Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt Demo DS Review

After a slew of negative press, "Metroid Prime" surprised a lot of people. Taking a classic, 2-D side scrolling adventure game and plopping it into a first-person environment was a radical change, but it worked. Now on the DS, "Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt" is the basic game that appeared on the Gamecube, just in demo form and with a wholly original control scheme.

There are two different ways to play this included-with-purchase demo. Training offers up three separate environments to play in, the first call "Regulator." Here, each room must be cleared of the offending aliens in order to advance. "Survivor" is pretty much self-explanatory as the enemies just keep on coming until you don't. Finally, "Morph Ball" is a race against a time with Samus' infamous rolling ball. There is also a deathmatch multi-player mode for when a friend is available.

A source of controversy is the rather unique control scheme that uses the touch screen as a sort of analog stick. While the D-Pad moves Samus around, either the stylus or thumb pad makes her look and turn. It's no different than that of a dual-analog stick console shooter, it's just a little harder to hold than a more ergonomic controller.

For the most part, this scheme works well. Looking is not an issue and aiming is arguably easier than a standard analog stick. Turning takes a bit more work, but it can still be handled smoothly with practice. Not fun is jumping, which requires a double tap of the screen to get our hero in the air. You'll either jump when you don't want to, or not when you need to. Morphing into a ball and switching weapons is as easy as tapping an icon on the bottom screen, which also houses a map of the area.

"Hunters" starts off with an incredible full-motion video intro that uses both screens as its canvas. This system has already proven it can handle video with no problems at all and this demo just solidifies that. On the small screen, it can be hard to see any discernable difference between this and the Gamecube version. The resolution is obviously a bit lower and there is some pixelization, but the overall package is remarkable.

Headphones are a must for this experience. The DS has a rather unique surround sound capability that "Hunters" uses to perfection. It's not easy to get immersed in such a small screen, but this little demo does just that, as long as you use headphones. The music sounds a heavily compressed during the menu, but once into the game, things pick up and it's hard to tell the difference between this and a CD soundtrack. The same goes for the sound effects.

This is a perfect base for developing a full game on and the team has plenty of time to do just that. Though it's not a full game, this is still a great pack-in to show off what this new portable can do. If you can't get the control scheme, don't give up. Have a little patience. You'll thank yourself for it later.

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