Made by German developers Shinen whose previous games included the original Nanostray along with the Iridion series on the GBA, this is their best 2D shmup yet and one of the best shooters on the DS.
NS2 is executed as your typical `shmup', most particularly taking notes from the [often revered as the best in the genre] Gradius series. In fact, compare the first level of NS2 to that of Gradius V's and they're practically identical from the background to the enemies. But a rip-off this maybe, it's a darn good one at that. Spanning 8 main levels switching between horizontal or vertical shooting, you control the cut-and-paste typical spaceship with a steady arsenal including a main gun along with a choice of one of up to 6 sub-weapons ranging from homing missiles to lasers to mines. Along with this you have two 'satellites', Nanostray's equivalent to Gradius' options; two tiny vessels which you can shoot in up to three directions of your liking.
The main game's two modes are `story' (the typical arcade 'play through all 8 levels 1-by-1' game) and `arcade', which allows you to play a single level from a choice of any one previously visited in story with the intention of improving your skills and score. Story has an option of 3 difficulty settings, and let me tell you, as a seasoned old skool shmup gamer, hard mode is challenging enough to keep you crawling back for months on end.
However, along with these typical experiences comes the all-new 'challenge' mode. Consisting of a selection of 32 challenges ranging from surviving 30 second bullet-fests to collecting a number of items before the end of the run. And if these weren't fun enough, completing them will introduce up to four 'simulators'; Minigames such as a Breakout clone, for the times you want to take a rest from blasting away enemy spaceships in the main game.
Everything about Nanostray 2 has been tailored to mimic the Japanese shmups that've ruled the genre since forever. From the catchy techno music, the robotic sounding female narrator, to Japanese writing accompanying the English titles; Shinen have put extreme dedication and research to making this the most authentic arcade shooter that, if it weren't for looking up the company, I would've thought they originated from the land of the rising sun.
Visually, the game has been simplified when compared to the original Nanostray as to make it easier to understand what's going on. My main complaint with Nanostray was I couldn't tell what was the background or foreground, what could hit me or how close projectiles were. This is nearly non-existent in this sequel. And whilst more conventional looking, the game still has its charm. Still as colourful and vibrant as any other of the best DS titles.
There are three control options. The standard being the d-pad to move your ship with A + B to use your weapons and the L + R buttons to set the direction of your satellites line of fire, game play seen on the top DS screen. The other two are left and right-handed stylus controls, with the main action taking place on the lower screen. The stylus option isn't really advised however as the ship isn't as quick to respond to your directions and your hand and stylus gets in the way of the screen. Personally I think a control method similar to Metroid Prime Hunters would've been more suitable.
2 player with one card consists of either a survivor mode where you must keep fighting until the first one dies, or a score duel mode where the first to make 50,000 points by destroying enemy ships is the winner. With two cards your can play the main adventure, co-op, something which I think should've been available with just one card. However, the single card options will keep you entertained in short bursts.
It's very hard to point out anything that makes this game bad. Sometimes it's too hard to dodge bullets as the DS-screen is just too small and enemy projectiles haven't been scaled down enough as any smaller would've made them too hard to see. As per usual the d-pad isn't a worthy substitute for a decent analogue or arcade stick (although it plays more comfortable than Geometry Wars: Galaxies). Also, after every level completed, your helpful satellites disappear leaving you to manically race to obtain new ones, costing lives in later levels if you don't get them fast enough.
Everything else is flawless. Fun, challenging, self-explanatory with a wide variety, Nanostray 2 has been made with such with love and passion by a group of experienced hand-held programmers who're also avid fans of the shmup genre that whether in short bursts or an hours session, NS2 will keep you entertained for more than necessary for ages to come. If you love 2D shooters such as Bangai-0 Spirits, Space Invaders Extreme or Geometry Wars: Galaxies, then this is a must have for you.