Review by Gilgamesh1317

"Underwhelming, really."

Metroid Prime: Hunters is the first Metroid game on the Nintendo DS. It is technically the third Metroid Prime game, but is seen as a spinoff more than anything given how entirely unrelated the game is to the other Metroid Prime games (and indeed the other Metroid games in general).

Let me get one thing straight before I start this review: I love Metroid. I started with Super Metroid on the SNES as a young child and since then I've fallen deeply in love with the franchise. It was one of the few franchises with consistently great releases over a number of years and consoles. Being based on exploration and platforming rather than shooting (yes, even the first-person shooter Metroid Prime series is like this), it was incredibly fun to poke around rooms to see what secrets lay in the very walls themselves, discovering weird and wonderful monsters whilst finding a variety of upgrades and weapons for the main character that would let you explore even more rooms and kill stuff a lot quicker. Metroid is one of my favourite franchises, make no mistake.

So you can probably imagine how excited I was upon hearing that a new Metroid game was coming to the DS back in 2005. I had just gotten 100% on Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (an amazing game, by the by) a few weeks earlier. I awaited the game with bated breath. Cue 2006 and I got the game at the first possible chance. It was a first-person shooter, like the great GameCube Metroid Prime games, so my expectations were high. And did the game deliver? Alas, it didn't, for a number of reasons.

First, the positive stuff. One of the game's greater strengths is its graphics; they're wonderful. This is 3D on the DS done right. The game still looks better than most 3D DS games released over the past year, which should say something about it. Granted, being on the DS it all looks a bit fuzzy or pixellated at times, but it's still great graphics for the handheld. Stuff looks wonderful; I really can't fault the game in this area. It amazes me how good it still looks compared to recent 3D offerings, and it just goes to show that Nintendo knows its own hardware the best. The cutscenes in the game are outright amazing, showing off stuff that has only been matched by Square Enix's Final Fantasy IV DS last year. Some of the cutscenes in the game give PSP games a run for their money, it's amazing.

The game's greatest strength (and possibly the only reason you'd really buy it) is the multiplayer. Local or online, the multiplayer is awesome. You have a variety of characters with their own strengths and weaknesses and special alternate form. In an almost Mega Man-esque move, all the characters (excluding Samus) are weak to the main weapon of another Hunter. It's a cool touch. There are a few game modes with the usual Deathmatch/Capture the Flag/Team Match modes being available, and there's a good amount of maps there, too. You need to unlock most of the characters in the single player, though. The multiplayer is amazing; you really need to try it at least once.

Metroid Prime: Hunters shows how to make first-person shooters work on the Nintendo DS. Camera is controlled with the stylus; you move with the D-Pad (or the ABXY buttons if you're left-handed) and shoot with the L button. This works, and the only real problem I had with it was that holding the DS in the necessary way to play it made my hands cramp like crazy. I didn't have this problem when replaying the game on the DSi for this review, so I guess that was just the size of the DS Phat. The game plays wonderfully; I never had a problem with the controls.

The Hunters, the main antagonists of the single player mode, are playable in multiplayer. They are, in order of discovery: Kanden (big worm guy, uses electro-gun thing), Spire (big rock guy, uses magma gun), Weevil (Armoured green guy, uses nuclear goo-gun), Noxus (blue alien guy, uses an ice thing), Trace (red alien guy, uses a badass sniper rifle) and Sylux (Armoured blue guy, uses electric gun thing). They all have unique weapons and unique alternate forms. Kanden uses a worm with homing tail bombs and Trace turns into a three-legged spider thing that does ungodly amounts of damage with a leaping attack, for example. They're all fairly good in some way, and how good you do in multiplayer depends on how good you are with the character you choose. However, as you may have already guessed, there's a set of people that are obsessed with winning that will only use certain characters and play on certain maps. For Metroid Prime Hunters, that certain character is Trace. Word of advice: if you know you're up against a Trace player, you'd do well to stay in your alternate form for most of the fight to avoid the instant-kill sniper headshots. Trace has the sniper rifle, a fast and powerful alternate form, and he has the special ability of turning invisible when standing still as his alternate form or zooming in with his sniper rifle. You might end up not liking online multiplayer if you run into too many Trace players.

Now, onto the game's flaws. There's a big one that made the game a disappointment for me: the single player mode. The Metroid series has seen fair enough stories and the Metroid Prime games had pretty awesome stories, given how little dialogue is passed around. Most of the story is found in the scannable computers and ancient messages left behind by a long-dead race or something. The scannable stuff builds up an interesting, eerie backstory to the game and lets you know what happened before you arrived. I loved reading all the logs and I tried to scan everything I could. I love a good story in a game and the Metroid Prime series has a set of great stories. In Metroid Prime: Hunters, none of that's there. It's all fairly generic stuff. There's nothing really special about the long-dead alien race in this game, even though the premise is really interesting. It's just a random side-story, this game.

It also doesn't help that the game is fairly linear. There aren't many places to poke around in; you'll probably end up reaching the boss pretty quickly if you know what you're doing. The bosses are a massive disappointment. Literally, it's the same two bosses fought over and over again, with slightly different tactics for the last fight. They're a big orb that shoots globs of stuff and a big tower that shoots lasers from several eyes on it. There's no real reason for them to be there, and it just feels really lazy fighting the same two bosses about four times throughout the course of the game. The real boss fights are the Hunter fights, and they aren't even that hard; the AI isn't that good, not even on the Hard difficulty, especially if you regularly fight online and are good at that. The game isn't very hard, and is actually pretty short. The story goes that a psychic message starts getting sent out from a lone space station in a deserted, dead galaxy. The message says there's a special treasure or something hidden in that long dead galaxy, so the Galactic Federation sends Samus out to secure this treasure/power for them. Of course, other bounty hunters want this treasure/power for their own reasons, so you have to fight them off as you grab the Octoliths, magical crystals that are the keys to finding the treasure. The story's pretty bland, and the scan logs really don't provide you with a sense of wonder that the old ones from the console Prime games did.

Metroid Prime: Hunters is a disappointing game. It's an okay game, I guess, but ultimately I didn't like it. I can only really recommend it for the multiplayer, as the single player is really disappointing. It has lovely graphics, awesome multiplayer and the controls work, but the single player mode (the main reason you'd play a Metroid game) is too big of a letdown for me to properly recommend it.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 10/06/09

Game Release: Metroid Prime: Hunters (EU, 05/05/06)

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