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Nano Assault Neo - Wii U Download Review

Game Info
Nano Assault Neo

Wii U Download | Shin'en | 1-2 Players (co-operative play) | Out Now | $9.99 / £8.99
Controller Compatibility: Wii U GamePad; Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Wii U Pro Controller; Classic Controller
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24th January 2013; By KnucklesSonic8

Like an inappropriate cackle during a personal downturn is the absence of reason in a shoot 'em up. I know there's an ongoing bandwagon of having astonishing displays of unrestrained enemy fire, and it's also to be acknowledged that the more we move away from Western releases, the more lines of control and balance become blurred. But for those who aren't as enthused about arcade-focused, action-shooters, it's much easier, even instinctive, to assign blame when these sorts of attributes are at the forefront. Such risks and concerns over excess hold no weight in the case of Nano Assault Neo, a shooter that does such a fine job of appealing to both unfamiliar and established crowds. Shin'en has skillfully crafted a shooter that, in my eyes, is greatly superior in form to 2011's Nano Assault; a fray that much more mightily embodies continual high-spirited behaviours though not by reason of unsettling conditions, and has an outlook that coerces even the most reluctant to embrace its bold values.

    Assuming the role of a protector in a slick, toy-sized ship, Nano Assault Neo takes you on a tour through a world littered, nay overrun, with bacteria. Worms, termite-like creatures, and other spawn must be annihilated to restore once-clean regions back to their former state through a purification process. Levels take place on small, planet-like masses that are blown up in size, bearing familiar shapes of beans, discs and basins, among others. Navigation is fluid, comfortable and wisely succinct, with the L-Stick used for movement and the R-Stick to fire bullets from the front of your ship. As you venture to a rounded side and assume a position you can't see very far past due to the current position of the camera, the system changes accordingly in a very smooth fashion without ever instigating confusion. The general reach of fire emitted from either party doesn't extend greatly beyond bends, so you won't be blindsided by something you won't see coming, nor can players get by on making ranged shots all the time.

To make certain that this intuitive methodology remains so, on the GamePad lies a map that presents an easy-to-follow overview of the different traps and power-ups present at a given time, which can be manipulated through rotation by using the stylus. The GamePad also serves a second, more important purpose -- that of adjusting the positions of your satellites. Satellites are robotic tools that surround, rest behind or are stationed in front of your ship as a way to assist the primary fire that comes out from the frontal cannon. By using the slider underneath the content area, you can even adjust the direction to affect trajectory, and it is later on that you'll discover why this is so key and should not be left to the default configuration. By this I mean that some stages are traps waiting to happen, making it not always best to position all four available satellites in the very front and leave your sides unprotected. Inflicting this sense of awareness are maps that have you doing things at an angle, as in the case of fragile organisms that fire back with a spread of bullets once they're hit; moving, dividing barriers, where a single yet fairly sizable slit must be passed through to reach other portions of a level; or environmental aspects such as concrete, peg-like roots that must be considered as you make your approach. These features make the game, not a lifeless and flat collection of stages, but one that provokes thought and instills welcome nervousness.

    Your ship can sustain a few hits before losing a life, with a standard set of three lives at the start to delay meeting the Game Over screen. To further your skills in fending off the monsters you see before you are a series of temporary weapon upgrades that can, once retrieved, be activated with the ZR Button. These include homing energy blasts, electromagnetic rays that emit from underneath your ship for a short-range advantage, and bombs that launch and quickly explode a few feet away from the direction you're facing. The presence of pick-ups in this game (i.e., both satellites and secondary weapons) doesn't provide a cradle so drastic that it takes away from the meticulous behaviour that is sometimes urged, nor does it diminish the general state of caution that permeates the second-half of the game's stages. What is more, their appearance isn't always easy to predict. I found the game rewards players who set themselves up in one spot rather than constantly being on the move. But even then, the process isn't clearly defined, from what I could detect.

One thing that can't be helped is the satisfaction stemming from the wise arrangement and overall behaviour of enemies. Not as fickle or oblivious as they were in the last game, enemies more readily come to you versus how it was often the case before where you had to seek out even concealed entities. There are a few enemies here that are camouflaged with a cloaking suit and will only appear when shot, but these aren't troubling in the slightest for the obligation they impose. Also, while still appearing in a sequential format, subsequent generations of enemies appear in the same vicinity, are grouped together, and don't trail off or surface in some other outspoken direction, as if setting a tangent course to throw you off. And while this process can be a bit fussy as far as having future enemies attack almost immediately after one is defeated, I am nothing but grateful for these changes as they've made Nano Assault Neo a much more cohesive and animated game compared with its predecessor.

    Governed by the same system as the pick-ups is the existence of bonus tokens that are also dropped by enemies, which, when collected in full, will transport you to a bonus stage upon completion of the level you're in. Only difference is that these, from what I could tell, stay on the map until collected, whereas power-ups disappear if they go ignored. Bonus stages involve moving left and right in a cave-like tunnel as your ships gets faster and enemies resembling stalactites increase in force. Admittedly, these diversions aren't varied and might have a dizzying effect on some, but they sure are fun and are in keeping with the tension seen in gameplay, to an extent that they can't be found fault with.

Before these come to pass, a 30-second phase will initiate once you've cleared 90% of the level's menaces that will open up the goal gate. This presents a major risk/reward opportunity whereby you can shoot for perfect completion and earn bonuses but gamble your chances of not making it to the end and having the entire cell destroyed in your obsessive quest. These races to the end bring about a fun dynamic that makes the conclusion of each level that much more gratifying. If you're successful, you'll be awarded additional bonuses on top of what's already given for remaining lives and your overall accuracy rate -- something devoted players will strive to keep at a high for an impressive score on the leaderboards. Instead of jumping right into the next level that follows in the four-stage world, you'll be given the opportunity to purchase goods at the Nanoshop using green chips picked up or earned during play, goods such as the ability to expand the total number of lives or begin the next round with a shield.

    Nano Assault Neo's presentation is outstanding. The fidelity of the visuals and the textural quality the game adopts unfold beautifully, with shadows and reflections from bright light sources being of a top-notch quality, as well as featuring some fantastic enemy and boss designs. The framerate goes unaffected, with definite and precise feedback, which works in hand with the maps, assimilating highly realistic dimension, with one in particular resembling that of a brain encased in semi-cryogenic material. Rounding out everything is a futuristic soundtrack that's perfectly suited to the erratic nature of the game and is a feat all on its own for not sounding too idle or uninspired in effort. It's absolutely wonderful what they've done here, and it greatly furthers the insistent and well-administered thrill.

    Bearing similar traits of exemplary behaviour is the overall setup and difficulty the game is defined by. Of a strong pick-up-and-play framework, players can get into it in a manner of seconds, but as stats carry over to other stages and focus becomes fixated on growing multipliers on a more consistent basis, a dedication is formed to such an engrossing extent that you'll have to pull yourself away from the game. Nano Assault Neo is evenly catered to...perhaps not the extremes of the two possible groups that could engage, but it sure is, above all, approachable for the vast majority of other players who seldom play shoot 'em ups for long periods or at all. Following the first two worlds are two more where the difficulty spikes up and there's less alleviation, but amazingly this never encroaches on the territory of being too brutal for the average player to withstand. Ultimately the way it has taken on such an immediately approachable nature without emaciating its difficulty is quite remarkable and is an active demonstration of crafty, non-mechanical design. 

    As the game prides itself on continual self-improvement, it's only appropriate that online leaderboards are present here, providing valid motivation for you to press on further in your implementing strategies pertaining to the arrangement of satellites and the expanding scoring potential through multipliers and the like. Tied to this is a mission list consisting of 14 tasks that one can use to further their determination, as well as an unlockable Survivor Mode that places you in a cycle of randomly-selected stages on a limited life supply. Just on the former: I happen to think a proper mission mode would've done the game well, but the game isn't lacking as a result of that not being included. A co-operative mode is also present, which is so satisfying to see since this game is ideal for it. Moreover, the Wii U is made for this sort of dual-stick gameplay much more than the 3DS, and it is for this reason that when playing under this component, I recommend Player 2 uses a Wii U Pro Controller or Classic Controller, as these offer a much more pragmatic scheme than the alternatives.

Nano Assault Neo is fresh and easy to accept, made that way with an equal part of gorgeous presentation and exciting, anxious gameplay, proving both tough to detach yourself from and so very easy to jump back into. Even though it's directed by a slightly different vision than its handheld counterpart and it may not be as teeming with life, in every fashion -- enemy AI, focus, the stripping away of aspects that might otherwise have held the game back, and overall feel and influence -- Nano Assault Neo exceeds to a high standard and is a much more resolute turn-out. Not doing too much or too little, the game feels just right, and regardless of how reluctant you may be to the levying of action in a game of this make, Nano Assault Neo prevails in all it does.

27/30 - Excellent

Gameplay 9/10 - Twin-stick mechanics are well-adapted, intuitive and very cohesive, interesting and varied stages, satisfying AI, fun bonuses and bosses
Presentation 10/10 - Presents no troubles in consistency, strong enemy designs, beautiful visuals, precise feedback, soundtrack is very well done
Enjoyment 5/5 - Dynamic of risk and caution feels balanced, well-harnessed arcade focus, caters well to multiple audiences, thrilling sense of challenge
Extra Content 4/5 - Not explosive but still highly replayable, leaderboards bring great motivation, lots of fun to co-ordinate efforts with a friend

Equivalent to a score of 90% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Nano Assault Neo
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