You awake to find yourself in a spaceship. Checking the readings in the cockpit, you see that the enemy has made it to eight planets. You donít remember what your mission was, who the enemy is, or even your own name. All you remember is how to fly the ship. A destination has already been set. You head there and decide to fight, even though you donít remember why.
Nanostray is a shooter that delves into the underused top-down behind the ship perspective, much like that of the SNESí Axelay or Sega CDís Silpheed. Itís nice to have a shooter on the DS at all, but itís also nice that it looks and sounds as good as Nanostray does. However, separated dual screens may not be the best thing for the classic shooter genre, at least not yet.
The top screen is where all the action takes place. A cool feature of the top screen is that it is uncluttered with any kind of stats, score, or power readings, making it pure game. Every ounce of Nanostrayís colorful and excellent looking visuals can be seen for your full shooter enjoyment with some catchy techno pumping from the speakers. All the stats are located on the bottom screen, which can be a bit of a hassle at times depending on how much you care about the power meters. Since you need to look down, it breaks your concentration from the action up top, usually causing a bullet or an enemy to collide with your ship.
The game can be played without using the touch screen; however, it is the only way to switch weapons should you want to fire something that isnít the normal shot. With the stylus in your right hand, you can actually play the game with solely your left hand because the developers have also assigned the L trigger as a normal fire button. They knew players would have to use the stylus, so they designed a decent way to keep firing as you switch weapons. Although, you still may need to look down to see just what weapon you are switching to, once again breaking your concentration. The touch interface is used to scan a boss ships so you can see their power bar, which also appears on the touch screen.
Unless you can use your peripheral vision for all its worth, using the bottom screen is just going to make the game a little more cumbersome. Since I never worried about my power or weapon power, I donít think this bothered me as much as it probably did other players. If I died, I died and if I was out of weapon juice I knew because my powered gun wouldnít shoot anymore.
The four weapons are interesting and each has their own little uses. The normal weapon is the Pulse shot that shoots forward. The Seeker shot slightly curves towards enemies, but works like a half-assed heat seeker. Lightning is well, lightning. It looks cool and the power weapon is useful if youíre closely surrounded. The most unconventional weapon is the side shot. This weapon shoots from the sides of the ship only, leaving the front wide open. It may sound useless, but it comes in very handy in some instances. Each of the four weapons has its own powered-up blast that comes in handy against large enemies. Destroying groups of certain enemies will drop blue coins that replenish it. There are also yellow coins that are dropped from enemies, but they do nothing but give you points.
The ship has two power meters. One is essentially the life bar of the ship. Getting hit with enemy fire will reduce your shield however, should you collide with an enemy it is instant death. The larger power meter is for your special weapons. The game can get tough at times, but since it auto-saves every time you beat a stage, you shouldnít run in to too many huge problems.
The Adventure mode is the story mode minus a story. There is no story anywhere in the game. Only at the Nanostray website do the developers avoid a story by saying you donít remember what is going on. What a cheap-ass way to get out of at least some kind of plot. Adventure mode does let you go through the stages in a largely non-linear order. Arcade mode lets you fly any stage and once you achieve a high score, the game will give you a code you can enter on the Nanostray website to see how you rank against other Nanostray players in the world. For the hardcore shooter fans, there are also a total of twenty-four challenges that are extra tough and are good for added replay value.
The multiplayer mode isnít as great as it could be. You and a friend basically compete for points in one stage. You can set different conditions to mix things up a bit, but itís something youíll probably just try out a couple times.
Nanostray is good, just not great. Itís nice of developers to experiment with the touch screen. At least we now know that this kind of use of the interface may not fit an intense shooter. Perhaps the next DS shooter will have a better use of the touch screen.