Review: Nano Assault

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Developer: Shin’en

Publisher: Majesco Entertainment

# of Players: 1

ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Official Site


Score: A- (85%)

If there’s ever a proper Fantastic Voyage remake (and not some awful direct to video “update”) that actually rates a licensed game tie-in, Shin’en needs to be the go-to developer for the project. Nano Assault, their cool new game for the 3DS, drops you into a microscopic ship for 32 levels of arcade shooting against assorted mutated organisms and massive bosses in an attempt to shut down an alien virus before it wipes out the human race. While the game is pretty slim on the storytelling and a bit brief, it packs a killer visual punch and the shooting is excellent throughout.

As noted, the setup is simple stuff like many an arcade quarter-muncher from back in the day, so don’t expect much in the way of plot (or even a grand opening like the Playlogic’s wild Xyanide from a few years back). You’re sent out in your Nanite craft, there are micro-organic cell clusters to navigate around and stuff needs to be blown up before it takes you out. While there are a few hiccups here and there the 3D effect is used pretty well throughout. However, as with any 3DS game, if you’re overly sensitive to motion sickness while using the handheld, I’d suggest dialing it down because things can get pretty dizzying.

You’ll be flying around giant cell clusters seeking out double helix segments to unlock new stages as you destroy every enemy in the vicinity. This part of the game feels a little like the mining mini-game in Mass Effect 2 (with shooting stuff up instead of digging for minerals), and there’s a great map function here that tracks how many enemies or pickups are remaining. Amusingly enough, I actually didn’t read the manual, so at first I was circling around one early cell cluster like a hungry man eating an ear of corn looking for those last few kernels. Thankfully, I found the map button and things went smoothly from that point on.

The game also features rail shooting portions where your craft is flying into the screen as enemies appear and need to be blasted before they blast you. These sections are challenging, as you don’t have any fancy barrel rolls or zippy evasive moves other than where you can slide your ship out of danger. Again, the 3D here can be eyeball spinning at times, so adjust that slider when necessary. I found myself turning the 3D down or off after seeing what each level had to offer on the first play through, but your experience may vary.

Boss battles come into play as well and they’re great (but typical) shooter fare with a nice variety of enemies of differing shapes and sizes that feature the usual patterns to be quickly memorized and glowing segments that need to be targeted for best results. These micro-organic behemoths are really cool to watch as they try to shoot and smash your ship to bits and the rest of the game looks suitably spectacular throughout. There are also some great tunes here that are worth listening to outside of the game – thankfully, the soundtrack is available on the card as one of a few bonus items.

While the main game is fairly short (but still average length for an arcade shooter), there’s also a nice selection of bonus content to unlock such as the soundtrack mentioned above, Arcade and Boss Rush game modes plus enemy profiles you can pore over if you want more info on the assorted nasties that tried to eat your ship. I’m not sure how huge shooters are as a genre these days among gamers not into all those imports that Japan keeps getting, but overall, what’s here manages to fit in fine as a niche title any gamer should give a try.

If you’re a big shooter fan and own a 3DS, Nano Assault is going to be one of those games you’ll play, complete and play again multiple times just to beat your old scores or show off to non-3DS owning pals what a cool little gem this is. Still, I’d really love to see Shin’en put a little more content into their next game and in fact, my crazy suggestion would be for the dev team to consider remaking both Iridion 3D games AND a sequel on a single 3DS card. That or a complete Nanostray collection should do well among those that crave tiny bullets filling their handheld screens.

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