After years of making the best of the limited selection of shmups on the Game Boy Advance (Iridion series) and Nintendo DS (Nano Stray series), German game developer Shin’en is at it again with Nano Assault Neo on Nintendo’s shiny new home console. This is a much prettier, more well presented game adaptation of last year’s release on Nintendo 3DS. You can trust Shin’en when it comes to shmups and they don’t disappoint with their first title on the Wii U.
You control a nanite ship as you vanquish bacteria and other viruses on spherical worlds, planet-like levels. Imagine the stage design of the Mario Galaxy series combined with Super Stardust Delta. This twin stick shooter does what many other games have done over the past few years, but it does it better and with a more interesting setting.
Each stage plays out on a living cell as if you were viewing it under a microscope. This is a refreshing setting for a shmup to say the least. All shots fired follow the shape of the living cell you’re playing on which is something new to the shmup genre. You can move your nanite ship with the left analog stick while firing with (you guessed it) the right analog stick. The right trigger will fire a limited use weapon.
These weapons serve as a last second hope when enemies get too close or too powerful. One allows you to do damage to any enemies that get close to you, others drop a powerful bomb that has a large blast radius. One shoots a laser that hits multiple targets.
Your goal is to cleanse each cell of its infections by eliminating 90% of the enemies in each stage. Once this is accomplished you have 30 seconds to reach the stage’s exit or die. This makes for an intense, mad race to kill the remaining 10% of enemies before time runs out.
There are four sets of stages and each of these sets contains five stages total. Three stages that have you trying to purify a cell of 90% of its enemies, one bonus stage that has you collecting bonus points in a race until you crash, and finally a boss fight at the very end of each set. These sets consist of Epsilon, Zeta, Omicron, and Sigma.
Omicron is by far the most difficult but for the most part the game isn’t all that hard. It comes down to memorizing the layout of each cell and predicting each enemies unique attack strategy. There are many types of enemies, some more powerful and more dangerous than others. Ultimately all of them boil down to waiting for them to shoot at you, dodge their fire, then blast them as they idle between attacks. The boss fights are the highlights of the game though none are particularly difficult.
The game is fun to play but is over way too quickly. I beat every single-player stage in about 90 minutes. This isn’t as big of a detraction from the game as you would think. The experience is a blast and doesn’t overstay its welcome but it does feel like it called it a night when everyone wanted to party for a little while longer. The game alleviates this somewhat with additional modes.
Arcade mode has you trying to achieve your best score on any of the single-player’s stages. Survival mode gives you one life and no way of acquiring more life and throws you through all of the game’s stages one after the other. Survival mode is truly brutal and if you check out the game’s online leaderboards you’ll see that not many have advanced past the first few stages.
The two player co-op mode has one player using the Game Pad while the other uses the Pro Controller and the television. This is a pretty fun diversion as it tasks players with the basically the same objectives of the single-player game with some twists. The player using the Game Pad can have their face displayed on the TV for the Pro Controller using player to laugh at. Additionally if one player should run out of lives they can steal a life from the other player so long as they have a life left to steal.
Each cell is breath-taking and visually pleasing in a unique way. The graphics are some of the best out of the Wii U’s entire launch lineup. You will want to take a moment to soak in the highly detailed, gorgeous visuals but won’t have time to spare with each stage being packed with foes.
One gripe I have about the visuals is that some stages can blind you with light. You’ll turn a corner on a cell and a source of light will shine through, impressing you with a great level of detail. The only problem is this blinds you and makes it hard to differentiate enemies from the landscape for a few moments.
Additionally some enemies look too similar to the stages they appear on. Brown roach like foes on a dark red, mars like surface blend in too well. You can lose track of incoming enemies from time to time due to this.
Nano Assault Neo gets the job done admirably. It adds some new things to the twin-stick shooter genre while keeping the core foundation of what makes those games so much fun. The experience is over far too quickly but Survival mode and online leaderboards extend replay value. This is easily one of the prettiest games on any console, possibly the best out of all the Wii U’s launch games.
(Review copy of Nano Assault Neo provided by Shin’en)Nano Assault Neo review,