Video Game Review : Metroid Prime Hunters

Tuesday was a good day for me. That's because I was able to pickup both
Tetris DS and Metroid Prime Hunters for my Nintendo DS. I'll talk about Tetris
DS in a different post, and focus on Metroid Prime Hunters here. I should tell
you to start that I am already a huge fan of the Metroid series, so my review
will be a bit biased.

As far as the story goes... I can't say much. I've played for a couple of
hours, and in true Metroid fashion the plot is slowly unrolling, but a lot
is still mysterious. You play as Samus Aran, the intergalactic bounty hunter
/ gun for hire. A telepathic message was received by both you and several
of the best bounty hunters in the galaxy. The message indicated that a great
power could be found in a particular solar system, so you and the other
hunters travel there in an attempt to be the first to capture that great

I was a little concerned when I saw sample screen shots of the game. The
Nintendo DS is a small, portable gaming system. It has two smallish ( but
very nice ) LCD screens. I've seen other games attempt to render a 3D
first person shooter (FPS) display [Ghost Recon] and it was.... well.. poor.
The screen and graphics capabilities of the DS are just not suited to heavy
duty 3D gaming. So I had a uneasy feeling that the graphics in Hunters
would be disappointing. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game
designers did a fantastic job creating environments that display well. The
environments render quickly and getting a sense of direction is not a
problem. There are some areas where it can be confusing to determine
which way to go, but generally rooms are laid out simply, and the automap
is available to save you in a pinch. My biggest gripe so far is just that
the game is very dark. Most of the environments are dark, and if you are
playing in an area with overhead lights (as I do at lunch), it can be
difficult to see what is going on. I recommend finding a dim or dark room
to play in so that you can really see what is going on.

The truly innovative part of Hunters is the control scheme. The DS has
a touch sensitive screen, and that screen is utilized to control the direction
you look. I was apprehensive about this, as the demo video I saw showed folks
with contorted hands trying to hold the stylus and use the D-Pad at the same
time. That's how I started playing, and after about 20 minutes of play my
hands were hurting. It just wasn't comfortable. The alternative is to use
the A/B/X/Y buttons to control the look direction. I wasn't satisfied with
that either. When you using the touchpad for the look direction, it is a lot
like using a mouse on a PC. This is where nearly all console FPS games fall
down. Because consoles don't have a mouse, the speed you can change the
direction you are looking is limited. Rather than using a mouse to whip your
head around and get your bearings, you press left and wait for your character
to spin. The touchpad control gives back that mouse-like ability to quickly
take in the environment.

Fortunately, I've found a way to use the touchpad control without giving
myself carpal-tunnel. The trick is to ditch the stylus. The Nintendo DS
comes with both a stylus and what I call the "thumb-tac". It is a little
strap with a black plastic pellet you can loop around your thumb for
using the touch pad. It keeps you from getting your fingerprints on the
screen, and provides a nice round edge for contacting the touch sensitive
surface. Using this, my hand can rest in a much more natural position on the
game. My right thumb hovers over the touch screen while my left thumb can
handle the D-Pad for movement. Both index fingers comfortable reach the
shoulder buttons used for firing. Using this setup I've had a much better
experience. If you don't mind fingerprints on your screen, you can ditch
the thumb-tac entirely and just use your thumb, just make sure you don't have
any grit or long thumbnail that might scratch the screen.

I haven't played Hunters for long, but I can see that it follows the same
formula I've enjoyed in previous games. The new control scheme took a while
to get used to, but now I'm having fun with it. If you are a fan of the
Metroid series, and more specifically the Metroid Prime games, you might
like this one too.


Troy from TODC said...

Once again excellent post! I dont own a NDS but I did play the old Metroid games. I hope to hear more x-box reviews when you have the times.

Jade Mason