Nano Breaker

It's worth it's weight in nano goo.


The Lowdown

Pros: An interesting combo system yields many possibilities.

Cons: A ridiculous story and an even more ridiculous camera.

Purchase at Play-Asia

Purchase at Lik-Sang

Nano Breaker is the latest game by the same team that made 2003's Castlevania: Lament of Innocence. The interface, game engine and gameplay are really similar to Lament of Innocence. Instead of just putting in another vampire hunter in the lead, Konami took the bold move of making a new character in a new universe. After a 2004 release calendar with sequel after sequel, Nano Breaker's new world seemed refreshing. The story set in the distance future where humanity and nanomachines work side by side. Of course this can't last. When the computer that controls the nanomachines goes out of control, bad things happen. People start mutating and the tiny island is out of control. You're put in the role of Jake, a cyborg trooper that was cryogenically frozen for committing genocide. He's thawed out after six years to infiltrate the island and shut down the computer. As the story progresses Jake's secrets get flushed out more, but all of the story is forgettable. Maybe it's the flat voice acting or that it's so convoluted. Thankfully this doesn't deter from the game's strongest point, which is sheer action.

Nano Breaker pits nano mutant after nano mutant in front of Jake. Many areas of the game consist of having you defeat all of the enemies before moving on. Similar to Lament of Innocence, Jake has a plasma weapon that acts like a whip as his main weapon. You can perform two styles of attack, a horizontal and vertical attack. A vertical attack hits higher so you can hit flying enemies, while the horizontal attack is wider and can hit groups of enemies. By holding R1 and hitting either attack button you can do a thrust attack or an air juggle. These options mixed with a custom combo system makes Nano Breaker's fighting system pretty good. By gathering combo chips you can select different finishing blows. You start off with two simple three hit combos, that transform Jake's weapon into a giant sword. By equipping combo chips you can increase the length of your basic combo. There are also different finishing blows you can do like smashing an enemy with a giant hammer or slicing it in half with a huge axe. The combo system is also flexible, chips can be equipped or unequipped at any time. This gives players plenty options to try out different combos.

Switching combos between powerful finishing blows and long combos is a key part of gameplay. Having a strong finisher allows you to splatter a nanomutant's goo all over the place. This is where one of the strangest leveling up systems comes into play. The bigger the puddles the faster you level up. After so many gallons of goo you'll get increased HP or an increased boost meter. The boost meter comes into play when you use the found boosters in the game. These give you special abilities like being able to reflect lasers or capture enemies with ease. Some players may opt to battle enemies over and over just to level up. This may not be a bad idea to tackle the huge in game bosses.

Taking a cue from Contra and other 16 bit games with giant bosses Nano Breaker has you face off with boss monsters three or four times your size. The first boss you fight against is like a giant venus fly trap. This beast can be slightly damaged by normal attacks, but if you want to give it some heavy damage you need to do a specific combo. This kind of sets the pace of boss battles in the game. Later on the game emphasizes doing specific moves just to damage an enemy. In one battle you'll fight against two shelled mutants that spin around on screen. No combo or attack even scratches them. Instead you have to capture the snail and pull it out of it's shell. The whole procedure is a bit frustrating because you'll try everything just to cause damage, but only one way will defeat a boss.

During one of the game's early boss battles against Jake's "nemesis" we're introduced to another one of the game's major flaws. During this boss fight you'll face off against an enemy with similar attacks as Jake, except he moves much faster. So fast the camera can't catch up with the boss. You'll have to manually move control the camera while trying to dodge attacks. A simple lock on feature would have solved this problem or even a camera that moves quicker. When groups of enemies attack you the sluggish camera becomes a problem again. In some cases it's so bad it's just better to mash the capture button and hope to grab something you can't even see. In the 3D action world there are so many games that have solved this problem seeing that Nano Breaker didn't even address is a weak point.

Nano Breaker has some good looking FMVs, but at this point in the PS2 life cycle they might not be as appreciated. Generally the FMV graphics have really detailed character models and cool looking scenery. The in game graphics aren't so hot. First of all the game's art direction seems mixed up. It doesn't have a specific feel like Castlevania: LOI did. Instead it feels like generic apocalyptic world number nine. Dreary grey textures and broken buildings are what you'll traverse through. Jake is well animated, even though his model looks unrefined. Most gamers won't notice or care about either of these "issues" though. What they will notice is the endless puddles of a blood like substance. Maybe some people will get a kick out of unrealistic goo splashing everywhere, but it just looks so cheesy. Konami has put so much effort in making the goo a large part of the game you can even change it's color. Nothing is funnier than slicing an enemy in half and watching it explode into a rainbow of colors. Too bad you couldn't turn the whole mechanic off.

I've already commented on the quality, or lack there of on the game's voice acting. The music in the game is another mixed bag. At times you have atmospheric noise and other times it's a weird mix of a jazz with a sci-fi soundtrack. It's uninspired and confused for this kind of game. The sound effects consist of simple monster grunts and lots of splash effects. Also nothing grandiose. The game does support Dolby Digital II, which is a plus. Once again it's too bad the game's initial sound quality is questionable.

Think of Nano Breaker as a mix of Castlevania: Lament of Innocence and Neo Contra. If you're into action games Nano Breaker might be up your alley. The combo system and gameplay flexibility are a definite plus. Yet the unmemorable characters, mixed up story and sluggish cameras separate this game from other action titles. Still, Nano Breaker is decent experience, albeit short play through.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1

The game has English voice acting so you won't have any problem understanding the story, if you actually care. Otherwise the game is really easy to learn.

US Bound?

Nano Breaker is set for a US release on February 15, 2005.

Overall

It may not be as impressive as Castlevania: Lament of Innocence and even with a problematic camera, Nano Breaker is worth at least a rental.