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ChillyBilly avatar 9:07 AM on 03.01.2012  (server time)
ChillyBilly's Hidden Gems: NANO ASSAULT - Nintendo 3DS

Format: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Shin’en Games
Publisher: Majesco Entertainment
Released Nov. 2011
Players: 1, plus online leaderboards
MSRP: $19.99 USD

Welcome to the first installment of “ChillyBilly’s Hidden Gems”, a new blog series that I hope will continue (I say hope because I know how lazy I can be with blogging) on a semi weekly basis. The goal for Hidden Gems is to highlight games that don’t/didn’t receive all the fanfare of your typical AAA game.

Also, these blogs won’t necessarily be “reviews”, think of them more as my impressions of the game(s), there won’t be any scoring or anything like that.

This week we take a look at a SHMUP that not only delivers the bullet hell goodness, but also delivers some visuals that are some of the best on the 3DS to date.

Nano Assault is the third game in a series that started back in 2005 on the original Nintendo DS. For those not familiar with the series here’s a little background; Nanostray and Nanostray 2 were what some people would consider Bullet hell games, hardcore fans of SHMUPS were not disappointed with either game as both pushed the DS hardware in ways that few companies were able to, with fast paced shooting, incredible music and some serious thumb-aching action, the Nano series quickly gained a cult following and are still regarded as two of the best shooters that the DS has to offer. There’s a good chance that you’ve never heard of the series though as both Nanostray (released 2005) and Nanostray 2 (released 2008) saw limited releases here in the States.

Nanostray 1 & 2

Fast forward three years.

2011 saw the release of the third game in the “Nano” series with Nano Assault Trailer Here for the Nintendo 3DS. Announced during E3 (2010) Nano Assault promised to bring a game that seriously pushed the 3DS hardware in a way that no other company had before. From all intents and purposes, it does just that.

Now, there’s not much to the story when it comes to Nano Assault, basically, you’re part of a scientific team tasked with stopping the deadly Nanostray Virus from spreading, the only way to succeed in your task is to be shrunk down to a microscopic level and take the fight right to the virus itself.

That pink glob thing there, that's where you're headed.

After a short (very short) opening scene which briefly explains what the hell is going on, you are quickly thrust in to an alien world filled with viruses of all shapes and sizes, and take my word for it, none of them are happy to see you or your Nanite Ship flying around. After a brief tutorial you are quickly thrust in to action.

The game controls from an overheard type of view, you control your Nanite Ship with the circle pad and use the X, Y, B, A buttons for firing (each button shoots in a particular direction, pushing two buttons at the same time will allow you to shoot at angles).

The first thing that you’ll probably notice once you’re “injected” in to the Nanostray Virus is how amazing the world around you looks. Seriously, Shin’en games were able to pull off some amazing graphics which all run at a smooth 60FPS.

These pictures don't do any favors for this amazing looking game

If you’ve ever played either of the Super Mario Galaxy games then you’ll be right at home withNano Assault, what that means is, the “cells” that you maneuver around are typically spherical in shape, basically what you’re doing is flying your ship around the surface of these cells, trying to destroy various infections (monters) in order to “clean” the cell and remove any trace of the Nanostray Virus. See below for a picture of what I mean.

You'll be traversing around these spherical shaped cells trying to clear them of viruses

Other than the overhead view and spherical worlds, you will be tasked with piloting your Nanite Ship from a third person / on rails view as well, these levels take a bit to get used to as the 3D effect can really make your head spin especially if you use the gyroscope inside the 3DS to help control your ship. Oh yea, I guess I forgot to mention that part, if you REALLY want to fry your brain, Nano Assault allows you to use the 3DS gyroscope to maneuver through the levels. With the 3D effect cranked to the max, flying with the gyro controls on can definitely be a nauseating, but fun experience.

The game offers 32 levels of seriously challenging fun. The nice thing about Nano Assault is that it will adjust its difficulty level based on how well you are progressing though the game. If you find yourself dying a lot on a certain level, the game will recognize that and adjust itself accordingly. This is a nice feature for someone like me who loves SHMUPS but often finds myself struggling with dodging the ridiculous amount of bullets thrown my way.

Throughout the 32 levels there are a total of 10 boss battles and the game itself can be completed in 3-4 hours (main story mode), which may seem short but Shin’en has packed in enough stuff to keep you playing well in to the night.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what the game has to offer via the story mode:

32 Levels
10 Boss battles
Multiple weapon upgrades

Other than the main story, Shin’en was gracious enough to throw in a “Boss Battle” mode as well as an “Arcade” mode.

The “Boss Battle” mode gives you the opportunity to fight each of the 10 bosses, back to back. With only as many lives as you’ve collected throughout your single player play-through, this can be quite the challenge, since some of the boss fights are ridiculously tough.

The “Arcade” mode of Nano Assault lets you choose to play though any of the 32 levels in whatever order you want. Each level in Arcade mode has a specific challenge with it. The challenges are all different, some will have you completing a level without using any secondary weapons, and others will ask you to reach a specific score. Trust me; it’s definitely enough to keep you playing once you’ve finished the main story.

A view of one of the Arcade Mode screens

So let’s do a quick break down here, with Nano Assault you can play through the main story, play different “boss battles” or play in the “arcade mode” while trying to reach specific goals. Not bad for a modestly priced game.

But wait! There’s more!

If the main story, boss battles and arcade mode weren’t enough, Nano Assault has also included a “Nanopedia” and Jukebox for you to play with.

The Nanopedia is basically an encyclopedia with all the various viruses and bosses from the game, here you can zoom in for a closer look at each virus as well as check out what makes each virus tick (how many points they are worth, shield rating etc).


The Jukebox is basically what it sounds like, a jukebox that allows you to play tracks from the game.

Both the Nanopedia and Jukebox use what’s called Nano Coins as currency, the more Nano Coins you have the more stuff you can “buy” and unlock. Now before you start to ho and hum about “buying” stuff in the game let me just say this, the Nano Coins are basically 3DS Play Coins which you convert in the game. Nintendo 3DS Play Coins are earned by taking your3DS out and about with you while you’re walking around. For every 100 steps you take you earn one Play Coin. I had enough Play Coins saved up to buy all the Nanopedia entries as well as Jukebox songs, all totally worth it by the way.

Oh! Speaking of the Jukebox, Nano Assault has some fantastic music. If you’re a fan of electronic music with heavy synths and thumping beats you will love playing through Nano Assault, trust me, you’ll want to get some headphones for this one to truly enjoy the awesome soundtrack.

Soundtrack sample here

And here:

Finally, on top of everything listed above, Nano Assault has online leader boards for those of you who love to compete with others. There really isn’t much to the leader boards; they’re pretty much how they sound. They’re just leader boards with scores for the various modes in the game.

There are dozens of different enemy types that you'll encounter throughout the game

If there’s one thing that the Nintendo 3DS could use more of it would be SHMUPS. Am I right or what? No really, am I right? Because I honestly believe that we can never have enough SHMUPS in our lives. Luckily for us Shin’en] shares this sentiment and released a fantastic shooter in Nano Assault. For the paltry asking price ($19.99 USD as of this posting, oh and that’s the “new” price, not used) you really can’t go wrong.

With a solid main story, boss battles, arcade modes, a jukebox, Nanopedia and leader boards to compare scores with others around the world, Nano Assault should be a must have for any 3DS owner looking for something with a challenge as well as something to show your friends who may think that the 3DS can’t deliver high quality graphics.

I hope you have enjoyed this first installment of ChillyBilly’s Hidden Gems and if you pick up Nano Assault I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

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