Nano Assault EX (3DS) Review
Ethan Smith / Mar 27th, 2013 No Comments
The story of Nano Assault EX is basic and ultimately irrelevant except to clarify the reasons for the level and enemy design. Players must use a nanite ship to take on a deadly virus that could wipe out humanity on a microbial level. The game makes no pretensions to be anything else than a fun shoot-em-up, so it would be unfair to judge it for lack of story.
The overall graphical style is simple, favoring large shapes with minimal detailing but varied texturing and opacity, which suits the microbial style of the level design and enemies. The colors and lighting effects can be quite stunning, and the animations are always smooth. These design elements are sometimes used to mess with the player’s perspective, such as a level that looks like it should be hilly—and some parts of it actually are—but it is actually covered in an almost completely transparent layer above the visible hills.
Most of the levels take place on a three-dimensional cells that the player navigates, collecting DNA strands and fighting antagonistic microbes that pop up. Since these sections are free-roaming, they are more about reaction time, maneuverability, and deft use of the ability to switch the cannons’ spray at will than pattern memorization. A small number of levels have a rail shooter setup similar to Star Fox, but even those are not typically intense enough to require heavy memorization. The boss fights are likewise challenging, but not brutal.
The game is fast-paced and somewhat difficult, but hardcore fans of shooters will find the game extremely easy. Levels only take a few minutes, so Game Overs do not set the player back very far. In fact, levels that end with a boss fight will just send you back to the start of said fight. However, therein also lies one of the game’s biggest strengths; players can just pop open their 3DS and play a 3-5 minute level whenever they have a few minutes to wait for something. Because of the bonus lives players get as they collect DNA items that look like little blue gems, the game never gets too hard. Since the game is never really “frustrating” at any point—unlike most action shooters—it ends up feeling almost relaxing. Still, the game could have benefited from multiple difficulty levels.
The game only comes with 32 levels, which can easily be blown through in an afternoon, but the addition of Survivor Mode and Boss Rush do give the game some long-term playability. The choice to make the levels free-roaming instead of linear also helps vary the gameplay experience.
Nano Assault EX also comes with a few bonus features that are sadly far less successful in implementation than the rest of the game. The jukebox feature sounds good in theory, but suffers because of the details. The soundtrack is the obligatory action shooter techno, which—while suitable to the Fantastic Voyage sci-fi atmosphere of the game—is ultimately quite forgettable. Considering that the player must complete boss rushes or trade-in Play Coins to get the “Nano Coins” to have songs to play on the jukebox, the whole feature just does not feel worth the effort. Not to mention you can download the entire soundtrack from the game’s website anyways. However, spending Nano Coins on the “Nanopedia” does not have any great benefit either, as the enemies and boss fights are incredibly intuitive anyways. There is also the oddity of completing boss rushes, which is only unlocked after beating all the bosses in story mode, to unlock a feature that gives you tips on how to beat the bosses.
Nano Assault EX is perfectly suited not only to the handheld format, but the 3DS itself. The graphics really show-off the 3DS’s capabilities and the smaller levels with more forgiving difficulty suit a nice casual game on-the-go or between activities. The bonus features are rather forgettable, but the game itself is strong enough to make up for them. All kinds of gamers except for the most hardcore bullet hell shoot-em-up fans should find the game worth the money.
tags: 3ds , nano assault ex , Shin'en Multimedia