While early Wii U adopters are thoroughly engaged in surviving against zombies (ZombiU, expect our review soon), slicing and dicing enemies to pieces (Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge), sharing fun times with friends in a Nintendo filled theme park (Nintendo Land) or simply taking it old-school by playing as Nintendo’s much beloved mascot (New Super Mario Bros. U), there’s no denying the Wii U had a variety of titles available day one. Aside from the 25+ launch titles, Nintendo released a few indie-based titles that can be purchased off of their online service, Nintendo eShop. One of those titles is an arcade-style, twin-stick shooter known as Nano Assault Neo, developed by Shin’en. This is actually the sequel to the 3DS’s Nano Assault (our review here) that released last December and was always a title I recommended to any 3DS owners looking for a twin-stick shooter. While the 3DS version lacked a second analog stick and instead utilized face buttons, the latest installment, made exclusively for the Wii U, removes that control restriction. However, retailing for only $9.99 on the eShop, is it one actually worth your time?
In Nano Assault Neo, you’ll be controlling a vessel on various cell clusters and trying to purify them from virus-type creatures. The premise and controls are as simple as can be, but the game’s difficulty is far from it. When you tackle single-player, there are four clusters you’ll have to venture through: Epsilon, Zeta, Omicron and Sigma. Each cluster contains three cells (stages), followed by a boss battle. When you’re on a cell, you’ll be flying around and destroying everything in the area. You’ll simply control the vessel with the left analog stick while aiming and shooting with precision via the right analog stick. If you’re playing on the TV, you can utilize the Gamepad screen to see a 3D map of the cell and blips that showcase where you are and where the enemies are. Once you’ve eradicated at least 90% of the infection spread around the cell, an exit will open and you’ll have 30 seconds to get to it. Upon purifying a cell, you’ll be brought to the upgrades menu and can choose to obtain an extra life, acquire a secondary weapon, increase your combo meter or get a temporary shield. At the end of a cluster, you’ll face an intense boss that will keep you on the edge-of-your-seat . The bosses aren’t near impossible but still provide a solid challenge that demands your complete focus due to the barrage of projectiles coming at you from all directions.
As you destroy viruses, they may drop specific icons for you to pick up. They may drop the SAT icon, which allows your vessel to have a turret hover around you and provide extra firepower (you can collect up to 4 SATs for quadruple the firepower). There are Point Cards that are lying around cells but enemies may drop these occasionally as well. You’ll use these point cards to upgrade your vessel so collecting as many as possible certainly helps. On the rare occasion, enemies will drop letters that spell B-O-N-U-S. When these are all collected, you will be brought to a bonus stage after purifying a cell, where you’ll fly through a tunnel and have to collect as many point cards as possible without colliding into an object.
Now I mentioned earlier that the game is far from easy. In the original Nano Assault, a single hit would explode your vessel. In Neo, your vessel can now take three hits before dying. Hit detection has also been enhanced and projectiles now have a much better collision box that doesn’t result in slightly cheap deaths that would occur in the original. Should you lose all your lives at any point during one of the cells in the cluster, it’s game over and you’ll have to begin at the first cell of that cluster again. Thankfully, each cell only takes about 1-2 minutes to complete, aside from a few lengthier ones. It can be a difficult game, but never really falls into the “frustration” category, which is always a sign of solid game design. While the game could take less than an hour to beat, there are a few other modes available to play. After completing the short campaign, you’ll unlock Survivor mode, which pits you in random cells with a single life. Also, there’s Arcade mode, which allows you to play through any cell or boss battle of your choice and aim for the highest score possible. There’s leaderboard support on all the game modes so if you’re into that, you’ll extend your replay value here. There are also “Missions”, which act as an in-game Trophy/Achievement system. While they don’t exactly provide you with any incentive to get every one, it’s a nice bonus to see the developers throw in. Completionists will definitely be tested going for some of these. Also, there’s a two player local co-op mode (sorry, no online co-op), where player one will use the Gamepad as their own screen, while player two can use the Wii U Pro Controller, Wiimote-Nunchuk combo, or the Wii Classic Controller, while looking at the TV as their screen. It’s great to see Shin’en took advantage of this and there’s a great amount of fun to be had in co-op.
Simply put, Nano Assault Neo is the best looking launch title available for the Wii U. Running at 60 fps the entire time without a single hitch, while pushing vivid and lush 1080p resolution is fantastic. The game just looks absolutely stunning in action, with incredibly rich textures and detail. Nano Assault Neo can also be played entirely through the Wii U Gamepad and doesn’t lose an ounce of visual detail what-so-ever. You can switch between the Gamepad and TV instantly through the pause menu and there’s even a cool effect showing the screens transfer. Audio is equally as strong as the visuals as well. Providing an excellent techno soundtrack that perfectly accompanies the action, while also having some great sound effects, really helps provide for a more engaging experience. If you have your Wii U set up to a surround sound system or Turtle Beach headsets, crank that volume up.
Nano Assault Neo is a great sequel that takes what worked in the first title on the 3DS and improves upon them. While the game is short, the extra modes and new co-op feature will keep you coming back for more. Essentially, Nano Assault Neo is the Wii U’s “Super Stardust HD” and any twin-stick shooter fan, Super Stardust fan or Nano Assault (3DS) fan should immediately put down the $10 for this.
Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!