Nano Assault Review (3DS)

Nano Assault is a twin-stick shooter for the Nintendo 3DS. It was published by Majesco Entertainment and developed by Shin’en, who were the creators of the cult hit, Iridion 3D for the Game Boy Advance. Nano Assault is their latest title to be released in time for the holidays but is it any good?

Gameplay: 4/5

If you combine Super Stardust HD with a little bit of Starfox, then you’ll get Nano Assault in a nutshell. You control a Nanite ship to eradicate a contagion that is threatening humanity. Nano Assault has two different styles of play. Most levels will be played from a top-down view (ala Super Stardust HD) in which you will explore the infected cells and collect strands of DNA while purifying the cell by eliminating bacteria. Collecting a certain amount of DNA strands lets you advance to the next stage. If you destroy all the bacteria in a stage before collecting the three randomly placed DNA strands, you will be given 30 seconds to collect whatever you still can before teleporting off the cell. Should you collect all the DNA first, then eliminate all the bacteria afterwards, then the mission will automatically finish. You’ll control the Nanite ship with your circle pad and shoot in any direction with the face buttons (essentially like a second analog stick). The face buttons work surprisingly well as a substitute to what is normally mapped to a second analog stick. By tapping the “L” button, you can switch between three variations of shot types. There’s a straight stream of fire, slightly more spread out stream of fire and a stream of fire that spreads out 90 degrees of each other. Pressing the “R” button let’s you fire your secondary weapon, in which you’ll earn four different weapons. You’ll pick your secondary weapon prior to starting a mission and will factor into the strategy of the game. Certain weapons will help you out more in some levels, while others may work better in different scenarios. Pressing any button on the D-Pad will open up a 3D map of the cell which also shows where the infected area of enemies are, the remaining stragglers and the DNA strands. It’s a well implemented system that ensures you never disrupt the flow of the game and navigate aimlessly. The game is also constantly introducing new enemy types and really keeps the experience feeling fresh.

Occasionally, there will be missions where the camera is behind the ship’s view and will play as an on-rails shooter reminiscent of Starfox. These scenes play pretty well for the most part as well but there was one issue I had with it. The sequences are a complete bullet-hell at times and seeing the bullets heading toward you in front of your ship can be a bit difficult at times…occasionally causing some slight frustration. While the 3D effect will aid you a great amount during these sequences, there were still those instances of not being able to fully determine if the enemies projectiles were within the vicinity of hitting you or not. It’s doesn’t pose a serious problem, but can be slightly annoying at times. The boss fights that await you are certainly one of the strongest aspects in the game. Every boss poses a challenge and has specific weak points you’ll have to target as well. Towards the second half of the game, the bosses really ramp up in difficulty, having you constantly staying on your toes and engrossed in the intense battles.

Nano Assault’s difficulty is perfectly balanced, well-tuned and downright old-school. If you get hit once, your Nanite ship is done for. However, early in the game, you will start with three lives every mission. As you eradicate the bacteria in each mission, they will drop Blue Carbon Crystals. It is absolutely essential that you try to grab these as for every 100 crystals collected, you will increase your maximum life capacity by one. If you find any mission to be overwhelming, you could always go back to completed missions and slightly grind out extra maximum lives by collecting the crystals. Shin’en gave the game a challenging difficulty, but never discourages the player from completing it.

While the game’s length will take average gamers 3-5 hours to complete, you can go back and replay the missions in Arcade Mode or tackle the Boss Rush Mode. Arcade Mode has you replaying the mission of your choice (your score can be uploaded onto the leaderboards as well) with a twist. You will be given challenges to accomplish throughout each level and completing these will net you Nano Coins. The Nano Coins are used to purchase songs from the game’s soundtrack to listen to in the Jukebox Mode or you can purchase files for your Nanopedia. The Nanopedia is a guide that gives you detailed information about each creature you will confront and the best strategy to go about taking it out. If you want, you can even convert your 3DS Play Coins for Nano Coins which is a great additional feature.

Graphics: 5/5

Shin’en knows how to handle visuals ever since Iridion 3D on the GBA and Nano Assault makes no exception. The talented, small development team really made the game flourish visually with vibrant colors, great animations, sharp textures and excellent effects. The level designs are very well done, providing enough variety where each cell has it’s own unique look. The game runs incredibly smooth, no matter how intense the action gets. The 3D effect really adds some deep depth but it is actually useful and helps you dodge enemy fire better than the 2D mode does. Whether the camera is top-down or behind the ship, the detail you will witness in each environment is staggering. Kudos Shin’en for once again showcasing your visual talents.

Sound: 4/5

Nano Assault’s soundtrack consists of intense, sci-fi techno that perfectly captures the game’s tone. The songs here will fit very well with each mission, whether you’re exploring a cell, flying through a cell’s narrow tunnels or facing off against a gargantuan boss. It’s not exactly a soundtrack that will stick in your head after you finish the game (except for a few specific tracks) but it’s great to listen to when playing the game. The sound effects also do the job very well and provide an audio experience that helps immerse the player further into the game.

Replay Value: 3/5

Nano Assault is a short game. As stated before, the average gamer can complete it in roughly 3-5 hours depending on your skill level. However, the Arcade Mode and Boss Rush Mode do add a little to the replay value. If you’re a perfectionist, then completing all the extra challenges in Arcade Mode and purchasing the entire Nanopedia will add a great amount of extra hours to your game time. The game is certainly replayable though and has that perfect “pick-up and play” concept going for it. Too bad there’s just not enough of it.

Overall Score: 16/20 = 8.0 out of 10

Nano Assault is a great game that any fan of twin stick shooters owe themselves to check out. Retailing for a cheaper price ($29.99) than most new 3DS games would, it’s an ideal game for both quick “pick-up and play” sessions and lengthy playthroughs. The visuals are excellent to say in the least, the overall sound is intense and the gameplay is very tight. The game does end quick but it’s very enjoyable throughout the whole ride and easily makes it replayable. If you looking for a fun, arcade style shooter, then Nano Assault will fulfill those needs.


+ Tight gameplay

+ Excellent difficulty curve

+ Strong sound

+ Beautiful visuals


– Very short

– Needs more replay value

– Occasionally difficult to see oncoming bullets which could lead to cheap deaths


A special thank you to Reverb Entertainment for providing us with this review copy of Nano Assault.