Peanut butter and jelly. Root beer and ice cream. Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus. All those things are great individually, but they're even better together. Now, Nanostray 2 brings that "best of both worlds" mentality to video games, in the form of a wicked tight spaceship shoot-em-up that offers both horizontal and vertical stages.
Yes, this is one of those hybrid shoot-em-ups where half the levels scroll from right-to-left and the other half scroll from top-to-bottom. However, it doesn't really matter whether your ship's nose is pointing to the right or straight up. Enemy ships fly in from all directions and rotating sections within each stage constantly keep you on your toes. Watch out for enemy bullets, watch out for the walls, and, for heaven's sake, watch out for those giant robots that swoop in from the background and wave their massive arms around.
Each stage follows the same format: A lengthy run full of smaller ships, laser cannons, and traps that narrow the path, followed by a mid-boss battle, followed by another survival run, followed by the confrontation against the stage's main boss. To handle the swarm, your ship is equipped with a main blaster that fires straight ahead, two satellites that can direct machine gun fire in any direction, and six different sub weapons that will cut through enemy ships' hulls like butter once they're charged up.
Nanostray 2 doesn't try to re-invent the genre, and that's totally fine. The no-nonsense weapons and controls are easy to get the hang of, each stage has its own unique collection of enemies and environmental gotchas, and there's rarely a moment when the screen isn't flush with bullets, ships, and explosions. Detailed 3D graphics give the two-dimensional action plenty of depth, while the soundtrack consists of a manly mix of lasers, explosions, and trippy rock-trance music. Longtime shoot 'em-up fans will also appreciate all the obvious references to Gradius, R-Type, Super Star Soldier, and other classic shooters that are sprinkled liberally throughout the game.