Nano Assault EX Review

Almost there.

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This is really a 3DS game.

Nano Assault EX is a 3DS eShop remake of the original 3DS game Nano Assault that came out towards the start of the console’s life only in the USA. The lovely people at Shin’en must have heard my cries and finally released the game over on our British shores, and I thank them for that.

If there’s one thing Shin’en know how to do, it’s pushing a system graphically, and boy do they do it here: each and every level looks as lovely as the last and at times the game truly does take your breath away and makes you stop to think that it’s coming out of a 3DS. But these gorgeous graphics do come at a downside, the game doesn’t run especially well, with the odd struggling frame-rate (although this problem largely fixes itself if you opt to play the game in 2D), screen-tearing that can actually become annoying and one particular boss fight having broken 3D altogether, making it a lot harder to play the boss unless in 2D. Speaking of the 3D effect, it is as well implemented as I would have liked, as the game could have (and indeed does have in its flying stages) eye-popping 3D that makes each stage really stand out; but no. The developers instead opted for a 3D effect that merely pushes the screen back on each of the standard levels, and while this does provide a nifty enough illusion of playing the game on a much larger screen, I do feel Shin’en missed an opportunity to create a truly incredible 3D effect. On each level beside the standard, the 3D is properly implemented and it looks fantastic, allowing for a great sense of depth and immersion.

The gameplay is split into three different types – standard, mid-way boss and boss. The standard levels consist of manoeuvring your ship around a stage, finding the DNA strands (to unlock the next levels) and destroying the enemies in order to clear the stage and move on; this never proves too much of a challenge, particularly when you can use the four special weapons that each do different things to help. The mid-way bosses are the least consistent of the lot and can see you doing different things in order to defeat the boss, these can be challenging and really show off the 3D effect nicely. The boss levels in each level play more like something out of Star Fox and are a particular favourite of mine as they really spice the gameplay up and provide a challenge. However, this is not a fast moving game and sometimes you end up wishing the game was just that little bit faster as moving your tiny ship around a fairly big stage can become a bit of a chore.

There are two control options new for this eShop version of the game, standard (which requires you use the face buttons to control the aim of your fire) or Circle-pad Pro – the definitive choice as it makes your shots a lot easier to aim and really helps in the flying stages in aiming your reticule. If you do not have a Circle-pad pro, do not fret as the game was originally designed without the extra circle pad, each of the shot variants fire in bursts, thus making it easier for those who don’t own the Circle-pad add-on to aim precisely.

While the gameplay is fun (if a little too slow) and it looks lovely, I don’t feel the price matches the game you get, £12.49 is too much to ask for a game that you can complete in a short few hours – as in the main game. There is however the arcade mode, providing you the ability to replay each and every level to obtain Nano coins that you can spend in the shop (to unlock songs and enemy models) as long as you can meet the requirements to do so. Playing each level also puts your score on the online leader-board, which can get a tad addictive. There is also Boss Rush mode in which you have to beat a handful of the game’s bosses with one set of lives and Survivor mode, in which you have one life to do as much as you can. Each of these modes do add more playtime and longevity to your overall experience of the game, but the price still feels a tad too high, £10 seems much more reasonable.

Nano Assault EX is a great game unfortunately bogged down by a few technical issues and the overall slow pace of its gameplay. If the game ran smoother and went on for a bit longer, I would have no quarrels in saying that it is the finest game I have played through the 3DS’s ever great download service, but the faults are too many to ignore, which is a real shame.

Close to fantastic, but unfortunate. 79/100.

P.S. Don’t forget to try out the superior sequel, Nano Assault Neo on the Wii U, which ironed out many of the flaws in this game despite its lack of fun flying levels (shorter though).

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