Pros: An interesting combo system yields many possibilities.
Cons: A ridiculous story and an even more ridiculous camera.
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
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.
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.
Nano Breaker is set for a US release on February 15, 2005.
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.