Metroid Prime Hunters DS Review

It has taken a long time for me to become engrossed in the Metroid series. From earlier dabbling in Super Metroid, I wasn’t very attracted to the series. A little more recently, Metroid Prime failed to captivate me also after borrowing a copy from a friend. However, now I can see the error of my ways. Metroid Prime Hunters has caused me to rethink my opinion of the series. Right from the very beginning with that pack in of the First Hunt demo, this game has looked beautiful on the Nintendo DS, especially considering the limitations of the DS hardware. The final product looks even better still, and, thankfully, because of this title (and the Wii’s Metroid Prime 3: Corruption) I have gone back and purchased Prime 1 + 2 to ensure I can experience the complete Prime experience.

The game is how a FPS should be on the DS. The controls are very tight, and, if you are able to cope with the relatively long learning curve of the DS, it is well worth the effort. And let’s face it, the Prime series is a first person shooter series. I don’t know where along the line that this has been confused, however, a first person shooter is just that, a shooting game in the first person perspective. I know Prime is different in that there is adventure and puzzle solving, however attempts by any media website to segregate the series from the FPS genre are in vein.

Now with that out of the way, it’s time to focus on Hunters. The control system in this title is as good as, if not, better than any mouse and keyboard setup. The touch screen is used as a type of control panel, with various options for you to direct Samus, or any other character, for that matter. The touch screen is also used for the aiming device on the gameplay screen, with users moving the stylus (or thumb strap) to direct the characters’ aim. My personal preference is to use the thumb strap as it enables your free fingers to support the system with two hands, preventing the inevitable hand cramp that may result from only using one hand for support and the other to direct the stylus. If you plan on trading in an old DS for a Lite, keep the thumb strap, it’s what this game was designed for.

The opposing hand, that is, not the one occupying the touch screen, is used to move the character forwards and backwards, as well as shoot. NST has enabled a control swap which allows players to select dexterity they deem appropriate. This means that either up or down on the control pad is backwards or forwards as is X or B. This is a welcome to any game, especially with the relatively symmetrical setup of the DS unit’s control buttons.

Although there may be a slightly longer learning curve compared to most games, it isn’t really due to the difficulty of the control. The control is quite intuitive. The length is more associated with the practice required to build on your precision with the setup. Once this is achieved, the game is an exceptional joy to play, and much satisfaction is acquired.

And what a game is to be had. A single player experience lasting some 12 or more hours and a multiplayer game that will never get boring. Forget Mario Kart DS for WiFi. Hunters is the online title for DS. But we’ll get to that in a minute. The single player experience takes Samus on an adventure that apparently occurs sometime between Metroid Prime and Prime 2. Using the various scanning techniques, weapons of mass destruction and so forth that are fundamental in the console variations, players must search planetary location for ‘octolyths’ which eventually open a kind of gateway for Samus to traverse.

Often, you will find yourself half way through a level without being able to continue. This usually happens when you need to back track to some places that you had previously visited as new locations will now be accessible. This isn’t as tiring as it sounds, and often can prove quite challenging. The AI, for one thing, is far from stupid, and usually, if the reward is great, the battles are superiorly tough. Mini bosses occur throughout the adventure as other bounty hunters. There are six in all, Sylux, Weavel, Noxus, Trace, Spire and Kanden. Once you have defeated them in the adventure mode, they appear for use in multiplayer mode. Each has their own unique abilities and ‘alternate’ forms, just as Samus does with the morph ball.

Samus can use weapons picked up along the way, with different elemental powers. These different elements obviously have different effects, for example, some doors may only be opened with a particular weapon or some enemies are more susceptible to particular weapons over others. At the end of each level, a boss battle awaits, and these too are no step in the park. You have to keep a consistent balance between the damage you take and the damage you deal. Bosses each have a particular weakness that you need to unearth and often, combos of actions need to take place before you can actually begin to damage each boss.

However, you may not always feel like an adventure, but rather, exterminating your fellow beings. Hunters presents both an extensive LAN multiplayer experience along with a diverse online mode through Nintendo’s Wi Fi Connection. Specific multiplayer modes included are Battle, Survival, Bounty, Defender, Prime Hunter, Capture and Nodes. Battle is the standard timed deathmatch. Survival requires you to outlast your opponents in a stock deathmatch. Bounty requires you to collect an octolyth and take it to a specific point. Prime Hunter requires you to occupy special powers and hold them the longest. Capture is classic capture the flag style setup while Nodes is similar to Prime Hunter except you take possession of ‘node rings’. It will take some practice before you can take your skills online, as is the case with the majority of online FPS. However, the DS can handle the action seamlessly, and, if you know the people you are fighting against, i.e. you have their friend codes, you can each speak to one another over VoIP while in the foyer.

The game’s presentation of the adventuring is absolutely stunning. The graphics are gorgeous and the title more closely resembles the GCN builds than any Nintendo 64 game. Furthermore, when played on the DS Lite, the colours and backgrounds jump out at you, really presenting a classic Metroid atmosphere. Many enemies appear on screen at times and the DS continues to chug away, with only a few occasions were there is some degree of slowdown due to too many on screen actions.

Textures are also far better than many N64 games, and on the small screens, perhaps look a lot better than they would on a TV. Transparency effects along with metallic surfaces are all recrated quite well and extensively through the adventure. Samus appears quite detailed, as does many of the enemies you come up against. When in space, there are stars floating around or while walking over a lava pit, steam billows upward.

Each level is quite elegant in its design, really producing a space station type feeling or extra terrestrial landscape situation. Each level has puzzle solving elements as well as the aforementioned sub boss and boss battles. Things in the level design often appear futuristic as neon colours are used extensively to compliment the super computer structures or specific machines that are present throughout.

Sound ties the lot together, really producing the mood and atmospheres to go with each level, or, multiplayer mode. Sounds are uniquely alien like in nature and are presented in the DS’ virtual surround sound. This sounds absolutely excellent and draws the gamer into the gaming experience. The trade mark Metroid theme is included, along with other well know themes, such as when Samus collects an item. Each weapon has its unique blast and transformation actually sounds futuristic in its composition. Little things like footsteps aren’t forgotten either, suited specifically to the surface you are walking on.

Overall, if you have never played a Metroid Prime game or, a Metroid game at all, Hunters is the perfect candidate to ease you into the series. It has one of the most extensive adventures currently on the DS. The game really pushes the system to its boundaries, presents a very well thought out single player mode and an absolutely stunning Wi Fi experience. Graphically superior to anything on the DS yet, while immersing the player with a high quality and well rounded score. Metroid Prime Hunters really brings the series to the handheld world in 3D flawlessly. An excellent compliment to the Game Boy Advance titles.

9.5 out of 10

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