Nano Assault EX Review (3DS eShop)

Nano Assault EX Title 2

When I was in elementary school, I remember learning about our immune system’s ability to battle against foreign invaders.  Of course, being the guy I am, I imagined all this happening as a video game where I control a white blood cell surging through blood vessels while destroying virtually everything in its path.  When Shin’en Multimedia’s Nano Assault first debuted, it wasn’t quite the game from my dreams, but it was definitely close enough to grab my attention…

What You Need To Know

Having launched a new shoot ’em up series near the launch of every Nintendo handheld since the GBA, Shin’en Multimedia is definitely no stranger to the shoot ’em up genre.  Being a fan of their Iridion series on GBA and the Nanostray series on DS, I was excited to try their newest series on 3DS, Nano Assault.  I’m not usually one to procrastinate when trying new shooters, but this time I lucked out because the newly-released, eShop exclusive, Nano Assault EX, is an improved re-release of the original retail release, Nano Assault.  Nano Assault EX is a fast-paced, dual-stick-action shooter where you pilot a Nanite ship to save the world from a deadly Nanostray virus.  During your missions, you’ll navigate across several microscopic, planet-like surfaces and on-rails tunnels while destroying enemies and collecting healthy DNA strains.

Come Sail Away! Come Sail Away! Come Sail Away With Me…

If you listen to our podcast, I’m sure you’ve heard us joke about the Circle Pad Pro and possibly even reference it as a boat, but all jokes aside, I was thrilled to hear Nano Assault EX would support the lovable beast of a peripheral.  The game’s story mode is spread across 32 stages in seven clusters, and most of those missions play in a grounded, dual-stick mode. Nano Assault EX1The final stage of each cluster changes to a behind-the-back perspective as you fly through an on-rails tunnel.  Having the Circle Pad Pro gives you an advantage during these tunnel stages because you’re able to pilot your ship while independently moving your targeting reticle.  While I certainly liked having the Circle Pad Pro accessory for these tunnel stages, I was surprised to find it quicker and more accurate for me to use the face buttons during the core, grounded stages.  At the end of every cluster, the on-rails missions end with exciting and unique boss fights.  Some of these maintain the on-rails perspective, while others revert back to the planetoid models.  I found the boss’ weaknesses and bullet designs to be unique, engaging, and adequately challenging.

Beauty On The Inside

Nano Assault EX has a great variety of stages, special effects, and enemy types to keep the visuals fresh and exciting. The stages have a terrific color pallet, and the translucency and lighting effects add a nice shimmering appearance to the surfaces. This is definitely one of the nicest-looking 3DS games I’ve seen.Nano Assault EX  The game’s 3D effect also allowed me to perceive the distance to an incoming bullet much more accurately. The game’s second screen is used to show your boss’s life meter, secondary weapon’s energy, collectibles and remaining enemies and infected areas.  There is no touchscreen functionality in the game, but I couldn’t imagine wanting to control anything through the touchscreen when the face buttons and Circle Pad Pro options are more than adequate.

Plenty of EXtras

Like I mentioned before, Nano Assault EX, is a re-release of the original Nano Assault.  In addition to Circle Pad Pro support, you’re now able to invert your Y-Axis for the on-rails levels.  Surprisingly, this option was not available in the original release.  There’s also a new, unlockable single-life survivor mode.  This was one of the last things I unlocked after the boss rush mode.  In the boss rush, you’ll race to defeat the game’s bosses as quickly as possible.  In addition to the main story mode, there’s an additional arcade mode that allows you to revisit individual stages you’ve beaten in story mode.Nano Assault EX4  From there, you can post your high scores and complete various challenges to unlock Nano Coins that are used to buy virtual, trophy-like items in the game’s Nano Shop.

Hit Me With Your Cheap Shot

I wouldn’t consider Nano Assault EX a particularly difficult shoot ’em up, especially not in the vein of Japanese bullet-hell-style shooters, but it definitely has its fair share of frustrating moments.  There were a few times where my camera would become disoriented on a ground levels, and it was nearly impossible to see incoming bullets coming around the planetoid-like objects.  With one-hit kills, this was never a pleasant surprise!  The difficulty of this is compounded because enemies seem to only fire bullets when they’re incredibly close to you. Luckily, the game rewards persistence and will eventually grant you with extra life containers when you’ve gathered enough collectibles that spawn after destroying enemies.


If you already own the original retail release of Nano Assault, there’s probably not enough new content here to reclaim your attention or dollars.  Unless the gameplay improvements provided by the Circle Pad Pro are enough reel you back in, the $14.99 price tag might be a bit high for these new additions.  However, with a new survivor mode, online rankings and challenges, support for Circle Pad Pro, improved gameplay, and updated graphics, Nano Assault EX is definitely enough to push those would-be buyers of the original  Nano Assault over the edge.

Four Stars

Review copy of the game provided by Shin’en Multimedia

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