The handheld first person shooter market is decidedly thin. Unless you’re up for a game of [i]SOCOM[/i] with one analog ‘stick’ or are hankering for a 16 player game of [i]Faceball[/i], you’re going to come up short. Nintendo thinks they have found the answer to all of your FPS woes by implementing a touch-screen interface on its wildly popular handheld. The good news is that it absolutely works. The bad news is that it will take you about an hour to realize that.
Most of you who have a DS probably got a demo of this game with it, and the premise remains the same. There are several control options for both right handed people and southpaws. You can use the touch screen pen, the thumb strap, or a strangely intuitive setting that uses only the buttons. For the true experience, you definitely need to play this game with the thumb strap; the problem is that that peripheral no longer comes with your DS. Beat up your brother and steal his DS Phat thumb strap if you have to because it truly makes this game. Find a comfortable way of holding the system, possibly propped up on your leg, and within an hour, it feels as comfortable and accurate as a Keyboard and Mouse combination.
You are going to need that accuracy because this game is hard. The enemy hunters you meet in the Adventure mode are going to really test your skills. The single player mode is surprisingly robust, considering the focus on multiplayer. You travel to a variety of planets, battling enemies and other [i]Hunters[/i] in your search for wildly hard-to-find alien artifacts. The story is weak, but many of the weapons and abilities from the Gamecube releases find their way to the DS, including the Scan-Visor. There is a story to be found in this game, just like in Prime 1 and 2, if you want to look for it.
The graphics manage to push a lot of detail out of the Dual-Screened-Handheld-That-Could. The environments are large and varied. One minute you are in a space ship, the next on a fiery planet. The particle effects manage to make the game look a lot prettier, while never slowing it down. In fact, the game runs at a smooth frame rate all of the time. The Metroid series has always been known for very ambient but good music, and [i]Hunters[/i] delivers in this aspect as well. You’ll notice a lot of familiar themes from the other Prime games.
And then there was Multiplayer. The multiplayer options in this game are just too many to name. It features a slew of characters to choose from, which you must unlock in single player mode before you can use them. Every character has their own ‘morph-ball’ mode, which is distinct for each character. They provide the range of attacks that you would expect from any PC first person shooter. The sniper is a personal favorite. The modes run from standard death match to King of the Hill style. [i]Hunters[/i] supports Wifi-connection, and it is always pretty easy to get a game going. Beware, however, because the online mode is very competitive, and you would be better off to bust your chops in single player first anyway.
[i]Hunters[/i] isn’t just a DS version of [i]Metroid Prime[/i]. It manages to pack a single player campaign that, while it isn’t on the level with the Gamecube releases, is still a very strong product. The multiplayer is really where the meat of this game is, and if you have friends with DSes, there are enough options to keep you busy for months. It might feel a little awkward at first, but give the controls an hour and you will be happy with the result. I’ll see you online! Go easy on me…