People have been interested in the work of German outfit Shin’en Interactive ever since it brought the decent space shooter Iridion 3D to the Game Boy Advance and then followed it up with a fantastic sequel, also on the handheld. Then the developer moved onto the Nintendo DS with Nanostray, which whilst still extremely competent, suffered due to publisher interference. However, its sequel is due next year and has been developed without any outside pestering.
Shin’en has had the benefit of developing Nanostray 2 completely on its own, without any hassling from publisher Majesco this time round. However, saying that, Majesco has actually been enlisted now to handle the publishing duties. Thankfully, though, the core of the game has already been completed and there will not be any ‘fudged’ touch-screen controls this time round. Gamespot recently got the chance to test the latest build of the game out and it is clear that things are shaping up very nicely indeed. After two years in development, this is set to be the definitive shooter on DS that definitely appeals to the die-hard fans of ’shmups’.
To start with, it appears Nanostray 2 actually has a storyline behind it now, with players being “part of a force battling against the deadly Nanostray virus that’s ravaging the galaxy.” This basically means that gamers will have to jump into their spacecraft and start blasting away at the enemy. Like we really needed any excuse to do that anyway…But the beauty of the story is that it means there is a certain amount of flexibility in the path you can take during the single-player mode, rather like in Lylat Wars / Star Fox 64, with a mission being completed and numerous paths opening up as a result. The example given here by Gamespot is that after the first mission “you’ll have to find three viral fragments to reconstruct the Nanostray virus’s complete DNA sequence. The game will then give you the three levels where those fragments are located and let you tackle them in any order via a navigational star map.” Below is a large snippet of what the Gamespot team had to say from their time with the game:
“The levels so far have presented a good amount of variety, too, and not only because about half are side-scrolling and the other half from a top-down perspective. You’ll also get a good mix of industrial space installations teeming with robotic enemies, and various terrestrial locations on a lava planet, a mostly aquatic world, and so on. One organic level reminded us quite a bit of the old classic Gradius offshoot Life Force, with scores of amoeba-like enemies flying at us out of gross-looking fleshy pink walls. It was sort of like playing a side-scrolling shooter set in an intestinal tract, if you can wrap your head around that.
“Your ship has some interesting customization features onboard. In another feature similar to the Gradius series, you can pick up two small extra guns via power-ups that float to the sides of your ship. Before each mission, you can set up three positional presets for these two extra weapons that determine their placement around your ship and the direction they’ll fire in. Then you can switch between the three presets by tapping a shoulder button, which makes it relatively easy to fight off enemies coming at you from directions other than the front. Luckily, the developer won’t force you to use the touch screen for weapon switching or any other activity, which it did in the first game. The action is so fast and intense here that you’d have no chance of survival if you had to look down at the second screen, anyway.”
In addition to all this, there are the usual array of special weapons on offer, with one being chosen before starting a particular level. The line-up includes: “a powerful front-firing beam, an enemy-seeking dual shot, and an electrical field that expands in all directions around your fighter.” The further you get into the space adventure, the more weapons will become available thanks to a bunch of engineers that are supporting you on your mission and are constantly working in the background to bring you new toys to play with!
As well as the single-player side, though, there is an arcade mode where completed stages can be unlocked, the challenge mode that dishes out four sets of eight short action stages that each require a particular task to be completed and proves to be exceptionally difficult. As stated in the hands-on article, “Sometimes you’ll have to survive an onslaught of lasers for half a minute; at other times, you need to score a specific number of points in the allotted time. It’s always really, really difficult. Once you finish the eight challenges in a given set, you’ll unlock parts of a simulation mode, which contains minigames that seem to resemble classic arcade games, yet rendered in Nanostray 2’s own aesthetic.”
With the game due out in the US this coming January, it certainly sounds like the most complete shooting experience on a Nintendo format since Ikaruga graced the GameCube. Unless Treasure comes up with some similar or Nibris’ ROTR turns out to be a cracker, Shin’en’s Nanostray 2 could well be the seminal DS space shooter for a long time to come. And with word that Shin’en is currently working on WiiWare, you have to wonder just what delights are in store for the future!
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