Nanostray, developed by Shin 'en (creators of Iridion II for GBA), is the newest game to join the small number of portable shooters, as well as the first shooter released on the DS (As the advertisements proudly proclaim, “PLATFORMERS ARE WEAK!” Well, maybe not.) Thankfully, this game is not a disappointment. The levels are well designed, and the graphics and sound are both excellent. That is not to say it isn't without flaws however; its quite short, and although the controls are solid for the most part, the touch screen part is rather iffy. As a whole, Nanostray is a solid purchase for a shmup fan, but a casual gamer may want to wait until it lowers in price.
Graphically, Nanostray looks excellent for a DS game. I wouldn't say it’s as good as a PSP game, but it’s certainly just as good, maybe even a little better than a good-looking N64 game. There is a little bit of slowdown at points, but it’s not nearly enough to get on one's nerves. All of the music in this game is in a catchy arcadey-techno style, if that makes any sense. I would recommend using headphones, as this is one of those games where the DS's portable speakers just don't deliver the same kind of sound.
"Do you want some of this glowing?!" There are some well detailed ships in this game. The effects are pretty good on the DS.
As far as shooters go, Nanostray is very traditional, and uses the standard vertical scrolling style. This might not satisfy people that were hoping for something original, but this is by no means bad. The game stays slightly difficult throughout (although changing the “difficulty” only changes the number of lives/bombs), and the pace is quite fast. You have four types of weapons to choose from, each with its own special attack. The waves of enemies come in droves, and if you shoot an entire wave, you get a bonus that refills your special energy. However, if you keep collecting these bonuses without using your special energy, you get score bonuses. It’s a neat dynamic that encourages the player to not use special attacks in order to rack up a high score. And high scores are certainly an incentive to keep playing, as there is a world ranking on www.nanostray.com. Nothing is more annoying than knowing that there are 500 people out there that are better than you, believe me. The other incentive to keep playing is the challenge mode, which will probably please hardcore shooter fans. These challenges are actually very hard, with objectives such as scoring 500,000 points or beating a level without any bombs. There is also a single cart two-player score competition mode, which you might want to try if you have a wireless DS buddy.
An impressive boss busting stuff up. The inevitable huge shot spread boss attack. Holy crap!
While Nanostray's button controls are solid, one of its biggest problems is its use of the touch screen. This is used to change your weapons, as you cant do it by pressing buttons. Your special attack energy is on the bottom screen as well. Having to look at the bottom screen to see what weapon you should switch to quickly becomes a pain, especially in the middle of a level. This is also a problem during boss fights, since enemy health is on the bottom screen too. Luckily, you can beat most levels just sticking to one weapon (I usually used the lightning), which makes it a bit more manageable.
It's probably noticeable that I haven't mentioned Nanostray's plot yet. There's a simple reason for this; there isn't any. Zippo. In a shooter, this isn't a big deal, but it would have been nice if it had something. Another problem about this game is that its very short, as mentioned above. There are only eight levels, and most players can probably beat it in less than an hour. Thankfully, Nanostray's challenge modes, well designed levels, and high score rankings ensure that the player will want to try it again.
You can find this game on Amazon.com here.