Review by UberSweet

"Comprehensive Metroid Prime: Hunters Review"

Packaged with every Nintendo DS on its launch was a demo of Metroid Prime: Hunters. With this demo, gamers experienced an FPS work intuitively on a handheld, giving them complete control. Showing us this, Nintendo hinted at the advantages the touch screen offered, making Metroid Prime: Hunters the most anticipated DS game, and with its release, it's a letdown; Hunters contains a great single-player adventure and an overly ambitious multiplayer experience. The DS's killer-app this is unfortunately not.

Taking the role of Metroid's prominent heroine, Samus Aran, the player will scour four distinct planets for the “ultimate power,” in the form of large crystals named octoliths. If you couldn't infer from the name of these crystals, you will have to find a total of eight of them in this adventure. As a surprising twist, Samus isn't the only bounty-hunter searching for the octoliths; you'll encounter six other diverse hunters each with their own alternate form and energy beam. While these encounters aren't challenging by any means, they are fun, just nothing memorable. If you die to one of them, a rare occurrence indeed, they'll steal one of your octoliths and you'll have to chase them down in order to get it back.

Surprisingly, the action the single-player isn't the game's source of enjoyment; exploration, as always, was the aspect that garnered me the most satisfaction. Scanning has been included into the game from the GameCube Metroid titles, as well as some platforming bits. This overshadows the action because the action is quite dull due to how easy the game is, the little variation of common enemies, and the lack of decent AI (enemies attack you aggressively). Sadly, I had more fun playing the short morph ball puzzles than destroying redundant enemy regenerators.

As mentioned previously, the game is quite easy. There were only two or three rare occasions where I died, but not when fighting a boss or a hunter; I fell into the endless pit of outer space each time. Even when fighting one of the two repeated boss fights (although they do become progressively harder), some attacks the bosses launch at you can be destroyed and health orbs often emerge. Due to this, it's a rather easy process to regain most, if not all, of your health. If the abundance of health wasn't there during boss fights, these sections would prove to be much more challenging, an aspect of the game that seems to be left out.

Each Metroid game in the series has always taken place on one massive planet, but hunters strays away from this paradigm; there are four distinct planets in Hunters. While this shouldn't cause too much concern to many Metroid fanatics, the linearity of Hunter might, and could easily turn Metroid fans completely off, but I actually enjoyed this setup even more then the massive worlds within the other 3D installments. The areas were too vast and easily overwhelmed me; Hunters did a nice job in making me feel much less stressed out.

Instead of using a single analogue control scheme, Hunters controls like a PC shooter, and possibly even better. You strafe with the directional pad and look around with the touch screen using either the stylus or the thumb-strap. I personally found using the stylus to be more effective, but both caused some serious hand cramps. Rather than having to repeatedly tap R to shoot, you simply hold it for a second or two to fire off rapid shots, which in turn reduce cramps. Because the face-buttons are virtually inaccessible, changing weapons and entering your morph ball are done via the touch screen. You can hit the buttons accidentally, but that doesn't happen too often.

With such a great single-player mode, it seemed as if an online multiplayer would be fantastic, but it unfortunately lacks depth and tuning. It does indeed increase the games lifespan (the single-player takes about 10 hours to beat) due to how addictive it is just because it's one of the best online handheld experiences yet; too bad that doesn't make it memorable. From the excessive amount of rapidly spawning health orbs to the exceedingly efficient alternate forms of each playable hunter, the online portion of Hunters does not live up to the hype.

All of the hunters you fight in the single-player mode of Hunters can be controlled in the multiplayer and they all have a very distinct play style and their unique HUD to differentiate them from each other. Each hunter's HUD all fit give them more of a personality, from the detail put into their arm cannon to the shape of their reticule. Along with this, they all have their own alternate form (each with different abilities) and an ‘Affinity Weapon.' As the name suggests, the Hunters get specific abilities when using a specific weapon, such as when Trace uses a sniper-rifle and stands still, the player becomes cloaked. Another example is that Samus' missiles (when charged) hone in on their targets. This let's the player decided what type of Hunter they want to be.

Where the online mode starts to fall short is when you finally start to play it. The first thing players might realize is how frequently health re-spawn, letting players too easily recover their health; it doesn't help that you can increase your initial health too. This results on long, long battles where as soon as one player is close to death, they activate their speedy alternate form to pick up the scattered health.

It's a shame that the alternate forms end up disassembling the online portion of the game because it's such a clever and unique concept. Alas, it creates the previously mentioned problem, as well as the basic fact that they're over-powered and not-too-easily countered. Usually when an opponent executes their alt. Form, you can do two things to prevent mass damage, A) Execute your alt. form and escape, or B) Attempt to evade their attacks and ‘pummel' him/her with anything you have. One hunter can usually counter alt. forms, but most of them can't which proves to be frustrating; not fun in other words. It pains me to see such a novel concept be executes poorly, and this is most evident when everyone in your game is in their alt. form, creating races for the health and other assorted power-ups.

As far as the matchmaking service goes, it's extremely limiting; you can only play deathmatch games, unlike when you play locally or when you've traded friend codes. Local play enables seven different gametypes with adjustable settings. While most of the modes are your standard affair, there is a ‘Prime Hunter' mode that is pretty fun. Think Juggernaut from Halo 2, but the prime hunter's health slowly decreases and the winner goes to the player who was the prime hunter for the most time. It's a shame none of these modes are playable in matchmaking. When playing online with a friend or rival, you can play different gametypes though, and there's even a remarkable voice chat functionality that can be used in the pre-game and post-game with friends; not rivals.

What does slightly mix up the frustrating online is the wide variety and amount of multiplayer stages available; there are a total of 30 varying between small to large sized. Even with this though, another problem arises, being that the large stages are excessively large, especially when you factor in only four people can be in a game. And I mean huge; this also gives snipers an easy advantage. Surprisingly, every stage usually benefits a certain hunter, which is poor concept.

After a match, kills, deaths, accuracy, etc. are displayed, and are recorded in your hunter profile. You're also ranked out of five stars, and what determines your ranking is your total number of points. For example, if you play a game with a max of four players, and you end up in second place, you'll receive two points for doing better than them, but you'll also lose one point because you did worse than the first placemen. Therefore, you'd obtain one point. A surprisingly great system somewhat belittled when you factor in disconnects. When you turn the power off of your DS mid-game, you won't lose points, but instead your ‘Connection History' percentage will decrease. In other words, disconnects do not affect your ranking which is truly unfortunate.

The effort is certainly worthy of praise, but the online portion ends up being a disappointment and surprisingly one of the best online handheld games. Those who aren't fortunate to have experienced any form of online might find this incredibly enjoyable, but as an avid online gamer who has played a dozen different FPS's online, this one falls flat.

From first time gamers laid their eyes on Metroid Prime for the GameCube, its graphical beauty amazed us all; Hunters does the same. Room after room, you'll recognize their distinct features and intricate design along with the nicely rendered Hunters and some outstanding textures. Best graphics on the DS; without a doubt in my mind. It's nice to see such a beautiful handheld game run at a constant 30 frames per second, but there is slowdown in both single-player and multiplayer when there are three hunters on screen. You'll also realize many repeated corridors that are used to load the next area. I'd much rather have intricate level designs with moderate load times than having bland locals with no load times.

Old, yet familiar, Metroid tunes have been remixed for Hunters, and they sound good, if a little goofy. While the recreations sound odd, the ambient tracks sound great and set the mood. Sound effects on the other hand sound a tad generic for the Metroid universe, but overall they fit the part. It's visual presentation is much more impressive than the audio for Hunters.

Metroid Prime: Hunters was easily one of the most anticipated DS for countless months, and now that it has arrived, it's a rather mixed package. On one side, you get a great single-player adventure that feels like Metroid, while the online portion is overly ambitious, attempting too many things that aren't implemented as well as they could've been. It's fun for sure, but it doesn't have that special something to take it to new extremes. Another example of how hype can negatively impact a game.

Fun-Factor: 8.3
A great single-campaign, with its highlights being exploration and morph ball puzzles. Four unique planets to explore, but two repeated boss fights make things repetitive, and it's also unfortunate that the game is too easy.

Presentation: 9.0
Easily the best graphics for the DS, containing distinct and diverse level designs and some outstanding textures. Remixed Metroid tunes sound a little goofy, but the ambient tracks set the mood nicely.

Addictiveness: 6.0
After the 10 hour single-player adventure, you could play an endless amount of time with the online modes, but it's truly unfortunate that it implements alternate forms, a novel idea, so poorly, causing more problems than creating something captivating.

Overall: 7.8
As an online gamer, I found Hunters online to be underwhelming and often frustrating; the larger, more hyped up portion of the game. What almost makes up for this is the great single-player mode. Gamers who have yet to experience an online game might find Hunters to be quite fantastic.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 04/24/06

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