Metroid Prime: Hunters DS
Reviewed October 2007 by Jonathan Gardner
Developer: Nintendo Software Technology
Release Date: March, 2006
ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Metroid Prime, the hit title for the GameCube, was lauded as one of the greatest games of all time, and its subsequent sequels were nothing to scoff at, either. Nintendo Software Technology was faced with a difficult challenge: to make the Metroid Prime experience portable. Did they succeed in this?
The answer is a resounding “no”.
However, they did succeed in creating something else. While Metroid Prime: Hunters for the Nintendo DS does not have the atmospheric single-player experience that the series is known for, it brings to the table one of the most intuitive control schemes and the most dynamic multiplayer mode on the DS.
The premise: you are the famed bounty hunter, Samus Aran. You are charged with traveling to the Alimbic Cluster in order to investigate the source of a mysterious telepathic message. However, you’re not alone; six rival bounty hunters have received the message as well, and each one is pining to discover just what the ultimate power is. You’ll have to face down them all in order to emerge victorious.
Soon after you land on the game’s opening level, you will find yourself hopelessly disoriented by the controls. They have quite a bit of a learning curve; it may take an hour or more to get used to them. Once you have, however, you will find them amazingly intuitive. Aiming is controlled with the touch screen. Press L to fire off a shot. Double-tap the touch screen to jump. Everything else, such as going into Samus’s famous Morph Ball or switching weapons, is handled by tapping a button on the touch screen. The only thing which could have been handled better is switching weapons; you must press the stylus to the screen, and then drag it over to your weapon of choice. While you’re doing this, you can’t aim, so you’re essentially handicapped for several seconds, which could be fatal in a fast-paced game such as this.
The game is divided up into four distinct levels: an abandoned spaceship, a fire world, an ice world, and another abandoned spaceship. You will visit each level twice, in order to obtain the eight keys that lead to the ultimate power and the final boss. Uncovering the game’s (admittedly uninspired) storyline is accomplished by using the scan visor, which gives you hints, uncovers data, and more, to scan data pack scattered across these worlds.
The game attempts to give you puzzles to solve; however, these are often extremely simple, and usually amount to nothing more than scanning something or going into your Morph Ball mode to go through a tunnel. Instead, the game places much more emphasis on shooting. More often than not, you’ll find yourself hammering on your DS’s L-button, attempting to kill a large swarm of enemies, or one of the bosses. While many games force you to use some level of strategy to kill them, the strategy in the single-player mode amounts to nothing more than strafing around your opponent and shooting at it as much as possible. What weapon you use doesn’t really matter, and more often than not you’ll find yourself using the default beam simply because it has unlimited ammo.
And speaking of the bosses…aside from the rival bounty hunters, there are a grand total of two, not counting the final boss. Yes, in all the eight times you visit the planets, you will only fight two bosses over and over again. And yes, they gain new attacks, and become more resilient, but you can’t help but feel cheated; they aren’t especially complex, and by the time you fight them for the third time, you begin to get tired of them. The rival bounty hunters function more as mini-bosses, or perhaps powerful normal enemies. Each of them has their own special abilities and weapons, making most of them somewhat enjoyable encounters – the first time around. After that first time, they become only minor nuisances, and you’ll find yourself rolling your eyes in annoyance when you keep encountering them.
Phew. Now, onto the good stuff.
Metroid Prime Hunters’s multiplayer mode is where it truly shines. You have a choice to play as any one of the seven hunters in the game, and you will have access to all of their abilities. Trace, for example, can turn invisible while standing still, which makes him an excellent sniper. After being annoyed by them in single-player mode, it’s nice to be able to turn the tables on other people. Of course, they can use these abilities against you, too, which means you’ll have to strategize if you want to defeat them. Each character has its own alternate form, which allows for powerful attacks and quick getaways. The maps are based on rooms in the game, and each and every one of them is its own experience. You’ll have to learn the ins and outs of all the maps to become a true master at them.
Not only is there the standard timed match, but also a plethora of other modes, such as capture the flag, king of the hill, and more. Unfortunately, you can only play these modes with a friend. Luckily, the game supports Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, so by entering someone’s friend code, you can play these modes even if you don’t personally know someone with the game. Even better – the game supports voice chat before and after matches, so you can smack talk all you like.
Each match that you win earns you points, and each match that you lose causes you to lose them. You start off with as a measly one-star bounty hunter – get 140 points, and you’ll become a two-star. Get more points to become a three-star, and so on until you become a five-star. This lends itself to the multiplayer’s one true flaw – people being extremely defensive of their ranks. In a random match, if someone finds themselves losing, they will almost always disconnect to protect their rank. Yes, they may lose some points by disconnecting, but it’s better than tarnishing their 100% win rate, right? As you become better, it may be almost impossible to go through a full match without someone disconnecting due to losing. You’re better off sticking with friend matches – at least if they disconnect, you can just take them off your friend list.
Despite this, the multiplayer mode is easily one of the most enjoyable on the DS, and you’ll probably find yourself playing it for a long time to come.