Developer – Nintendo
Publisher - NST
Rumble Pak Compatible
Wireless DS Single-Card Download Play
Wireless DS Multi-Card Play
Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service compatible
Anyone who bought the DS at launch was treated to a taste of Nintendo's upcoming Metroid Prime Hunters as the demo was included with all launch consoles. This early version provided just a glimpse of what was to come. However as time passed the game was delayed a couple of times as Nintendo wanted to make sure that they would deliver on the promise of quality that they are so well known for. Well the wait is finally over and Metroid Prime Hunters has finally been released with the added feature of online play via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service.
Even after the demo showed that the DS could do a good job of 3D graphics I really had my doubts that this machine would be able to pull off a 3D first person shooter (FPS) to the level that gamers are really used too. After spending time with the game I have to say that any doubts that I had have been 100% erased as this game looks as good, if not better, then many would expect. For those wondering what NST has done in terms of viewpoint, you are treated to the same view that has been made so famous from the Gamecube versions that preceded the DS version as your view is that as seen through Samus' visor. Since the demo it seems as though NST definitely took the graphics up a notch or too. I would have to say that they are not Gamecube quality, which would be expected, however they are about equal too or better then any FPS games that were ever released on the N64. Overall the graphics engine is very solid and there are very little issues to be found. When looking at the detail found it is evident that this is not your average DS game as everything just seems to be over the top, from the colors, the textures to the special effects (e.g. explosions or weapons). There is little to no clipping found and the framerate remains pretty much rock-solid. The only issue that I noticed is that when too many special effects are put on the screen at one time the frame rate seems to drop a bit. However this is far and few between and really does not take away from the looks or play of this game. To watch this game in motion really makes one appreciate not only the time that went into the development but also what can be done on the hardware of the DS.
As with the graphic I fully wondered if the audio in this game would be able to carry over from what so many people have experienced playing any Metroid Prime game on the Gamecube. Well I have to say that the DS's capabilities are pretty well used here too and Metroid Prime Hunters does the series justice. The music carries over very well and the sound effects from the big console versions are very evident in this portable version. I was impressed by the sounds of the various weapons and resulting explosions. Being that this game takes place in close quarters through sections that included long hallways there was even echoes that was clearly noticeable. Overall I would have to say that I was very impressed with what sound game out of the DS's stereo speakers. For those wanting that a more immersive experience I highly recommend putting on a pair of headphones for further sound goodness.
Nintendo has noted Metroid Prime Hunters falls between the original Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime: Echoes when considering the timeline. So those who have played the Gamecube games even have more reason to play this as it makes an effort to follow the storyline of Samus' first two adventures on the Cube.
Many people who have played any FPS games on a portable console have always complained about the lack of dual analog controls as all the portable machines out in the market have limited control options. However Nintendo has a leg up on the competition with the DS as it can be utilized in many special ways, and Metroid Prime Hunters shows how. The touch screen really does mirror that of a mouse on a PC as you utilize the touch screen and this reflects on how your on-screen character moves. There are two ways to use the touch screen, one uses the stylus and the other works with the thumbstrap (the plastic nub on the end of the wriststrap synched around the end of your thumb). You can opt to use the digital pad for control, but once you experience the fluidity and smoothness of the touch screen you will wonder how you managed any FPS gaming on a portable console without it. I have to say though that control of Samus does take some time and some work to get used too but once you have gained a relatively good level of comfort with the touchscreen controls this game really becomes that much more enjoyable.
The single player game is actually quite enjoyable. As Nintendo wanted this to be a great multiplayer game I was a bit worried that the single player experience would be a little light, but it is not. In Samus' latest adventure she must travel to four locations in an effort to locate and retrieve eight octoliths that will assist her in deciphering a psychic message that is being broadcast across the sky. As this is a Metroid adventure your will hunt through various alien ruins, jump up on platforms and activate switches all in an effort to gain access to further levels in the game. Of course what would be a Metroid Prime game be without the use of two of Samus' main features, the scanning feature that is included in her Heads Up Display (HUD) and the ability to morph into a ball. The scanning feature is paramount in figuring out how to further not only various levels but the story as well. The morph ball feature is also important as it allows for entry into what seems to be inaccessible areas found in various levels of the game.
Skill level wise the game does have a learning curve and the difficulty gets harder as you get further into the game. This is a good thing as you won't get a chance to finish the single player in one sitting, unless of course that sitting period is quite long. Each level has an end boss, but as I got further into the game I discovered that these bosses are pretty much identical with little variation between them. Each boss requires the same control technique to beat them and you then have to race to your ship during a countdown to escape. This is somewhat disappointing as each boss encounter is the same and each result is the same as you run to your ship and start the next level. This slightly ruined the experience in that you know what to expect at the end of each level. It is a minor annoyance though and it does not take that much away from the game.
Metroid Prime Hunters is an FPS therefore a multiplayer component is almost a requirement for such. Nintendo made sure that the multiplayer modes were plenty and they run without issue. Multiplayer can be played locally or over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection for battle against people from all over the globe. Players who wish to game locally can play with either one copy of the game, via the Download Option, or with multiple copies. For those desiring to play over the Wi-Fi Connection service play is as easy as hitting the internet and playing with friends or strangers (rivals). Remember though you must have a wireless router or Nintendo Wi-Fi connector. This is the first game to support voice chat using the DS's microphone, but don't get too excited as you are only able to do such in the pre-game lobby with other players who are registered as friends. It is my honest opinion that the voice chat was a late edition. As time passes I really hope that one can do so during gameplay. I think this might be the case as Nintendo continues to further improve on the features of their Wi-Fi service. Overall lag online was minimal and if any was experienced it had more to do with the gamers connections then the servers themselves.
In terms of the styles of gameplay there are 7 styles of multiplayer mayhem to enjoy:
1. Battle – Compete to see how many other Hunters you can defeat.
2. Survival – Battle against other players and last one standing wins.
3. Bounty – Pick up the Octolith and take it to a specified location to earn points.
4. Defender – Attempt to secure a designated area and earn time while in that area.
5. Prime Hunter – First player to make a kill become the "Prime Hunter" and the remaining players must defeat the
hunter to take that title.
6. Capture – Attack enemy territory and steal their Octoliths and bring them back to your own territory.
7. Nodes – Fight over the nodes placed in the stage and when you stand on an uncontested node for 10 seconds you
Many of these game modes are variants of well other known FPS modes but with a Metroid theme. There is also a lot of stat tracking too and I am sure those wishing to boast about their kills will be happy to know they will have proof of their mad skills. Each game mode is able to handle a maximum of four players only. I sure did wish that there was the ability to play with more people at once. I do not know why this is the case, maybe it was due to the limitations of the hardware or online capabilities, but hopefully as this type of genre is developed again on the DS the ability to implement a larger amount of people in game will be available. That being said though, even with only four people the gameplay did get pretty crazy and it is definitely only a sign of things to come.
Going into this title I had some doubts whether or not this game would really pull out all the stops. However this doubter has been proved wrong. Metroid Prime Hunters wears the Metroid badge with dignity, pride and expertise. With a great single player component and an even better multiplayer one, this game's overall score is only slightly hurt by the fact that the end of each level in single player is repetitive and the controls take some getting used too. Regardless, anyone who is anyone and owns a DS will have to get this game as it clearly is a sign of what this machine can do.