Ahh, had to go ahead and pinch myself, as it just didn't seem like a reality. But, it's finally here; my copy of Nanostray 2 has arrived in my twitchy, hot lil' mitts.
And to be honest?.... I'm rather disappointed with it.
Played a few extensive rounds through Adventure Mode. Shmup fans will immediately note that Shin'en is clearly riffing off a number of past shooters. You've got the obstacle surroundings of R-Type, bullet-hell waves like Ikaruga, and Options-style weaponry like Gradius. While it sounds great on paper, the execution comes off as a bit mish-mash messy. First, the obstacles surrounding your playing field are frustratingly cramped; when you mix this with the bouts of bullet hell -- and the fact that enemies can now come at you from all sides (quite quickly and unexpectedly, I might add) -- you're going to get quite a few cheap, unnecessary deaths. At least, I sure did.
They've rectified the problem of touch screen weapon switching - by taking out the ability to switch weapons all together. Now, you predetermine your weapon before a stage begins, so you can't switch on-the-fly like the first game. In its place, they've implemented the Satellite System, which are basically Option-like helpers a la Gradius. With three satellites allowed at a time, it's neat that you have complete reign as to how the firing trajectory will be set up, before the stage begins. You'll generally want to keep a front, middle and back position to have a better fighting chance at those all-sides enemies, but it's pretty cool being able to set up three satellites all in the front for a nice, widespread shot. That said, I do prefer the variety of instant weapon-choosing of the first over the more pre-emptive strategic structure of this one.
The graphics are an unsurprising feast for the eyes, but somehow less slick looking than the first game. Where the first game had this incredible 3D engine running both environments and objects alike, N2 relies on a mostly static 2D background which doesn't come off as immersive-looking. The enemy design and animated movements, on the other hand, are top-notch, and there's good variety all around.
To speak of the optional new touch-screen controls, where you control the ship by dragging the stylus over your ship to maneuver (and shoot with the d-pad), well.... it's not so great, because your hand tends to hinder your viewing area of the screen. Not cool when dozens upon dozens of bullets are coming your way, and you can't react and pinpoint the stylus in time to dodge. Stick with the traditional d-pad/face buttons set up, you'll be far better off.
Maybe I need a little more time to warm up to it, but upon first glance, Nanostray 2 isn't quite the revolutionary DS shooter I was hoping it would be. In fact, I would currently place it below the original Nanostray. At least the first had its own identity, with a number of definable features that made it stand out from other shooters. N2 feels kind of substandard in its attempt to mimic the best elements from other series, and at the same time, they've taken out key gameplay features from the first, like the smart bomb and the 'coin magnet' feature. The first also felt more tactile as far as movement and hit collision goes, no doubt due to the more freeing level design and weapon selection.