Review by Tsukasas Kite
"I haven't thoroughly enjoyed a game this much in a very long time."
Nintendo's DS has recently come out of a lull of good games. With Meteos and Kirby: Canvas Curse taking much of the spotlight most probably will not notice the game Nanostray. Meteos and Kirby hold a classic charm that casts its spell on many of the owners of a DS... Then again, they have been hyped up by many magazines and websites. Nanostray, though knowledge of its release has been out in the world for a long time, hasn't grown the gigantic undertaking that well-known titles such as Kirby have.
Nanostray has had a shaky release. Some stores got it in on the release date, some haven't. Some say that the game has been discontinued while others say that they are still waiting for their shipments.
If you are even considering this game from screenshots or game movies, chances are you will love this game as much as I do. Don't listen to the stores. If they can't sell it to you, go somewhere else. This game is worth much more than the effort it may take to find it.
Nanostray, at its core, is a futuristic game where you are in a ship and there are many enemy ships of all shapes and sizes. You shoot them with a variety of different lasers and bombs. Once you get through many waves of enemies there is a boss enemy that you must destroy. It is within the genre of the games Xevious and, for more current gamers, Ikaruga (the name of the genre escapes me...).
The game is beautifully executed with sharp 3D graphics (I still can't believe they're this good on a portable system), tight gameplay, and an execution that just makes you want to come back for more!
Story - NA/10
Unfortunately, there is no story. Well... I shouldn't say that. On the official website there is a story. You are a pilot and something happens to you and you wake up without any memories. All you know is that you can pilot the ship you woke up in and that you MUST fight against the enemy (which seems to be every thing that moves other than yourself...).
The disappointing thing about the storyline is that this could've been the basis for a REALLY good storyline. They could've made the story really in-depth about an alien race that has obliterated all of humanity and you are the last surviving human who must decide between, "Do I fight against the enemy my kind was fighting or do I join with them and live a normal life?"
Nope... There's no sign of a story besides what's on the website. There is not even mention of a story in the manual or the game. I gave this section a non-applicable rating, though if a storyline means anything to you in a game then you should take it into consideration with the score I gave it.
Sound - 10/10
What can I say? The game has some really great music tracks... Nothing that will get you whistling or humming to the tune, though... But that doesn't matter! The music really fits well with each level (or menu screen).
As far as sound effects go, they're great too! Lasers sound like lasers, explosions sound (for the most part) like explosions, etc. There really isn't much to complain about when it comes to sound.
I have always considered the DS's speakers to be of high quality. At max volume there is an "effect" they give off that makes the sound of the games really sharp and pleasant to the ears. It really enhances the sound within a game of this type.
Graphics - 10/10
If you've seen the videos you STILL haven't seen how great this game looks. The glow of the DS's screen really brings out the vivid colors and sharp edges on the ship models and backgrounds. Many people say that the graphics on this game compare to that of the Playstation Portable or even that of the Dreamcast. I would not go as far as to say that... But they're spectacular for a handheld.
When you begin a level there is an opening movie that shows some of the terrain and your ship... It is on these opening movies that you can see the "Nintendo 64 quality" of the game. Now, that's not a bad thing, but it disproves the common statement that the graphics are as good as the PSP's or the Dreamcasts's.
During the normal gameplay the game plays from a top down view and ships will come flying from under you creating really nice 3D effects. Enemies will come out of pipes sticking out of the walls or from the ground or other places. Each appearance of an enemy looks pretty cool. Their laser attacks are nothing more than colored beams or balls... Nothing too spectacular.
Gameplay - 9/10
Oh, how I would LOVE to give this section a ten out of ten. The gameplay is downright fantastic... But there are just a few things that bring it down to a nine out of ten.
The Good: If you have ever played this type of game before, you know what to expect. You use the D-Pad to move around and the buttons to shoot your weapons. You have a choice of four weapons to choose from as your normal weapon, a sub-weapon that will charge up when you get blue coins that waves of enemies drop, and a big bomb that obliterates everything on the screen. There are four different normal weapons to choose from, each having their own distinct attack and sub-attack. For example: one weapon type homes in on the enemies while another shoots from the side of your ship. Nothing too special here and at least they didn't ruin the classic formula. The control is very tight and there are no "sticky buttons" when it comes to firing a weapon. The actual game is divided into three areas: Adventure, Arcade, and Challenge. Adventure allows you to go through the total of 8 levels of the game. Once you beat a level, it opens up in Arcade and challenges for that level open up in Challenge mode. The challenge mode levels are very difficult. After completing certain challenges you will be rewarded with music tracks and other goodies that you can view. The game has a lot of replay value. If you are a fan of this type of game (or any game where you like to see how high a score you can reach), you will fall for this game. There is also a special feature in this game where you get a code that corresponds with what your score is for a level. You can then input the code on the official website to match your score with other players.
The Bad: There are only 8 levels which last for a short time (some around six minutes). I can't say that having only 8 levels is bad, necessarily, but to have seen upwards of 24 levels would've been really nice. The game is short, but there's enough replay value to make up for it. Another mediocre aspect is the multi-player. The focus of the multi-player is more of a "Who can get as many points as possible in X amount of minutes?" than it is a "Blow the opponent up!" kind of multi-player. While this isn't really a bad thing, what causes the multi-player's score to degrade is the fact that you can only play in one to two minute bouts for the most part. This leaves too much interruption between matches. Something you may see as a bad aspect is the three difficulty modes. There's Normal, Advanced, and Super. However, this does not make the enemies any tougher. It controls how many lives you have, how many super bombs you have, how many super bombs you receive after recovering from a death, and some other aspects. This may be a gripe to some people; I don't see it detracting from the gameplay.
The Ugly: One of the DS's selling points is its innovation on ways to play. The touch screen, microphone, and two screens are supposed to enhance gameplay. Nanostray falls short in the aspect that they forcibly tried to make the game fit the DS's bill. The top screen of the game is the game itself while the bottom screen consists of radar, health, life count, sub-weapon energy level, laser types, super bomb count, and score. The problem with this is that there is so much action on the top screen that if you dare avert your eyes to look at the bottom screen's radar, chances are you will die. Also, if you want to change your weapon laser type you must use the touch screen and hit the corresponding button. This is not a problem if you like using your thumb on the touch screen or you have memorized where each button lies... But both the Y and Select buttons are not used at all in the game. They could've easily allow you to toggle weapons using one of the free buttons. Nanostray was made to fit too much into playing the game using the DS's capabilities which can cause unnecessary problems. And anyway, even with a bar breaking the screens in two, it would've looked much better if you could play the game with both screens. The best use for the two screens in this game is on the menu screen in which you are inside a gigantic floating metal tube that rotates around. It stretches across the two screens and looks really neat.
Overall - 9/10
Gameplay has the biggest emphasis when it comes to this game. Yes, when you turn it on you will be amazed by the music and the graphics. However, the amazement will pass and what will really count is how well the game plays. I have to say that the game plays great. Yes, it's a tad short, but it has a high difficulty level, amazing replayability, and it is just a lot of fun.
Nanostray is a game that really says that the DS is made for playing games and looking good in the process. If you can ignore the forced-functionality of the DS's features and the short length of the game then there really isn't any other reason you can't love this game (unless you hate the genre... or you find it too difficult). Practice makes perfect and it applies to both the creation of this game and the way the player masters it.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 07/27/05
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