First Impressions: Nano Assault

Shin'en knows shmups

Shin'en is certainly no stranger to the shoot 'em up genre, having already developed games in the Iridion and Nanostray series for Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS respectively, but after taking a few years to work on other projects, many shooter fans were beginning to wonder if the developer would ever get back to its shmup roots. Thankfully, fans were given the answer they were hoping for this past April when the company announced Nano Assault, a brand new spin-off title of its popular Nanostray series.

While those releases were more traditional vertical shooters, Nano Assault mixes things up quite a bit. For starters, there are a host of different gameplay designs, depending on the specific level. Some levels are set up for you to guide your ship across the surface of a rounded organism, firing your cannon in four different directions using the four action buttons, whereas others task you with flying your ship into the screen using the Circle Pad to move your ship and its targeting reticle similar to that of Star Fox 64.

Your main goal in each level is to destroy the host of harmful organisms and collect DNA sequences that are strewn around each area. And for the flight levels, you're going to be dealing with the swirling waves of enemies, not to mention carefully navigating your ship through the many hazards and obstacles thrown your way.

As you progress through the levels, you unlock new and more powerful weapons, many of which can be particularly useful in tackling the game's myriad of difficult bosses. You'll also unlock new game modes as you complete levels that include Arcade mode, a nice quick way to play an individual level of your choosing, and a rather intense Boss Rush mode that pits you against a constant barrage of bosses that must be destroyed.

There are a few more goodies to be found in Nano Assault, but we'll save those for the upcoming review. Suffice it to say, you're going to get a lot of bang for your buck with this one, not to mention some of the most unbelievable 3D visuals and spatial surround sound available on the 3DS to date. If things looked and sounded this good in the first third of the game, it's fun to imagine what the rest of the experience holds.

Even though it's been almost four years since Nanostray 2 was released on Nintendo DS, it's quite clear that Shin'en hasn't lost its special touch when it comes to putting together an engaging and visually flashy shooter experience. Having only played the first ten of the game's 32 levels, there's plenty to look forward to when the game hits store shelves in North America on 22nd November.

We'd like to thank Reverb Communications and Majesco for sending over the preview build.

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