Review by midwinter

"My Virginal Awakening"

Nanostray's portable, shoot'em up action is remarkable in so much as it plugs a hole I never knew I had. Like a virgin on prom night coming to the realization that there's more to the world than football and smoking after school, my eyes have been opened and I'm hungry for more. Pushing that analogy one step further, Nanostray's shortened challenge proves frustrating, its digital, pre-mature ejaculation unfortunately grinds the action to a halt just as things begin to heat up. As a first attempt however, Shinin's DS debut is blissfully erotic. 60 minutes of oohhh and ahhh, capped off with the occasional bout of post-coitus action, cuddling and fondling players long into the night.

I need to cool down...

Now admittedly, Nanostray touched me. As an aging arcade fanatic from way back, its simple shoot'em up ethos had me fondly recalling the classics of yesteryear. There's something to be said about its back to basics approach, an absence of power-ups and other assorted "genre improvements" have served to imbue the action with a unique, rose-tinted quality. But OK, you think I'm mad. You think the world needs another Espagaluda, another bullet-soaked hell, and another 7 billion ways to die... well, I'm here to tell you that you're wrong. What it needs are more titles like Nanostray, easily accessible shoot'em ups, minus the convoluted gimmicks and high intelligence strategies that plague today's modern shooter.

Note to Treasure: I blame you.

But anyway, that's a tangent for another day, and we're here to talk about Nanostray's opening moments. Three worlds are initially available to players from the get-go, with another 5 being unlocked as the game unfolds. Desert planets give way to the lush greens of a tropical paradise, only to be replaced with the smoky, dystopian desolation of a future metropolis. And yet as generic as all that may sound, the sweetly rendered graphics are more than capable of showing you a good time. Exploding from the DS' upper display with a wealth of finely realized detail, their stunning good looks are the very definition of eye catching sexiness. Columns of molten hot lava erupt from the ground as a soft, fine mist fills the air. A large, capital ship then screams into action, rotating in beautiful, 3D bliss as a volley of charged plasma is thrown your way... this is a handheld? Show me more!

All that though, is simple window dressing, and what we really want is scrolling mass genocide, delivered with a hearty bang and a cap full of BOOM! Nanostray doesn't disappoint. Whereby other vertically scrolling shooters simply move up the screen across a flat, 2D plane, Shinin have taken their DS debut and tilted it slightly, adding a pseudo 3D aspect to the action while still retaining the classic feel of old. And be it intentional or otherwise, this rather smart decision has effectively given players a far greater field of play with which to work their magic in. You've got 4 basic modes of fire, a super charged beam weapon, and an arsenal of smart bombs for when things truly get out of hand, so it's good to know you'll also have the space in which to use them.

Like I said though, Nanostray features no power-ups of any kind. Get used to it...

Instead, it's interesting to note how the game manages to satisfy both genre new comers and veterans alike, offering technique to those who crave it while still allowing for a kill'em all and let God sort'em out type of attitude. Combo kills serve to inflate the player's score, which in turn can be posted online for some all important bragging rights. Those that do go to the trouble of picking up the intricacies of scoring however, will be further rewarded once the main, single player campaign comes to an end. With the credits rolling, the smartly implemented challenge modes take over, and it's here players will probably spend much of their time. Often designed around score based objectives, though not solely limited to, these modes lend the game a wonderful after-taste that lingers on long into the night.

Can you complete a stage with no deaths?
Score more than 350,000 points?
How about if we just took away those smart bombs?

Yeah, I didn't think you'd like that last one...

Even still, Nanostray at least gives players a fighting chance thanks to its well implemented controls, even if the touch screen interface leaves a bit to be desired. Whereby movement and button configurations are next to flawless, having to tap the DS' lower screen in order to change weapons is sadly a chore. The icons have been laid out in a purely counter-intuitive manner, and moving your eyes from the action for even a second often results in instant death. Would ignoring the touch screen just this once have been such a bad deal? Apparently so. Was this a Nintendo given mandate or a mis-step on Shinnin's behalf? Honestly speaking, we'll probably never know...

The thing to remember though is this, Nanostray isn't about the long term challenge. It only wants to give players a short term blast of action whenever the moment strikes, and in those regards it's a total success. Would I have liked more? Hell yeah, that much should be obvious. A lack of unlockable extras may have hurt things, and granted the true shoot'em up veterans of this world will walk through the game in little under an hour. Entertainment however is guaranteed, whether it justifies the $40 asking price is another question entirely. Given a second chance, I'm sure Shinin will turn things around, mustering the staying power needed to deliver a far more rewarding experience.

So they've popped their load early on this one, it happens to the best of us. Let's try to be forgiving...

Was it good for you?

Pros
----

* Fast, well paced shoot'em up action
* Nanostray feels every bit a retro classic
* The controls are about as smooth as you'd want
* Each of the four fire modes work a treat
* The combo engine proves to be remarkably engaging
* With 8 worlds to conquer, there's some impressive variety at work
* The incredible visuals are eye wateringly good
* The Challenge mode will keep you coming back for more
* Nanostray fills a gap in the DS line-up

Cons
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* Short single player arcade mode
* Veterans will find Nanostray a cake walk
* The touch screen interface feels tacked on


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/06/05


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