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Mite Makes Right- Nano Assault Review

Anyone who’s ever read Carl Zimmer’s Parasite Rex knows how unsettling the microscopic domain can be- a realm where tiny organisms are capable of castration, mutilation, disfigure, and even zombification. Far worse that the hackneyed horrors of cinema, parasitic infestation is frightening because of its actual existence in our world- from the uncooked fish that hides a worm capable of eating away at our liver or the mattress which houses up to 10 million dust mites. It’s little wonder that more games haven’t used these repugnant protozoa and amoebae as cannon fodder.

With a visual style which imitates the peculiar glow and sharp contrast of an electron microscope, recent 3DS release Nano Assault places players within this exotic-looking dominion. Gamers are tasked with terminating a volatile contagion known as the Nanostray virus (named after the developer’s previous series of DS shmups), before the impurity seizes control of every life form known to man. Fortuitously, saving the world is a feasible consequence for players with a solid sense of depth perception, nimble reflexes and about five hours of free time on their hands.

The game’s thirty-two stage story mode alternates between two types of gameplay. What the instruction manual refers to as “twin shooter” levels, evokes Housemarque’s PS3 satisfying shooter- Super Stardust HD. As players glide above substantial three-dimensional cells, they are required to locate three DNA strands while eliminating any encroaching hostiles. While your ship puts out a formidable stream of protozoa-popping projectiles (and is capable of delivering a wide shot, as well), the game’s sluggish camera compels gamers to keep their surface-skirting speeds in check. Additionally, enemies have the habit of dropping down right in front of players, which can lead to a few frustrating deaths.

While these ground-based sequences have a few minor blemishes, they still fare better than Nano Assault’s flying sections. Here, players guide their ship through on-rails environments, similar to the Star Fox series. Using the circle pad, both simultaneously control ship the on-screen location of their ship as well as the placement of crosshairs. Typically, this means players will be rapidly fluctuating between dodging opponent fire and moving to a position where a torrent of bullets will whittle away at an opponent’s health bar. Although, gamers have the limited use of several secondary weapons, a lock-on armament might have elevated Nano Assault’s airborne sequences. Regardless of the 3DS’s depth slider setting, it can be difficult to gauge the distance of incoming enemy fire, obligating players to move in circular attack patterns. As such, Nano Assault’s secondary segments can feel more like a modern version of Space Harrier with players constantly whirling around the screen, instead of evoking the delicate dance around projectiles common to bullet-hell shooters.

With the inclusion of separate Boss Attack mode, it’s clear that developer Shin’en toiled to make each of the title’s punctuating confrontations feel exceptional. While these altercations rarely transcend the prototypical hunt for patterns and weak points, each encounter is challenging without becoming overwhelming. Beyond battling the game’s heavies, players can also replay stages in the score-driven Arcade Mode, posting proof of their conquests upon the game’s online leaderboards. While Play Coins can be used to purchase information for the title’s Nanopedia, a scant amount of enemy data is offered. More interesting is the ability to buy songs from the game’s driving soundtrack, with each track conveying a sense of urgency and exoticism above a rhythmic electronic throb.

Like previous Shin’em shmups, Nano Assault offers exceedingly attractive visuals which help to elevate other serviceable game mechanics. As an exhibition of the 3DS’s capabilities, careening through organic passageways teaming with parasitic pests is a treat for the eyes. It’s slightly disheartening that some of the title’s mechanics don’t engage synaptic systems in the same way. As it stands, Nano Assault is engaging at times, but not consistently absorbing enough to find a way to get underneath your skin.

A copy of Nano Assault for the 3DS was provided by the publisher for review.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. I saw your tweet about this other day and was pretty interested. Thanks for the review.

  2. Protip: Buy games with Mario is the title before purchasing this.

    You know, games like Mario Does the Dishes, Mario Handball, Mario Math, etc.

  3. Well, it does look really nice for a 3DS game. I could imagine this melting my eyes with the 3DS maxed out.

  4. long NOLA sigh at Deagle’s titles.

    Other that that good review. But do the ‘kids’ know what Space Harrier is/was?

  5. The first paragraph creeped me out and made my scalp itchy. Do I dare read more?

  6. I really liked Nano Stray 2. One the few DS shmups that’s worth playing, IMO.

  7. Is the 3DS ever going to have demos? I could have sword Nintendo said that would happen.

  8. Thanks Deagle. I don’t know how you churn out so many reviews.

  9. Thanks Deagle. I don’t know how you churn out so many reviews.

  10. Are there different weapons for your ship or just one? All the videos I’ve seen make it look like one.

  11. Not a $40 game in my book,but when it drops in price I might have to get it.

  12. So would you recommend Star Fox over this?

  13. @Dr. Jones:
    There are four sub weapons to unlock and one standard weapon that can be even altered realtime.

  14. @barfly:
    i think it costs only 29,96 at Amazon

  15. Got this on launch day. The one thing I’d add is that the 3D looks real nice, but sometimes you’ll have to turn it off if you want to pass the flying sections.

    The graphics are great, but sometimes there’s slowdown in it, too. But it’s never too bad.

  16. The 3DS is in desperate need of some horizontally scrolling shmups. Maybe a Cave collection…

  17. I can’t resist a $20 decent 3DS game. Got one.

  18. I picked this up for 20 and almost bit on a Zombie sum game from Majesco as well. Did you review that one yet?

  19. It’s funny how a price drop can change people’s opinion of a game. Ordered one off of Amazon today.

  20. I just bought a 3DS with the $50 gift card deals, now I need to pick this one up.

  21. I picked it up today, since I just finshed Mario 3D Land this week.

    So far pretty good, nice and hard, and really good looking. Just like me.

    Seriously, it you like action games and don’t spend $20 on this, you’re slightly crazy.

  22. shot, now it’s dropped to $20, everyone’s been picking up copies it seems. Since the game wasn’t widely available to begin with, now there’s a shortage in NYC.

  23. Just got my $20 copy. Played about two hours and except for the framerate (which is unsteady but never choppy) its pretty damn good.

  24. Not a bad shmup at all, but yeah I die 3X as much in the flying stages as in the ground ones.

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