Metroid Prime Hunters is a side story in the Metroid Prime Trilogy. Unlike the main entries in the prime series, Hunters was developed by Nintendo Software Technology, the same guys behind 1080 Avalanche and Mario vs Donkey Kong. While there were other first person shooters on the DS before Metroid Prime Hunters, none of them got it right and Nintendo really needed to put out a title to prove that the DS’s touch screen was perfect for the first person shooter genre. The demo Nintendo released called Metroid Prime Hunters First Hunt gave us our first look at the title but unfortunately the touch screen controls felt clunky and didn’t work well. Did NST successfully create a DS first person control scheme that other shooters model their self off now or was it ultimately a dud?
A unknown telepathic message has been broadcast with the promise of a way to gain ultimate power. Samus has been ordered by the Federation Galaxy to investigate and retrieve the power, but other bounty hunters have also received the message, creating a race to get the ultimate power. Much like other Metroid Prime titles, most of the actual plot is obtained by scanning objects in the game. While its a unique way to tell a story through logs, some might find it a bit tedious constantly seeking out object, scanning them and then reading them. Those who are looking for cut scenes that unfold the story will be disappointed to find that the first cut scene in the game is the only one with any sort of dialog.
Originally Nintendo pushed that Hunters would allow you to “touch where you want to shoot” Metroid Prime Hunters First Hunt proved that it didn’t work well and thankfully they decided to change their strategy. Instead Hunters uses the bottom screen like a mouse pad. For aiming and navigating this set up works really well, but it does still have its problems. Due to the hectic game play of a first person shooter accessing buttons outside of the ones your fingers are already on can be incredibly difficult. Therefore limiting you to essentially one button, the L Trigger (or R if your left handed). To remedy this problem they included buttons on the touch screen to access morph ball, missiles and other power ups , but these buttons can prove troublesome at times.
Throughout Samus’s adventure she will encounter six other bounty hunters, all of which have their own unique weapons which you can collect at some point during the main game. While the new weapons are definitely a welcome addition to the game, it adds an extra button on the bottom screen to change your weapon, but because there are multiple weapons it opens another menu where you drag your stylus to what weapon you want to use. This process can be a bit troublesome during combat when your trying to pay attention whats happening on the top screen while trying to select a weapon through a menu on the bottom screen, making it more difficult to adapt to situations in the game.
While adventure mode in Hunters is pretty standard for a Metroid game, theres a few major differences. Compared to other Metroid Prime titles it’s fairly linear, there are four planets each with about 2 main paths on each. At the end of each path there is a boss fight. Unfortunately every boss is essentially the same 2 bosses over and over again with a few minor changes, making the boss fights become tiresome quickly by applying the same strategy on almost every fight. The other major difference is that Hunters also has a bigger focus on combat. Conflict occurs between you and other bounty hunters on their search for the ultimate power. While this sounds like a pretty neat idea on paper, it hinders your progress a lot and becomes incredibly troublesome and annoying having to fight the bounty hunters repeatedly every time you visit a planet.
In the past Metroid Prime 2 took a shot at multi-player, it was very bare bones and many people completely dismissed it. Despite the back lash, Hunters takes a huge risk of making the multi-player function the main focus of the title. The results turn out surprisingly well. In multilayer all the bounty hunters are playable. While the game has a few balance issues, for the most part it seems that each character has their own strategies and all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Each have their own Morph ball attacks and their familiar weapons are more potent when being used by their original characters. Every character has a fighting chance.
Up to 4 players can play in multi-player via Wireless LAN or Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. The number of maps surprisingly amount to over twenty five maps with a variety of sizes. Despite being of three years of age now, online mode still has a surprising amount of people on it. You may not get 3 other players every game but rarely was there trouble finding at least one person when seeking random opponents. Metroid Prime Hunters also was the first DS title to feature a “Rival” system which allowed you to mark people in a random match and if he also marks you as a rival, you can meet up in the Friends/Rivals mode which allows for more customizable options. Online mode is no X-box Live, but it does well for being one of the first online games on a Nintendo console. Wireless LAN also features bots which you can fight against. While their AI is good, some times it feels like they pay a little too much attention to you. When their all fighting each other in a room and you walk in the door everyone seems to zero in on you at times.
When playing Local LAN or online with Friends/Rivals via friend codes you can choose between 7 different modes and customize the settings for each. Modes include the standard Death Match, Survival, and capture the flag but also include other modes such as prime hunter where everyone tries to kill a enhanced person while they try to stay alive the longest, Defender which is essentially king of the hill, Nodes where you take control of certain points on the map, and bounty where you collect a item and bring it to a certain point to score. Most of these modes can be played with teams for some two vs two action.
While the presentation initially looks great, in the end it almost seems kind of sloppy. Tons of graphics and sound effects are reused through out the game, so much so that it effects the experience in the case of the boss battles. Most attacks used by monsters carry the same sound effects and some times same graphics as many other attacks used by other weapons or monsters. Otherwise, the game looks pretty good, with plenty of detailed models. There’s some slow down in the frame rate but nothing that makes it unplayable. Music fits the title well but theres nothing that really sticks with you. Sound effects overall sound great, but as previously mentioned, the reuse of them is incredibly high. Menu interface is a bit bland and could use some work.
Hunter’s adventure mode lasts around six hours on the first play through. Adventure mode is also timed and keeps track of certain stats so players intrested on cutting their time down and getting 100%ing everything will definitely get to squeeze a few more hours out with that. Players who welcome the multi-player mode can get possibly countless hours out of it due to the fact that it is still one of the best multi-player first person shooter experience on the Nintendo DS. Mastering each bounty hunter can be difficult but it pays off once you get a strategy down with each character.
Overall Metroid Prime Hunter’s isn’t as good as its console counter parts, but it definitely holds up to the Metroid name, providing a good if not great hand held experience. It may be more action focused then previous prime titles, but it does it well. Metroid Fans who are waiting for the next entry in the series should definitely pick up Hunters, if only to hold them over till the next metroid title is released.. While paying full price might be a bit much for this aging title, those who are willing to do some searching can get a used copy for around 20$ on www.amazon.com.