Nanobreaker PS2 Review

It is said that it is easier to become a legend than it is to stay one. We guess what that means is that once you have set yourself a benchmark, your challenge is to equal it, or even better it. The problem with this though is that once or twice, by law of average, you are going to fall below this benchmark. Unfortunately, it is for these times that people most remember you.

In the gaming world Koji Igarashi is probably on a parallel with Hideo Kojima for status. His vision in creating the Castlevania series has been applauded by all, it is a franchise that has stretched across nearly every platform since its creation. So it is understandable that people’s expectations rise when Igarashi’s name is mentioned in association with a new title.

Nanobreaker is Igarashi’s latest venture. Essentially, at heart, Nano is an action adventure with a heavy leaning on combat and a whisper of a RPG. What it isn’t is original. From the off you will feel like you are looking at Devil May Cry’s illegitimate limbless bastard son. Nanobreaker borrows so heavily from DMC that you could be mistaken in thinking they are one and the same, even the protagonist, Jake Warren, looks, in the facial and hair department at least, like Dante’s twin.

‘Breaker might look like Devil May Cry, it even feels like it, but it doesn’t even compare in playability and general quality. The harked about combo-fighting system is nowhere near as innovative as we are lead to believe. The idea is: linked to every attacking manoeuvre that Jake performs is a different button combination, so in pressing, triangle, X, triangle you get a fancy sword combo, press those buttons in a different combo, and you get another extravagant manoeuvre. Visually these attacks look fantastic, but in depth, the effect they have on opponents is only slightly different. Once the novelty wears thin, you’ll find yourself performing the same combo over and over, Nanobreaker doesn’t reward you for putting the extra effort in performing an extravagant combination, but punishes you heavily if you get it wrong.

Unfortunately the gripes keep coming. Nano uses an unbelievably archaic saving system. When you die, which you will do over and again mainly due to the awkward camera angles, you are placed back at the last save point. It leads to a frustrating experience, given that each save point is widely spaced, and all the enemies that have been slain reappear after each death.

The narrative is equally poor. You play the part of Jake Warren, a rouge agent designed by the government to do battle at will. The game is set in an alternate 2001, where computer-driven machines have become an essential part of everyday life, especially in medicine. To repair red blood cells, tiny ‘nanobots’ are injected into the blood stream of thousands of human beings. For reason’s explained should you play Nanobreaker, ‘Central Computer’ instructs all machines to turn against their fleshy counterparts, including those nanobots in the bloodstream. Naturally chaos resumes when robots start to literally break out of people and go on the offensive. Jake, who has been in a deep freeze for seven years (sigh), has been recalled to sort it all out…

Bear in mind that we have tried our best to make that sound decent, the game makes no such effort.

There are some graces, Nanobreaker isn’t a complete pile. The FMV clips are absolutely amazing; some of the best we’ve seen on the PS2. These sequences were the only reason we continued to play Nano, rather than smashing it into a million pieces. The detail is wonderful, every strand of hair is accounted for, every element of the FMV has been created with such exertion. The question begs to be answered, why wasn’t an equal amount of effort spent on the rest of the game?

The in game engine is almost identical to Devil May Cry; in fact, we’re half convinced that it is the SAME engine. The battles are fun to watch and furiously paced. Using the combo’s discussed before, Jake uses his glowing sword, to slice and dice his robotic adversaries, usually ending in an amazingly violent finale. This might even be one for the bloodthirsty gamers despite the short fallings. Of course Robots do not bleed blood, but oil, and the more oil you spill the quicker you receive your power ups. To say that this ‘oil’ actually looks like anything other than blood is laughable, there is an option to change the colour of the ‘oil’ for the less contentious of you.

Unfortunately, Koji Igarashi falls way short of his own benchmark, Nanobreaker is neither enjoyable nor engaging. With the release of Devil May Cry 3 there is absolutely no reason why you should consider playing this. However it would be a shame to miss out on those luscious FMV’s, it might even be worth renting but that would mean you would have to play it.