Review by NDS_Master

"Slaying Samus the Slayer"

As the DS flew into the worldwide spotlight back in 2004, Nintendo knew that it needed something to demonstrate how worthwhile the system could be. It had to be something with not only eye-popping graphics, but also mind-boggling gameplay. Without hesitation, Nintendo determined that the utterly popular Metroid series would do the trick, so they jammed a tiny Metroid Prime Hunters demo cartridge into every single DS box. All who purchased the system received a nice piece of hardware and an equally nice demo game to go along with it.

Obviously, such a strategy was appealing to the gamers; within weeks of the system's release everyone was talking about how sweet the new Metroid game would be and how stupendous the DS's graphics were. Even those who normally did not give Samus a chance tried out the demo and took notice of the huge game series. Once the demo was out, the long wait began.

At first, most thought Metroid Prime Hunters would be released in a couple months. However, a couple months stretched into a few months, a few months stretched into numerous months, and numerous months stretched into well over a year. By that time, fanatics were becoming both anxious and excited. They knew that the game had dwelled in development because its creators were perfecting its knockout graphics, and they also knew that online multiplayer would make the game massively alluring.

Finally, Nintendo gave the release date. Players went wild, uniting together to discuss how awesome the game would be and await its launch. When the game stormed shelves, hundreds of thousand of gamers snatched their copies and headed off, ready to play. But after they inserted the game and experienced it firsthand, suddenly everything changed. The game had problems. The single player was short. Its graphics sometimes lagged. Its controls were not super easy to use. Its user friendly features were basically nonexistent. Having witnessed these issues, the world stood back, stunned.

Had Nintendo really done this? Had they actually hyped up a game that failed miserably? Although this may have been the initial reaction of some, once they reassessed the game they discovered that it might not be as bad as they had first thought. While it missed perfection, the extreme boundaries that Metroid Prime Hunters pushed were more than enough to offset any minor nuisances.

So, what happens to Samus this time around to warrant such uproar? Well, it turns out that an ancient race of creatures known as the Alimbics used to reside in an area known as the Alimbic Cluster. Everything was all fine and dandy, but then one day the Alimbics suddenly disappeared into nothingness.

Thousands of years later, though, a telepathic message was sent across the universe saying: “The key to Ultimate Power lies in the Alimbic Cluster.” Since the Alimbics were such an advanced race and ultimate power is not something to be taken lightly, the Galactic Federation quickly dispatched Samus Aran, their most brilliant bounty hunter, to head out and explore the validness of the mysterious message. However, six other bounty hunters also heard the message; desiring this power for themselves, they to ventured off to the cluster as well. With so many hunters working against each other for the same goal, tension is bound to happen -- maybe even tension in the form of missiles and power bombs.

Despite the potential adversaries, Samus was still ordered to venture to the various planets in the Alimbic Cluster to search for this esoteric power. Unlike in her previous adventures, though, Samus does not lose all of her abilities and weapons as soon as she first lands. Nor does she merely spend her time searching a single planet; the Ultimate Power is protected by eight special crystal objects known as Octoliths. Since the Octoliths are scattered amongst various planets in the system, Samus has to tactfully steal an Octolith and then retreat back to her ship so that she can go search for another one.

But, that is only a minor part of the game's single player adventure. Inside each and every level, which Samus traverses in first person mode, are numerous obstacles, enemies, and puzzles. While the gameplay focuses much more on being a first person shooter than a first person adventure, many of the adventure elements from previous Metroid titles remain intact. Dozens of puzzles abound in each mission, and players will have to use wit and intellect to overcome them.

Along with the puzzles, though, a mob of antagonizing creatures will also keep the journey interesting. Not only will Samus have to carefully blast her way through deadly weapons and creatures once used by the Alimbics for security purposes, but she will also have to duel Guardians, mysterious aliens dedicated to preventing any of the Octoliths from being stolen. And of course, the six bounty hunters are in the mix. Many times during the journey will Samus be ambushed by a rival, who will attempt to defeat her. Should she lose, the opposing bounty hunter will steal one of her precious Octoliths, forcing her take the place of the hunter -- a job that will often require her to track down the thieving bounty hunter as it travels to another planet.

Once Samus survives through the precarious challenges each mission presents, her final task will be to engage the boss head-to-head. Each boss has specific strengths and weaknesses, and Samus must identify those through careful observation to determine how to decimate the monstrosity. Bosses merit just as much thinking as they do skill, providing tidbits from two of the best gaming worlds. When the boss dies, however, the action still is not over. With the Octolith in her control, Samus must then escape from the planet quickly so that she does not get killed. It is a harrying predicament.

As Samus visits more planets and earns more Octoliths, she will also locate special new weapons. Some shoot supercooled plasma, other shoot magma, and still others shoot electricity. No matter what their specialty, every weapon will permit Samus to fight certain enemies better and even advance to new areas on planets. This is where much of the classic Metroid backtracking comes in: Samus will have to return to previous landing sites in order for her to use the new weapons to unlock new areas. These new areas contain new challenges, and beyond these challenges are additional bosses and Octoliths.

During the journey, the trusty scan visor will also allow Samus to scan items, enemies, and objects into her logbook. While there is nothing particularly important about scanning (though it often provides nifty tips), one requirement to completing the game one hundred percent is scanning every single object. In fact, most of the replay value exists because scanning will force steadfast players to play through the game additional times to earn one time scans that they may have missed.

The Rumble Pak is compatible with this game, but it is highly underutilized. While the developer's could have used it in dozens of areas to make the game feel more realistic, most of Rumble Pak's usage comes during movie scenes, where the pak often is more of a nuisance then a benefit. About the only time it is used in game is when players take damage; it works well but it is severely underutilized.

For the most part, Metroid Prime Hunters sports solid gameplay. However, several problems do exist. One of the biggest issues is the lack of variety in some of the levels; many of the enemies, bosses, and areas, are simply slightly modified and then once again presented later on in the game. There are only two different bosses protecting all eight of the Octoliths; players simply encounter rehashed versions as they progress into further regions. Also, the escape the follows each Octolith capture is exciting at first, but as the routine becomes more and more familiar the task becomes more and more mundane.

Beyond that, the single player struggles with terrible interface issues. None of them ruin the game, but they all are annoying aspects that detract from the overall value. For example, gamers can only check the logbook, adjust control settings, or save if they trek all the way back to their ship and enter it, yet they can only exit the game or glance at the map outside of the gunship. It is minor inconveniences like these that hinder the overall quality.

Then, there are the controls. The controls are indeed well created, but they do take some getting used to and a few control modes have disadvantages. Dual Mode, which allows gamers to move and aim using the D-Pad and buttons, works efficiently; however, it is difficult to precisely aim and switching weapons is difficult because it requires use of the touch screen. Stylus Mode is typically considered the easiest to use since it provides accurate aiming with the touch screen, though even it has downfalls when it comes to weapon switching and boosting.

Finally, the other problem with Hunters is that it is short in comparison with other Metroid games. A single run through should occupy about fifteen hours, and afterwards all additional times through will take no more than five hours. That is around twenty to twenty-five hours of gameplay when the scans are factored in, which is fairly decent. However, once the single player is done it is done; nothing else exists to keep the game fun to play.

Fortunately, the single player is the weakest portion of the game. Multiplayer is where it truly dominates. Using the convenience of online play, gamers from all across the world can hook up and play against each other. Each match lasts seven minutes long, so the battles are not too short but also not too time consuming.

When preparing to duel, all of the up-to-four players decide which of the seven bounty hunters they want to be. Every single one of the bounty hunters has an affinity weapon, which is basically one of the regular weapons that they gain special powers with. Noxus can use the Judicator to freeze adversaries in a block of ice, while Spire can set enemies on fire with the Magmaul. These are just a few examples; players must weigh carefully the abilities of each hunter when choosing whom to play as.

Speaking of abilities, there are still the hunters' alternate forms to consider. Similar to Samus's Morph Ball form, every hunter can change to an alternate form that is faster and small than the biped form. Often times these alternate forms are crucial to winning a match; so they add another layer to the multiplayer.

After everything is ready and the level is chosen, competitors will be able to battle it out with their opponents. The multiplayer action is very interactive and entertaining, so it will provide hours upon hours of fun. Also, if players encounter someone that they enjoyed murdering (or getting murdered by), they can add them to their Rival's list to play against them in Rivals mode. Rivals mode permits gamers the ability to customize their games, providing an even more fun ways to play. Download play and multi-card play are also available, but Wi-Fi is the true heart of Metroid Prime Hunters.

Although the gameplay is main strength of Hunters, the graphics and sound by no means suffer as a result of it. Nintendo spent much time working on the graphics in particular, and the finished product is impressive. The 3-d First Person Shooter contains dozens of detailed maps, each with impeccably rendered objects and lush scenery. None of it looks like it is lacking in polygon count, evidenced by the fact that the developers had to stretch the abilities of the DS through much hard work in order to make it all turn out.

Beside the maps, all of the characters and enemies are displayed with excellence. Each hunter appears realistic, as do the majority of the enemies. Despite the limitations of the Nintendo DS, Metroid Prime Hunters has graphics that rival those of even home console systems. Of course the graphics are not perfect -- sometimes the graphics will become choppy and occasionally the frame rate will slow -- but the bulk of the time the graphics will be absolutely stunning.

And when it comes to sound, Hunters dominate unlike any other. The hundreds of sound effects alone are more than enough to start any gamers salivating, as they beautifully exemplify all of the actions they accompany. Nothing makes the game feel more genuine than the quality sound effects, and they are not even the best part of the sound.

Where the sound truly takes over is in the music. Metroid Prime Hunters has the best music on the Nintendo DS. There are songs for action places, songs for calmer settings, songs for specific bounty hunters -- it is all there. Some of the livelier music will initiate high adrenaline levels, while some of the more relaxed melodies will leave players susceptible to states of utopian drowsiness. None of the songs are too repetitious or dull to listen to; every single one displays the perfection of the composers behind the sound.

When everything is combined together, Metroid Prime Hunters is one of the best games that gamers can get their hands on. It has awesome single player, explosive multiplayer, noteworthy graphics, and gratifying sound. However, as much as I would love to command everyone to pick up a copy, I simply cannot.

Everything must be combined together to display the excellent of Hunters, so if you lack Wi-Fi, then you are going to be missing a huge portion of this game. Sure, the single player is great and will offer around twenty hours of playing time, but if you do not have easy access to the online multiplayer then I am certain you could find a better game to spend your money on. But, if you can play online frequently, then Metroid Prime Hunters is probably the best DS game you can get.

Storyline: 9.5
Controls: 8.0
Gameplay: 9.6
Graphics: 9.8
Sound: 10.0
Replay Value: 7.0
Multiplayer: 9.7
Overall: 9.7

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 05/08/06

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