japanese standard), I like to see games that
aren’t completely Americanized when they come to the States.


Unexpected good fortune came in the form of boss battles.  Six bosses await
your attacks, and when they’re not screaming about how much you procrastinate,
these bosses like to shake, rattle and roll.  They’ll shake to deter you from
getting too close (your ship is vulnerable to anything it comes in contact
with); they’ll get rattled when you find their weak spot; and they’ll
literally roll over to unleash additional attacks.  The boss types include
mechanical monsters, a large airship and one really big head.  Seriously, he
shoots laser beams from his eyes!

Sleepless in Michigan. 
How could I fall asleep with all the polygons flashing on screen?  Nanostray
is the first Nintendo DS release that strays from the norm, showcasing
detailed and highly explosive effects never before seen on this two-inch
screen.  The action takes place on the top screen, pushing the developers to
maximize the amount of content presented.  Organic waterfalls, crowded
asteroid fields, industrial space stations, and lava-filled volcanic
environments are some of the cool (and red hot, in the case of the volcano)
locations you’ll get to visit.  Explosions, enemy deterioration, and elaborate
boss animations are just a few of the astonishing effects you’ll get to see.

Un-break my heart. 
Sinking faster than the Titanic, and leaving game players behind
like a disappointed blind date, Nanostray sinks to the bottom of the ocean. 
It hits the iceberg as soon as you start playing, though you won’t know it
unless you check the completion percentage.

Once three levels had
passed, the game said I had accounted for 50% of the experience.  I looked at
the clock and saw that only a half an hour had passed.  Embracing the rest of
the game, I expected longer levels, harder challenges, and more powerful boss
battles.  Less than 30 minutes later the game was over.  The credits rolled,
and the challenge mode opened up.  It was over.  My wonderful game had ended.


My heart will go on. 
Nanostray is a great game that’s about the size of a demo.  The challenge mode
is a rehash of each stage, asking you to get higher scores and bigger
bonuses.  While good in theory, this concept is as old as games themselves. 
Once you’ve seen the levels, you’ve seen them.  The higher difficulty settings
mean fewer continues and faster enemy attacks.  Their health has not been
increased, nor do extra enemies pop in and out to make the experience more fun
or frustrating.  It’s frustrating enough on its own.  Like I said, once you’ve
seen the levels they lose that special something they had when they were fresh
out of the box.

Some relationships just
weren’t meant to be.

Review Scoring Details

for Nanostray

Gameplay: 7
Beautiful shooter
bliss that could’ve been a hit or miss.  It’s a bit of both, starting out
exciting and super-fun, but ending way before the player is done.

Graphics: 8.5
Earns the award
for "Best-Looking Handheld Space Shooter Ever Made" without even trying.  I’ve
never seen so many polygons crammed into a DS game before (except for Mario 64
DS, but ports don’t count).  It was a matter of seconds before I forgot which
game platform I was using.  For all my eyes could tell, it was Nintendo 64
hooked up to a 20-inch screen.

Sound: 6
One good song
(the victory theme).  The rest are tiresome techno tracks that fail to consume
the DS’s true power.  Nanostray’s generic array of sound effects aren’t very

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Not the sharpest
shooter in the world by any means.  Nanostray’s normal difficulty is a
cakewalk; the advanced and expert difficulties are only challenging due to the
decrease in health and continue items.  The gameplay itself does not become
more challenging.

Concept: 4
You can’t control
the spacecraft by touching the screen and you can’t switch weapons by pressing
a button.  Menus aside, the only thing the touch screen is good for in this
game is changing weapons, which isn’t very good at all.  I only have two hands
– how can I be expected to take one of them off the DS long enough to switch
weapons?  Do they expect me to use my nose?  I guess I should’ve tried that. 
Other, less intense games have attempted this feature and it didn’t work.  For
a game like Nanostray where you’re constantly on the move it’s a nightmare.

Multiplayer: 6
Single-card play:
settle your differences during 60 and 120-second intervals.  Whoever scores
the highest wins.  …At least we know the sun will still be shining when you’re

Overall: 7
If anyone can
justify spending $40 for a game that’s shorter than every full-length movie
released in the past decade, disregard the score and dive in.  Just remember:
this is a fling, not a long-term relationship.