The first Nanostray game started out as a little-known vertical scrolling shooter on the DS in 2005. The game’s developer, Shin’en, took influences from its Iridion games they developed for the Game Boy Advance. It was a sleeper hit and solid game; Nanostray 2 takes most of the first game’s flaws and corrects them, but adds a few more problems in the process.
Nanostray 2‘s menu is set up much like its predecessor: it has Adventure, Arcade, and Challenge modes, as well as offering co-op via multi-card and single card play. To unlock all the levels, you first have to go through the Adventure mode, which happens to be excruciatingly hard, even on the easiest setting. The game gives you five ships and three continues to work through all the levels. Once a level becomes available in Adventure mode, it unlocks in Arcade mode, allowing you the ability to replay a level you’re having trouble on.
The gameplay is standard shoot-em-up fare. Your ship progresses through the level and you destroy waves of enemies leading up to the boss of a level. Standard fire is the A button, and your special weapons are the B button, attached to a meter which drains after a few presses. Enemies drop yellow and blue coins which can be collected: yellow adds to your score while blue replenishes your special weapons meter. You don’t choose your ship, but you do choose your special weapon and, in addition, you can choose where your outermost lasers fire, which you can control through the trigger buttons. The special weapons you start out with include a high powered laser beam, seeker missiles, and an electric field that surrounds your ship. As you progress in Adventure mode, you gain new special weapons which will also become available in Arcade mode.
The game’s eight levels have varied settings and the game mixes up the gameplay by having your ship facing different ways. The first level, Teppeki Dock, scrolls horizontally from left to right while the one of the game’s second set of levels, Shinkai Bay, scrolls vertically from bottom to top and even rotates the screen at several points. The unpredictability is interesting, but can be frustrating at times and requires memorization. Challenge mode adds more to the game by setting different requirements, such as getting a high score on a level you’ve already completed, after you’ve unlocked those particular levels in Adventure mode.
Nanostray 2 seemingly improves on the first game in every way while keeping up with detailed, interesting levels and gameplay. The sheer difficulty of the game, however, is enough to recommend that only dedicated shooter fans pick up this title. While the game is fun, it’s also extremely hard, and will probably be a turn off for some gamers who don’t like replaying the same thing over and over again because their ship got shot up just before they finished a level. For everyone else, it’s a great time, and Challenge mode adds to the replay value after you finish the main story.