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Nintendo DS Review: Nanostray

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The genre may be dead, yet here’s Nanostray, a perfectly conceived shooter with fantastic visuals, a wonderful engine, and twitch gameplay fans of the genre crave. It’s rare that a game can slip out like this, completely unexpected, and especially one of this quality. It’s come out under the range of most gamers, but those who find it will appreciate what it does.

It starts with the core of the gameplay: simple, basic, and shoot-everything-that-moves fun. It’s not a massive change from the developer’s previous Iridion II. There are no lengthy cut scenes, no story line, and nothing to stop the pace Nanostray achieves so well. It’s the player’s ship, pre-equipped with the necessary firepower, against the armada trying to bring them down.

The ship is wonderful to control, offering the necessary precision accurately. Easily the biggest and most obvious fault is the weapons system, requiring use of the touch screen. Though it comes with all the weapons you’ll have for the entire two-hour ride (and there are no weapon power-ups), switching on the fly is done by touching the small spots on the lower screen.

It’s a ridiculous system for a game that requires dedicated focus to get through unscathed. Other necessities, including damage and secondary weapon power, are also confined to the bottom screen. There is no choice given to the player. The control options are sadly permanent. That hampers an otherwise solid multi-player mode, providing decent and varied challenges with a single card.

Still, it’s to the gamer’s benefit to work through some of the frustrating moments (or even stick with their favorite weapon) to challenge some of the immense bosses. Their patterns are predictable; yet still provide that difficulty only deft maneuvering can conquer. They hover over gorgeous backdrops (easily the best on the console) which challenge PSP titles for sheer beauty.

Those looking for a challenge and those looking for a car ride title without frustration are accommodated. The easiest level allows for infinite continues, while anything above that requires pure skill to make it through while counting how many lives are left. Fans of hitting high scores have the biggest hurdle, with score challenges unlockable as stages are conquered. Others include playing through stages minus certain weapons or other challenges. There’s more than enough to do when the initial game has ended. The game’s involving scoring system is truly something special.

Final credit is due to the soundtrack running on the latest sound development by Shin’en (DSX) and composed by Manfred Linzner. It’s brilliant music that’s perfectly suited to the game and necessary for headphones. Not only does it manage to use the DS hardware, it would fit in any of the memorable classic console shooter’s soundtracks Nanostray is obviously patterned off.

With the exception of the glaring flaw, Nanostray should be recognized for revitalizing a genre that needed it. It’s not a great example of the technology behind the DS, and if that’s that what you’re looking for, this is not for you. It’s not a game that will reach the mainstream gamers like it will the vocal fan base it will develop, but if you’re in need a shooter, you won’t find a better portable one than Nanostray.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.