Nano Assault Neo Wii U Review

When it comes to pushing the graphical capabilities on a Nintendo system, Shin’en has done wonders for the Wii and 3DS. Now with the Wii U released around the world, the German developer is looking to show off some of their technical qualities with its Nintendo eShop, twin-stick shooter launch title Nano Assault Neo, a sequel to the 3DS title Nano Assault. The question though, is this game the Super Stardust HD/Geometry Wars for the Wii U? The simple answer is no, but that should not put you off as Nano Assault Neo is still a fun shooter.

Nano Assault Neo dumps you straight into the game with no direction. It seems to follow the 3DS title, in that you are a nanite ship and it’s your job to destroy a lethal virus that has infected something on a molecule level inside a body. That is really all I could grasp, since there is nothing that tells you the general gist of what you are doing and even the digital manual is empty in that regard. Not that it really matters for a game like this, as it’s more about the gameplay and how satisfying the shooting is rather than thinking up a situation for why you are blasting evil viruses.

Single player includes 16 levels split across four zones, with each group of four unlocked after you beat the one before it. Players take their minuscule ship and must eradicate 90% of the enemies that are infesting the area. Controls are really easy to grasp as you move with the left stick and shoot with the right stick by pointing it in the direction you want the bullets to travel. Special weapons will occasionally drop from enemies, which is either a Ray (time delay bomb), GRN (electro-magnetic field that hurts enemies close to you), or SKR (seeking energy pulses).

Once you hit 90% of viruses eliminated, a gate opens with a 30 second timer that allows you to exit the level. At this point, the player has an option to try find the last remaining 10% and gain bonus points for 100% purification, but be warned – if you do not make it to the exit before the timer runs out, you’ll be penalised and lose all bonus points. Getting to the fourth section of a zone brings a boss fight where you must aim for glowing red weak points The first eight levels are easy to get through, but when you hit the third zone the difficulty shoots up dramatically. Once you get past the last two zones, Survivor mode – where random levels are grouped together – becomes available.

The gameplay for Nano Assault Neo will no doubt conjure comparisons to Housemarque’s Super Stardust HD due to how the game lets you travel around a deformed sphere shaped object that represents some mutated molecule while blasting anything that remotely looks like it will hurt you. The game’s levels are bizarrely shaped, and that translates into each level feeling distinctively different from each other. Later levels can cause some small problems, as they require you to get to know them in order to advance. The camera can also occasionally move to an inappropriate view when close to high raised objects, making it slightly awkward to see some areas around the ship.  A map is displayed on part of the Wii U gamepad and that helps somewhat, but it lacks detail and only displays the outline of the stage with the exit marked.

After beating a stage, you can use any credit points you found to buy upgrades for your ship. These can be extra lives, shields, a special weapon, x9 multiplier or additional satellites to attach around your ship. Satellites are extremely handy as they act as small gun turrets and give you additional fire power.  Up to four can be equipped at a time, so when combining that with your own ship, you have five components that can shoot. A neat feature is that you can use the touch screen of the Wii U gamepad to change the position of the satellites or the direction satellites fire bullets. This gives you options to protect the rear or side of the ship.

While some twin-stick shooters require you to keep alive to build up multipliers to gain high scores, Nano Assault Neo uses a slightly different mechanic. Every time you kill an enemy, the multiplier resets to x5 (or x9 if you have bought the upgrade) and drains down, with the next kill giving you the points times the multiplier on which it was eradicated and eventually resetting. This makes the gameplay hectic as you try plan out your next direction and enemy to keep the multiplier as high as possible. Hidden in each stage are five letters that spell out “BONUS.” If you manage to grab them all, you’re taken to a special stage that changes the perspective to behind the ship and forces you to move forward down a tube as you collect credits and dodge nastily placed obstacles. The longer you hold out, the faster it gets and the more points you are awarded. Think of it as the zone mode from Wipeout HD, except in Nano Assault Neo you die in one collision.

Leaderboards are in place to record high scores, but, at the moment ,you cannot determine where about in the world you are. The flag that represents the home country of the player obscures the first part of the ranking position. I was initially celebrating because I thought I was 47th in the world on one of the stages. My excitement was cut short when I realised the leaderboards were longer and I had no idea where about I was in the world. It is a really stupid bug, and I have no idea how that managed to make its way into the game. Hopefully, a quick patch can sort out the leaderboards.

Other modes include Arcade (play a single stage and get the highest score possible) where a two player mode is also available, which is exactly the same layout as single player and contains the same stages to unlock. What’s cool about this mode is that only one person gets the TV screen, as the other player will use the Wii U gamepad as their display. This is fantastic as it gives each player a full screen and allows him to play without messing up the camera, reducing the screen space for split screen or forcing a player to keep within a certain radius of the other ship. Another plus is that it also looks great on the gamepad, and is a fine way to play the game if you don’t feel like turning on the TV.

There’s no denying this game looks brilliant. It runs at 720p and keeps a constant 60fps. Shin’en is showing off its technological knowledge with the Wii U hardware, making it a stunning and attractive looking title with detailed environments sparkling with shaders. It makes me want to see the studio pushitself more and make a bigger title for the Wii U because the studio is teasing game its ability to show off the graphical capabilities of Nintendo’s new system.

If anyone is looking for some quick arcade action on the Wii U, you can’t go wrong with Nano Assault Neo. The game is not going to offer anything ground breaking, and is not as content filled or as good as the flagship twin-stick shooters on the PS3 or 360. However, that shouldn’t matter – Nano Assault Neo supplies quick-paced, arcade action that had been missing from the Wii U launch line up. For only £8.99, Nano Assault Neo is a gorgeous, challenging game worth checking out. Just don’t go in expecting the next Geometry Wars, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised and forgive its shortcomings.

7 out of 10