Nanostray DS Review - 

The DS in its infancy was described as a 'retro' machine, a system which had lots of old titles re-released. Now where are the shoot 'em ups the retro fans cry? Majesco replied with Nanostray, not an old game, but one which models itself on classic shooters such as Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga.

To begin with you’re only able to select multiplayer and adventure modes. Multiplayer consists of the main game's modes but with a high score feel, a bit like playing time attack but against someone else.

Now onto the main game, playing through the adventure mode takes less than two hours on the normal difficulty, maybe quicker depending on your reflexes. Two hours you cry? Surely that’s not very long? Well yes it’s not very long but the best shoot ‘em up’s made are meant to be short five minute blasts, a test of your reflexes and dexterity, this game requires those skills, and who plays their handheld for more than twenty minutes anyway? If played on the hardest setting the screen quickly fills up with enemies and sometimes a smart bomb is the only way to survive, which adds a bit of a challenge.

As you play through the adventure mode; arcade and challenge modes are opened, arcade mode is basically a time attack variant of the adventure mode, one cool feature is the ‘nanocode,’ basically if you finish an arcade level the game gives you a unique code for you to put up on to see how you compare against the best in the world.

Now the challenge mode is just that….a challenge, the modes of play in this mode are infuriatingly difficult. They range from getting a set score to having your power weapons unavailable to you, but the hardest of all are the one ship challenges, only having the one ship really makes the difference, as where you’d sacrifice ships in the main game to effectively wipe out all enemies on screen, deftly using a smart bomb at the last minute and then using the limited invulnerability to get ahead; you really find yourself up against a torrid onslaught of enemy fighters.

The main action uses the DS’s top screen and the pseudo 3D graphics look fantastic, there is are some nice parallex scrolling effects, as well as some impressive sprite scaling and transparency. Overall the game makes use of the DS' graphic chip very well and I would say it’s one of the best looking games on the system. The sound is also good, apart from the music, which can grate a little, but the audio effects sound good through the DS’s speakers.

The bottom touch screen is used in a variety of different ways, first up is the radar which you probably wont look at, apart from when you take on the boss of each level as it also doubles up as a scanner which is operated by touching the screen, this then shows the weak spots you have to aim for. Also on the bottom screen are your energy level, score, how many ships you have left and your weapons.

There are four different weapons to choose from, each activated by touching the screen. Pulse is the default weapon, which fires straight ahead, side shot does exactly that, seeker is a heat seeking weapon and finally lightning, a weapon which attaches its beam to enemies until it destroys them. I’ll give you no guesses as to which is the best weapon.

Each weapon also has a secondary function, a sub weapon if you will, which can be activated in short bursts only, as it is linked to a power bar. The power bar can be filled up by destroying waves of certain enemies, which then release blue upgrade coins rather than the standard gold coins which add up your score.

Overall I really enjoyed this game, yes it has a few niggles, the opening being too easy and then it probably gets too tough, but I think that adds to the longevity and welcomes shoot ‘em up virgins into the fold as well. Normally I embrace the use of the touch screen, and here it’s used a bit too cleverly as it’s quite hard to change weapons mid flow without taking your eyes from the action.

Certainly one of the best shoot ‘em ups I’ve played in a long while and one that carefully puts itself between a retro title and up to date.