Review by Dr-Poque

"The Beginning of the FPS Genre on the DS?"

All the way back in November 2004, gamers who purchased a Nintendo DS found the system bundled with a free demo of Metroid Prime Hunters, called Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt. The demo was short, but gave gamers a chance to try out the controls and level design of the first true Metroid game on the Nintendo DS. Nearly a year and a half later, we finally get our hands on the full version of the game, and it was well worth the wait!

Metroid Prime Hunters takes place between the original Metroid Prime on the Gamecube and its successor, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Though it plays somewhat like its predecessors, it is actually in a totally different genre. Like the two GameCube titles, MPH has large environments to explore while finding new weapons and defeating enemies. But one thing entirely different from the Gamecube versions is that Hunters takes place on a bunch of different planets and you must travel to each one using your gunship, while the other two took place in one enormous virtual world. For this reason, Metroid Prime Hunters is considered a true FPS (first person shooter) instead of a "first person adventure" like the GameCube games.

The premise of Metroid Prime Hunters is that the “ultimate power” is hidden away in a number of planets across the universe. Bounty hunters across the galaxy are searching for certain pieces of the “power” called octoliths, which are individually located on each planet. As you travel to different planets as Samus Aran, you are basically trying to secure the “power” from use by other hunters. You must secure it or, as a last resort, destroy it. As you travel to each planet, you come across different bounty hunters that you must defeat in order to keep them from stealing your octolith. The inclusion of various new bounty hunters and their role in the game makes Metroid Prime Hunters very different from past Metroid games.

The touch screen controls over the First Hunt demo got mixed reactions, but I was always a fan of them, so I was very glad to see that they are still used in the full version of the game. There are basically two control methods: stylus mode and dual mode. In stylus mode, you use the touch screen to look around while the other hand holds the system and uses the D-pad or A/B/X/Y buttons (depending on whether you are right- or left-handed). It does take a while to adjust to these odd controls, but once you get the hang of them they work extremely well, allowing for a level of precision that is all but impossible on any home console. The touch-screen control method is actually very reminiscent of PC shooters, where you use the mouse to control your character. If you don't want to use the touch screen, however, Nintendo's still got you covered. The dual mode control method is set up so that you use the D-pad to move your hunter and the A/B/X/Y buttons to look around and turn. With both control schemes, the L and R shoulder buttons are used for shooting and performing other actions.

Now comes the fun part of this review: multiplayer! Let me just start off by saying that Metroid Prime Hunters is probably the best multiplayer game I have played since the original Halo on Xbox. Online play was probably the most anticipated part of MPH, so that's what I'll focus on. Metroid Prime Hunters gives you, by far, more options than any of the other online DS games. When you first decide to play online, you have to choose between a "Worldwide" match against random opponents or you must create a game exclusively for your friends and rivals. If you select the worldwide option, you'll then get to choose to search for opponents across the globe or within your region (similar to Mario Kart DS). Additionally, you can search for opponents of your rank (Bounty Hunter, Super Hunter, etc.) for more even competition, or you can search for all available players regardless of their ability. Once you choose your character, the level selection works similarly to Mario Kart DS as well, as each player chooses an arena and one of them is chosen from random. Each match is seven minutes long, or up to seven kills. After a worldwide game, you can choose to become rivals with a specific player from the match, and if they agree, you can play them as a rival later on. That's all great, but the full online experience of Metroid Prime Hunters can only be enjoyed with friends. After exchanging friend codes and logging online, there are just as many online options as there are during a local wireless game. The game's creator chooses the time limit, type of game, number of deaths/kills, and the arena. Before and after matches, you can use the new VoIP (voice over IP) feature to chat with your friends over the internet. This is the most advanced online feature implemented in a DS game thus far, but it works spectacularly well. Although it certainly would've been cooler to be able to chat during each match, it's still a lot of fun to talk before and afterwards.

Metroid Prime Hunters really expands the entire Metroid series. As I said before, this is the first game in the franchise that can really be considered a FPS. It also has a total of 7 different bounty hunters to choose from in multiplayer, each with exclusive alternative forms (Morph Ball, Stinglava, etc.). This is the second game in the franchise to support multiplayer and it's the first Metroid game to go online, which worked out perfectly. A variety of guns have been added to the game also. The most interesting gun of them all is probably the red gun which has a scope on it to use for headshots, which immediately kills a foe in multiplayer. Overall the game is great fun and is recommended for basically any gamer, particularly FPS addicts.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/19/06

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