Nano Assault Ex
The Nintendo 3DS is arguably one of the best platforms to experience shooters such as Nano Assault Ex. Its bite-sized formula works when you’re on the go but have a few spare minutes of downtime, plus the added dimension granted by the system should provide a new level of immersion as you blast away and dodge the incoming barrage. As a shooter in the simplistic sense it’s destined to appeal to a specific type of gamer, but after a release limited to North America the first time around, will this more widely available redux do enough to pull in a broader audience?
The story is about as basic as it comes; you helm a ship that’s been shrunken down to microscopic size and must cleanse cells and sections of the body of infection. There are a number of stages per cluster, each fitting in to one of a few gameplay types. One has you traversing across a 3-dimensional mini planet, collecting DNA segments and taking down a predetermined amount of enemies hell-bent on your destruction. Another type centres on Starfox-esque forward movement, where evasion is given greater importance than your own attack. It’s a harsh truth of Nano Assault that a single shot is enough to obliterate your ship entirely, though you’ll have at least three tries and some sections do offer checkpoints.
It’s a challenging game then, so you can expect to retry stages having been blown to pieces more than a couple of times. The bosses offer yet another form of play, dropping you in with a fresh perspective for these multi-tiered battles. It’s here that playing offensively is the best path to success, though you should expect these encounters to test both your patience and your evasion prowess as projectiles come streaming in thick and fast. Thankfully, you won’t be jumping in with just your basic attack as the game offers powerful secondary options, albeit with limited ammo. The enemy designs are a suitable mix of alien and organic, like something you might wince at in a book about microscopic creatures.
From a graphical standpoint, Nano Assault Ex will impress. It might not be up to the standards of Kid Icarus, but such a thing would mean surpassing the best. It’s a very pretty B-list game where the 3D depth of field has been used to great effect, despite suffering the occasional stutter and screen tear when the slider is up. It’s never game breaking, yet those who favour a smoother experience might want to toggle it off for the tougher stages. It can seem as if the lasers are being fired through the screen at you (during boss battles in particular) and although it’s exactly what the 3DS should be doing, you might just be distracted enough to suffer a few deaths because of it.
The game itself also packs in a few extra bells and whistles once you’ve finished the main story. Arcade, Survivor and even Boss Rush modes can all be unlocked for those who wish to continue their experience. You can spend coins earned in-game to unlock models and music tracks, but this isn’t an addition you’re likely to focus on for long. At just over ten pounds, this game offers the selection of modes you would expect, though it’s distinctly a single-player affair and should be approached as such. It’s also worth mentioning that without the Circle Pad Pro, standard shots are relegated to the face buttons – it’s something that may initially feel jarring, but it works well enough once you’ve become accustomed and got more comfortable.
Nano Assault Ex finally gives European players the chance to take on a challenge that should have always been available, only now with a few added bonuses and improved movement. That said, those who managed to get their hands on a retail copy won’t find reason enough to spend out a second time. The visuals are undeniably stunning and the gameplay is solid, but despite serving as an obvious purchase for fans of the genre, it’s still a game with questionable mass market appeal. Fast and frenetic, Nano Assault Ex is a game that will test your reflexes in a series of short bursts perfect for that bus ride home.
Reviewed on 3DS; download code provided by Nintendo UK.
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