Nano Assault NEO is a twin stick shoot-em-up from Shin’en. A launch title for the Wii U eShop, the game is something of a follow-up to last year’s Nano Assault for 3DS. As a launch title, certain questions always arise as to whether a game is worth it, and many will likely buy this game just to test out the system’s download capabilities.
NEO is played in a similar way to Super Stardust HD on PSN; you are on a ship (actually a nanomachine that’s trying to destroy a virus) traversing each of the four levels, getting power-ups, destroying things that are trying to destroy you, and maneuvering over each area through levels that present themselves as globes.
Despite not even reaching 100MB in download size, the game looks incredibly beautiful. Environments are surprisingly lush and realistic, and the high definition capabilities of Wii U do quite a bit to make this look just as good as the aforementioned Super Stardust games (if not better). And while some games don’t look very good when gameplay is shifted to the GamePad, NEO looks just as good whether the game is played on the larger or smaller screen. The music is also very good, though just a tad less memorable than the visuals.
The only major complaint I have about NEO is that the camera can be somewhat faulty at times, while normally in a top down view, constantly moving around each stage can be sometimes hindered by a camera that goes into awkward positions momentarily. While this doesn’t happen too often, it has caused me to get hit a few times during the more intense later stages. When the game is on the big screen, the GamePad can be used to change where extra guns (called satellites) are fired or check up on a radar. At any time, gameplay can be isolated entirely to the GamePad.
In each of the four levels, there are three stages and a boss fight. The stages are completed after achieving a certain score, done so through destroying enemies. Enemies are very diverse for such a compact game; some explode after being shot and require distance, some actively track you, and some are lumbering creatures that require strategic shooting. Almost crossing into bullet-hell territory, the game forces you to keep moving, and to keep looking for power-ups that increase the number of guns being fired at a given time, or add special weaponry like ray guns. The bosses are all giant enemies that require hitting their clearly defined weak points. They are pretty fun, if not a bit too similar.
After playing a stage, you can sometimes find yourself in a bonus game that places the camera directly behind your ship. While this happens, the game speedily pushes you through a tunnel and tasks you with picking up currency (which is spent on lives and power-ups in-between stages). It’s a nice distraction, though it isn’t instrumental to the rest of the game. Outside of the four levels and high score chasing, there are two supplemental modes called Missions and Arcade. Arcade is an endurance run through all of the levels, while Missions are inessential achievements that serve little purpose other than something to do.
Each level is designed very well, and each of the four levels have a unique flavor beckoning for high scores. While fun, the game is very much designed for those who like to replay for a higher leaderboard standing or to trounce a previous high score. Completing the game once should take around two hours, and the extra mode and missions won’t do much to inspire lastability for those not high-score inclined. So at the end of the day, you need to ask yourself whether this otherwise really good game is one you could pick up over and over again. If not, there might not be enough here for you.