Video Game Review: New releases raise Wi-Fi bar

A year after Nintendo released their innovative DS handheld, they introduced the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. The Wi-Fi connection is Nintendo’s online multiplayer service that is free to all users.

Three games took advantage of the Wi-Fi capabilities, with “Mario Kart DS” being the most successful. “Animal Crossing: Wild World” was the third online enabled game, released in early December, but Nintendo has not issued a Wi-Fi game since.

That changed last week with the release of two highly anticipated games from Nintendo: “Metroid Prime Hunters” and “Tetris DS.”

Metroid Prime Hunters

Due to the Wi-Fi capabilities of “Metroid Prime Hunters,” most players will find the online multiplayer to be the biggest draw. “Hunters” features seven online modes, including standard death match, capture the flag and survival.

Nintendo has a Web page for each game on their Wi-Fi site. The pages are known as gaming hubs and each hub tracks player stats for their respective games. The “Metroid Prime Hunters” gaming hub tracks player stats and style. Unlike the “Mario Kart” hub, which only tracked wins and losses, “Hunters” goes more in depth. It tracks connection history to prevent players from dropping mid-game, which was a huge problem in “Mario Kart.”

In addition to connection history, the hub tracks many details like head-shots, kills and time played.

“Mario Kart” also lacked some fine tuning in the Wi-Fi department. The “Hunters” Wi-Fi experience is richer in content.

All aspects of local area multiplayer are present online, whereas “Mario Kart” left off many players’ favorite features. One of the best additions to the stable of features is the ability to voice-chat with players that have been added as friends.

Unfortunately, adding players as friends is more work than it should be.

Players are unable to add other gamers they play online as friends, forcing players to exchange their 12-digit friend codes by other means. This was one major problem in “Mario Kart” that was not addressed in “Hunters.”

Fans of single-player experiences will also enjoy “Hunters” for its adventure mode. This story-based journey continues main character Samus Aran’s bounty-hunting escapades.

The usual formula of searching for artifacts is used, but for the first time in a “Metroid” title, Samus must compete against other bounty hunters for said artifacts. Competing against other bounty hunters adds a sense of purpose to the mission, as well as intensifying the experience.

The adventure mode is not without its faults, however. Boss fights have always played an important role in driving the story, and “Hunters” disappoints in this area.

The first two boss fights are satisfying, but all subsequent bosses are the same as the first two bosses other than one altered characteristic, making those boss fights feel uneventful.

“Hunters” focuses on the action side of the game rather than adventuring, which has been customary in previous “Metroid” installments.
The action in “Hunters” is fast-paced and well controlled. Nintendo took full advantage of the DS touch screen, and the controls closely mimic those of a PC first-person shooter.

The stylus is used on the touch screen to aim much like the mouse is used on the PC. This control setup works better than using a game pad as all console shooters do.

Tetris DS

Tetris returns home to the newest Nintendo handheld in its most innovative form to date. “Tetris DS” sports six new game modes and online play.

The best mode is still the original. Tetris is still Tetris, but some changes were made to alter the game play. A hard drop was added, which allows players to press up on the d-pad to make a block drop instantaneously. Blocks that are not hard dropped can be moved and rotated for a short while after they land. A hold queue was also added that allows players to store the falling piece for later use. Items were also added to the standard mode, giving the mode a “Mario Kart” semblance.

The new modes include puzzle mode, which has the player solve puzzles by using predetermined blocks; mission mode, in which tasks are completed before time runs out; and catch, which involves flying a block into other falling pieces to form a solid square of blocks.

The final two modes, push and touch, stand out from the others because of their addictive and innovative game play.

Push mode is a reverse tug-of-war where the player clears lines to force the opponent into the goal. Touch mode uses the touch screen to move blocks to clear a stack of randomized pieces.

“Tetris DS” offers online play, but does not give players the same robust experience that “Metroid Prime Hunters” does. Push mode, standard two player without items and standard four player with items are the only modes for Wi-Fi play. “Tetris” also suffers from the same friend list problems as “Metroid.” The online experience is still enjoyable, but demonstrates the need for improvement in future Wi-Fi games.

One thing that may annoy some players is the lack of original “Tetris” music and backgrounds.

They are replaced by various Nintendo-centric themes. For instance, the standard mode is decorated with a “Super Mario Bros.” façade. This is great for Nintendo fans, but may irritate other players.

These two games further demonstrate Nintendo’s understanding of the importance of the online multiplayer experience.

“Hunters” specifically shows that Nintendo is stepping it up when it comes to online competition. Though each game has its flaws, “Metroid Prime Hunters” and “Tetris DS” are welcomed additions to the Nintendo Wi-Fi family and any DS collection.

“Metroid Prime Hunters” score: 9/10

“Tetris DS” score: 8.5/10

Eric Iberri can be reached at eiberri@ulv.edu.

Matthew Loriso can be reached at mloriso@ulv.edu.

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