Review by Mikaa

"Wow, better than the previews said..."

Only a handful of gamers may remember the GBA launch title Iridion 3D, a rail shooter where you could move around the screen in pseudo-3D. Those of you who do may recall the astoundingly great graphics, though the controls were unusual, made all the more challenging from the odd collision detection.

A few years after its release, another shooter was issued: Iridion II. Dumping the Star Fox-like flying aspects for a isomorphic top-down, this game kept the upgrading system and great graphics of the first title, along with the intense challenge (though the controls were far easier the second time around).

With the DS, another title from the creators of Iridion: Nanostray. Personally, I prefer to think of the title as a more sensible alternative: Iridion 3 - Nanostray.

See, despite the notable upgrade in options, controls, and the fact that you actually have a battery save for once, the game is still the same formula as its predecessors.

And this is a good thing.

Basically, Nanostray is most kin to Iridion II, in that you fly from a top-down perspective, yet the backgrounds are constantly changing and realistic. In fact, the graphics can be so real that there are times you might think you will smack into an asteroid or a building, and fly head-on into a ship that pops from the side. After a time with the game, you do begin to learn the ins and outs of the graphics, realize the patterns of the foes, and the ease of which you can dodge the foe's attacks once you play enough times.

Basically, it has a very arcade-like appearance.

And it has a very arcade-like difficulty: you will NOT breeze through the whole game in one setting, lest you use some form of a cheat device or divine intervention. See, on the normal Adventure mode, you are given 5 ships, a set ammount of healh per with no ability to recharge, and four weapons to activate from the touch screen (ie - you can select from four individual weapons on the fly via the touch screen), and the mandatory smart bombs. Smacking into any solid object or another ship and kiss a life goodbye; take too many hits and you're gone. Yet know that it IS possible to take out the levels rather quickly on Adventure mode if you start each one with five ships.

But then when you beat them, you unlock the level in the Arcade mode, where you have THREE ships, take three times the damage, and still no way to recharge your health. Upon beating these unlocked versions of the Adventure levels, you get a high score and a code to post on the game's web page (www.nanostray.com) to compete with other gamers. A nice feature, provided you are skilled enough to make it to the bosses and win.

Then we have the Challenge section, which offers each unlocked level three goals, such as only one ship, no special weapons, no autofire, or a certain score. These alone take a while to best, and are not for the meek at playing.

There do seem to be unlockables in a sub menu, but I have yet to open anything. Yet knowing that there is more is enough to play through the game.

The fact that the controls are dead-on make it even better. There are two fire buttons for the main gun (L and A), a Special Beam button (B), the Smart Bomb button (X or Y, I forget), a draw-the-item-to-you button (R), and the Pause (guess). The touch screen sports the four buttons to toggle your weapon, a counter for your Smart Bombs, a radar of foes (and threats), and on occasion the weak points of a boss and its health. Very nice, if unimaginitive. But then, function is better than hinderence.

The graphics are astronomically good; if this is a sample of the DS, then I want more. Granted that the amazing 2D-passing-for-3D is nothing compared to the PSP's screen, but the PSP would have to hack away at its battery to acheive this much action on screen. One can only hope that Majestico can dig itself out of the hole they have dug to continue making games like this.

Yep, Majestico is in a fix. See, they have recently reported massive losses, plus a lawsuit for reasons I do not know. At this time, it seems that Nanostray has had a VERY limited run and probably won't see any new copies made in the near future. Grab it whilst you can, DS gamers.

Final Word: This is hard, but the game is well worth the inexpensive (for DS) price tag (US$30).

Score: 9 of 10

* Best Feature - Astronomical graphics that could almost match any descent Saturn 2D shooter (which is a GOOD thing), great controls, replay value
* Worst Feature - Lack of difficulty settings, the fact that Majestico might go under and only a few will play this title
* If You Liked - Iridion II (GBA), Robotech (2D), Gradius Galaxies (GBA)
* Guilty Pleasure - Jumping up and down like a school girl, drooling even, when your store manager tells you that she has secured you a copy of Nanostray after you have been looking for it for over a month with no success.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/01/05, Updated 11/20/07

Game Release: Nanostray (US, 07/19/05)


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