Nano Assault Neo is a 3D shoot ‘em up game for the Wii U. Shin’en Multimedia developed and published the title. Shin’en has been developing games since the late 90s across various Nintendo systems from the Game Boy Color up to the Wii U. As a developer, they are most likely known for the Nanostray games on the Nintendo DS and the prior Nano Assault for the Nintendo 3DS. Nano Assault Neo features plenty of changes from the 3DS iteration, where that was more of a hybrid side scrolling shoot ‘em up with 3D environments, Neo is a shoot ‘em up in three dimensions much like Super Stardust for the PS3. Nano Assault Neo released on Nov 18 2012 for the Wii U eShop retailing at $9.99.
Nano Assault Neo features classic shoot ‘em up/bullet hell gameplay but in a three dimensional plane. The player controls a ship that has to fight enemies throughout a number of clusters (four in total). Each cluster has four cells that the player has to clear. The first three cells contain plenty of enemies to destroy in order to finish the level. These cells require the player to kill a certain percentage of enemies to exit the level. The fourth cell in each cluster features a boss fight. These huge bosses often have weak points that the player has to take out before they can finish the cell and clear the entire cluster. By clearing out a cluster, it gives player’s access to the next cluster. At the end of each cell, players are awarded bonus points for reaching the exit quickly, clearing 100% of enemies, number of lives remaining and hit accuracy.
Much like most shoot ‘em ups, the key to victory in Nano Assault Neo is to learn each of the various enemy units’ moves to dodge effectively and avoid damage. In a three dimensional plane, it is fairly easy to dodge enemies and bullets, but quickly the cells will fill up with enemies and dodging becomes as much about timing and processing the overwhelming information. The difficulty ramps up with each successive cell/cluster and by the third and fourth cluster, the enemy/environment combos become pretty hairy. However, it is this steady increase in difficulty and the resultant loses that makes the gameplay rewarding in overcoming the challenges. While the cells filled with regular enemies can sometimes be frustratingly difficult, by the time the player reaches the boss cell, it is pretty easy. Whether this is because of training and conditioning through the earlier cells or if the bosses are just far less difficult is unclear. Regardless, running and gunning in Nano Assault Neo is highly enjoyable.
Graphically, Nano Assault Neo is highly impressive. It features excellent detail in the environments and great textures. The enemy unit designs are extremely differentiated and distinctive from one another. Each enemy unit touts solid animations and effects that make them stick out extremely well. The best of these enemies is the stealth/camouflage bug unit that looks like a slithering grub. This unit is hard to see except for when it is firing bullets or the light refracts off it in a certain way. As the player progresses through cells and clusters, the environments become more intricate and the visual layout becomes more interesting often causing the player to keep an eye on the surroundings as much as the enemy placement and bullets on the screen. One issue with the environments is that in certain parts, there is a problem with the light from a star flaring up on screen obscuring the action, which results in damage/cheap deaths. The bosses are huge and physically imposing as the tiny ship flails about the level dodging bullets and any other threat the cluster bosses have to throw at him/her. The visuals in Nano Assault Neo are stellar.
The game features a soundtrack full of high-energy music that goes well with the visual flair and high amount of bullets on the screen. The sound effects have a good amount of clarity and players can hear exactly how each of their bullets are affecting things on screen as they pierce through the exoskeleton of a insect-like alien. Bullets whiz through the environment and the player can keep track of where all the action is coming from due to effective sound design. With a score full of intense and pounding electronic music, the action in the game always feels like it on the brink of boiling over and all hell might break loose. That is not far from the truth. With a steady and pulsing beat even when things get overwhelming in Nano Assault Neo; it feels like just part of the program.
Nano Assault Neo is not a revolutionary shoot ‘em up, it does not set out to revolutionize the genre. Yet it does not need to because it ends up being a delightfully challenging and a fun entry into the genre. For veterans of the bullet hell games, it may not provide enough difficulty. However, for more occasional shoot ‘em up players, this provides the right amount of frustrating and attainable to keep them playing. Graphically the game is stunning with excellent enemy and level design. The soundtrack is hard hitting and juxtaposes well with the amount of visual saturation occurring in the game. As for replay value, the game offers plenty of extra modes including a 2 Player option and an Arcade mode. In addition, for those looking for specific challenges, there are certain missions with distinct objectives to complete in game. Nano Assault Neo offers plenty of values for Wii U owners looking for a fun take on the shoot ‘em up genre.