Rewind Review - Metroid Prime: Hunters
Today is Day 9 of my Metroid Rewind Review, and once again we visit the Nintendo DS for the second Metroid title on the handheld console. This time, however, we are not faced with a spin-off title. Instead we have Metroid Prime: Hunters, a game that seeks to stand in as Metroid Prime 1.5, a game that takes place between the events of Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.
Metroid Prime: Hunters marks the second time fans have been divided on what exactly they want from a Metroid title. Interestingly enough, this seems to be a common trend in the later games in the series as the fans of the series become torn between their love of the 2D genre that they are accustomed to, as well as the influx of newer players more accustomed to the action-FPS genre the series has become. The question then is: Is Metroid Prime: Hunters a good Metroid game? And if not, is it a good game at all?
As we rewind the clock to analyze Metroid Prime: Hunters we will explore the game as both a member of the Metroid series, but also as a member of the standalone Prime series. As with all Rewind Reviews, Metroid Prime: Hunters will undergo a review process through the eyes of a modern critic. No nostalgia glasses, no excuses, no rationalizing hardware limitations, and no sparing myself from angry fans and readers. Nothing will excuse the game from anything that we - as modern gamers - would expect to see in the genre today. With that said, let's get ready to throw down with rival hunters and start collecting Octolith Crystals in Metroid Prime: Hunters on the Nintendo DS.
After the events of Metroid Prime, a strange telepathic message is sent to six bounty hunters across the universe. The message - although translated in multiple languages and slang - always boils down to "The secret to ultimate power resides in the Alimbic Cluster." While Samus does not recieve this message directly, she does recieve a mission from the Galactic Federation as follows:
Discover the truth about this mysterious message, to protect against a potential threat, and keep the Alimbics' ultimate power from falling into the wrong hands.
After traveling outside of Galactic Federation space, Samus enters the Tetra Galaxy where the extinct race of the Alimbics were once said to rule, entering a space station known as the Celestial Archives. It is here that Samus - after defeating her first hunter "Kanden" - finds her first Octolith, a key to this supposed "Ultimate Power". Samus immediately receives a warning from her gunship that she must escape the archives as a self-destruct sequence has activated, and so after a narrow escape she begins searching the neighbouring planets to find out more about this "Ultimate Power".
Sylux is one of six hunters searching for the "Ultimate Power" in Prime: Hunters
Not all bounty hunters searching for the Ultimate Power are doing so for malevolent purposes. Noxus simply searches for the Ultimate Power to aid him in a battle against wrong-doers and crime throughout the galaxy, meanwhile Spire wants to retrieve the power so that he can discover the fate or location of his long-lost civilization. The other four hunters, however, have malevolent plans for the Ultimate Power. Their desires include: the conquest-fueled Trace, the vengeance seeking Space Pirate Weavel, the power-mad super soldier Kanden, and the Galactic Federation's prime enemy Sylux.
Oddly enough, despite being called Metroid Prime: Hunters, the game is the only one in the series to not feature Metroid Prime itself. In Prime we fought the titular creature at the end of the game, in Prime 2 it showed itself in the form of Dark Samus, and in Prime 3, Dark Samus returns again to ruin our day. Why the game was titled Prime: Hunters is a mystery, unless of course Prime has simply become synonymous with "first-person Metroid" at this point.
While I normally praise the Prime series for its strong plot, Prime: Hunters lacks the care that was taken in building the worlds seen in previous titles. The Scan Visor - despite being present - is completely worthless due to its poorly integrated design, as well as the entry logs feeling as though the developers were not invested in the game's world. This is ultimately a failing resulting from the game's focus on multiplayer, but it is a failing nonetheless as the game strongly lacks the immersion that players get from other Metroid Prime titles.
Despite trying to cram the gameplay of Metroid Prime into a tiny Nintendo DS cart sounding like an impossibility, Metroid Prime: Hunters actually pulls it off quite well. The game never feels like you are out of control, and the removal of a multitude of Prime gameplay features such as alternate beams, as well as other Metroid power ups does not take away from the actual gameplay experience.
The story mode - while feeling a bit empty in terms of immersive storyline - feels like a solid action game. Every planet has unique enemies with certain attack patterns, and the pacing never slows down for a second. The game's lack of save stations - replaced by checkpoints laid out across levels - make the game feel much more like an action-FPS than a Metroid game. Exploration is slightly trimmed off as well, with only a few select missile expansions or energy tanks present in the game. While these features would make for a terrible Metroid title, it instead shows that the Prime series has learned to exploit its strengths as an action-FPS title.
Multiplayer is also fun and engaging. To put it simply, Metroid Prime: Hunters feels like a free-for-all deathmatch version of Team Fortress 2 or other class-based shooters. While each character has the standard arm-cannon or other similar weapon, they all have their own special abilities as well. This introduces many new gameplay styles to the Metroid Prime genre, while simultaneously creating an enjoyable multiplayer experience. While Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection has been down for a while at this point, if you can find a handful of friends who have this game it is a worthwhile experience.
As a Metroid title, Prime: Hunters is a painful game to go through. Each single player mission is designed with a formulaic "kill all enemies, go to the next room" design that gets extremely repetitive after the first two planets. Each boss - while not sharing weaknesses - are rather bland due to the game having no upgrades that change up the gameplay. The bosses also have to be defeated twice during a run through of the game in order to get all the keys required to reach the final boss, and after each boss is defeated players must go through a "countdown" scene each and every time. As such, while the single player is functional, it is by no means enjoyable if one decides to play it all in one go as it gets extremely repetitive.
Once again, the Scan Visor also suffers due to the game's medium - the DS cartridge. While it is impressive that the developers were able to fit so much into the limited storage space, the single player should have been the sole element of the game or simply removed altogether before being replaced by a tutorial mode.
Considering how poor Metroid Prime: Pinball looked on the same console, I am surprised at how good Prime: Hunters actually looks. While it is by no means the most beautiful title in the series, the game actually holds up pretty well thanks to the art style of the Prime games.
The relatively flat structures and sci-fi constructs render fairly well considering the console's 3D capabilities, the only real issue being the heavy aliasing as a result of hardware limitations. Had the game been released on a console instead, I doubt anyone would notice given a stronger graphics processor. The dual screens are also intelligibly used to contain most of the secondary information the HUD typically displays. This creates more space on the first-person screen, while also ensuring that players get a fairly sized radar/map.
The game's music is surprisingly better than Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Each planet's theme actually sounds characteristic of the area instead of the constant droning of emptiness the game's predecessor suffered from. In fact, the music reminded me a bit of early first-person shooters based on the design. The soundtrack is by no means the most memorable in the Metroid series, however, I would certainly say that it ranks among the more tolerable.
Metroid Prime: Hunters actually surprised me. I had expected the game to rely heavily on the touch screen - as many DS titles did - but instead the game plays perfectly well if you decide to switch to the dual-button configuration. By using the touch screen for morph ball or other necessary weapon changes, Hunters actually manages to use the touch screen to cover for any lack of buttons that the game needs to function. While it is certainly not a strong Metroid title, especially in terms of single player, it is the beginnings of something special for the Metroid Prime series as it ventures closer towards being an action game instead of an exploration game.
As such, I give the game a 7/10 on the grounds that the game lacks Wi-Fi capabilities now. Had Nintendo not pulled the service, I would give the game an 8/10 for being an overall enjoyable action-game experience and solid FPS multiplayer game. I would recommend this game for anyone looking for a faster paced Metroid FPS that does not rely on players constantly backtracking for upgrades.
Anyone who has played a DS has probably tried this game at one point or another, so let's get your opinions on this game! Do you think that this was the right direction for Metroid Prime to go? Do you think that the next "DS" Metroid title will be as enjoyable in multiplayer as Metroid Prime: Hunters was? Voice your opinions in the comments section below!
Also, be sure to check back on this article or the GameSkinny front page for future reviews as we make our way from the original 1986 Metroid on the NES to the 2010 release of Metroid: Other M. See you next mission!
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