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NDS Preview - 'Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt'

by Nathan Mourfield on Dec. 19, 2004 @ 3:35 a.m. PST

Experience the ferocious first-person action of the Metroid Prime universe on the Nintendo DS, Metroid Prime Hunters. Hone your skills against a slew of enemies in single-player training modes like Regulator, Survival and Morph Ball, then put them to the test when you compete in Death Match arenas with your friends over a wireless connection.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: May 8, 2005

With each Nintendo DS is included a copy of Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt, an excellent showcase of the DS' capabilities. Metroid Prime Hunters is a first person shooter in the vein of Metroid Prime for the GameCube, using the touch screen to achieve playability far beyond what many thought would be possible on a handheld at this stage.

First Hunt has two gameplay modes, training and multiplayer. Training contains three sub modes: Regulator, Survivor, and Morph Ball. Multiplayer is a death match on one of three maps: Trooper Module, Assault Cradle, and Ancient Vestige.

Multiplayer is self-explanatory, but Training essentially consists of three short mini-games. Regulator is a shooter level requiring the player to destroy all of the hologram targets within a short period of time, and Survivor is a shooter level designed to see how long it takes for the Metroids to kill the player. Morph Ball is a timed course where the player has to pick up as many of the little circles as possible while completing the course.

I found the training levels to be well designed to give the concept of what the game is about. They are quick to pick up and short in duration, making for a nice teaser to the real game coming out next year. I was not able to play the multiplayer due to the lack of DSes in my area.

Controls are also divided up into five separate settings to allow the player to experiment with various types of gameplay on the DS. This is a good thing to allow people to see how many ways there are to control the DS and to get comfortable with using the stylus.

The standard is stylus mode, where the buttons on the mimic the left directional pad and the stylus (or thumb stylus, which I use) is used to aim. The shoulder buttons are used to fire, and tapping the touch screen causes the character to jump. The stylus mode is quick to learn and similar to the mouse control that many PC gamers are familiar with, so it should allow them to pick up this title quickly.

The next two modes are the dual modes, right and left. Dual mode right uses the buttons on the right to aim and the directional pad to move. The right shoulder button jumps and the left shoots. The dual mode left mimics switches the functions of the directional pad and control buttons for left-handed gamers. These modes slightly hamper the gameplay and take some getting used to.

The last two modes are the touch shoot modes left and right. These take the most getting used to due to the fact that gameplay is on the bottom screen and the player aims with the stylus and shoots by tapping the screen. After learning this mode, it is the quickest and probably the choice method of gamers in death matches.

Graphically, this game is close to those of the GameCube’s Metroid Prime, just scaled down to fit on the two 4-inch screens. For owners of the GameBoy Advance, this title shows the differences in quality with the DS. Clearly, the DS blows away the GameBoy Advance in form and function, and this title is one of the best clearest examples.

The audio, while excellent and above par of previous portable Metroid games, does not showcase the DS' capabilities. With the ability to fake surround sound on the DS, the plain stereo music is a little of a disappointment compared to some of the more mature titles, like Super Mario 64 DS. We can hope that the sound improves in the release of the full game next year.

The weapon selection is limited due to the size of the game. It has the oldies but goodies that make up the meat and potatoes of the Metroid weapon selection, blaster and missiles. Anyone who is familiar with Metroid Prime will be familiar with their use, and anyone else will pick them up quickly.

The puzzles, jumping and otherwise, in this title are simplistic due to its limited nature. There are only three puzzles in the whole game and they are simple to solve: a jumping puzzle, a morph ball jump, and a morph ball maze. Each is designed to be overcome within seconds of first discovery.

As a preview of an upcoming title and a showcase of what is capable on the Nintendo DS, First Hunt does an excellent job of achieving these goals. While not to the full capabilities of the DS, the audio is solid and beyond the expected for a GameBoy Advance title, being the predecessor that it is gauged on. Further proof that the DS was a good move for Nintendo, and Metroid Prime Hunters is going to be a solid title to redefine the shooter genre in the handheld market.

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