While Nanostray was a solid side-scrolling shooter for the Nintendo DS, it wasn't without its fair share of problems, the most glaring of which was the endless continues, that made the game far less of a challenge than it could of been. Along with requiring the touch screen for weapon selections, these two features bogged down what could have otherwise been the perfect little handheld shmup. Now Nanostray 2 is still a couple of months away, but from my time with the preview build of the game Majesco was kind enough to send my way I can say that it triumphs over the original in every way.First off, the continues have gone from endless to a mere three, which completely changes up the difficulty factor of the game. Amateur shooter fans will have to go through the first three stages multiple times before making it completely through with enough lives to even consider going on to the remaining five. You'll have to learn enemy patterns, figure out which of the game's five special weapons best fit the situation, and basically learn the level like the back of your hand. Frustrating at times, sure, but if this sort of thing gets you riled then maybe you should go back to your happy, colorful platforming genre where it's safe.
You can play through Adventure mode to unlock levels for play in Arcade mode, where you get the standard allotment of lives with no continues, with the goal to get the highest score. In Nanostray the first you then would get a code you could upload to the online leaderboards via the internets, but now you simply connect via Nintendo Wi-Fi and slap that baby up there for the world to see. The feature was already running in the preview and worked without a hitch. Granted my score sucked compared to the ones already posted, but such is life.
Challenge mode helps a great deal. In Nanostray 2, the challenges are like little shmup nuggets that test your skills in various aspects of the genre. They've created completely new sequences for the challenges, rather than rehash established levels, and they focus on completing quick tasks, like scoring 30,000 points in 45 seconds, or surviving for a certain period of time. Some are even exercises in tactical thinking, as you are put in a situation such as a ship rising to completely fill the area you are in, killing you unless you find a way to open up an area to hide. There are four sets of eight challenges, and every time you complete one you get a little better at the main game. Very nicely done.
The developers took complaints about the control scheme to heart, changing the weapon-switching over to the shoulder buttons so once you are in the game you don't need to touch the screen at all, unless you opt to control your ship with it. Choosing touch-screen control schemes moves the action from the upper to the lower screen, with the control pad handling your primary weapon and the shoulder working the special weapon. Controlling the ship with your stylus adds a degree of control and speed you don't get with the standard setup, though of course you're going to have a portion of your screen obscured by the stylus itself and your giant, snausage fingers - where applicable.
All in all, this is one amazing shoot-em up for the Nintendo DS, better than its predecessor in virtually every way. Unless they do something horribly wrong between now and the January release date, expect Nanostray 2 to be the shmup to beat on the DS.