oftentimes when i finish a game if i have the next in the series lying around i’ll try it out just to get a taster for how the series progresses. so even though i’d just finished playing metroid prime: echoes, i tried out the next in line, metroid prime: hunters for DS … and found myself totally hooked.
the first thing you notice is how great the game looks; it’s impossible not to be amazed at how much of the gamecube metroid prime games’ design they managed to fit onto the DS. the game includes movie cut-scenes that also look pretty good. the game does a pretty good job of making the most of the hardware and masking its limitations, except for a fair amount of enemy reuse (including the bosses, of which there are only two main ones that are repeated four times each, with variations) and too many places where rooms are overly symmetric or the room designs are reused too closely. the latter becomes apparent even from the first section of the game where there are three rooms in a row that are pretty much identical, making it too easy to get confused about which room you’re in and which door you’re heading towards.
i definitely enjoyed the single-player “adventure” mode, although as people have noted the game is fairly linear. it’s divided into nine sections, two on each of 4 worlds and a final stage, although after all the backtracking of MP2 i found the rigid pacing (and warp portals) to be for the most part refreshing. there’s a clear emphasis on action over exploration, and the game highlights one-on-one battles with 6 spankin’-new rival “hunters”. the rival bounty hunters are pretty well designed and their unique abilities make the multiplayer mode entertaining (although i couldn’t really get into it; just not into FPS games enough i guess). the one drawback to the “formula” is that each of the 8 main sections of the game require you to “escape the planet” in a race against the clock, and having to deal with forced timed battles is just annoying. luckily, automatic temporary save points are fairly numerous. all these differences give the game quite a different feel from the usual metroid game, which is why i found that i wanted to continue playing (and ultimately finish) the game even though i’d just finished MP2.
another thing that people complain about often is the control scheme. the stylus mode is really the only viable option since the buttons-only mode doesn’t give nearly enough fine control, but the problem with that mode is that your hand gets cramped easily. however, i did find that after i’d played for a while i got used to it and my hand didn’t feel cramped so much. i’m really curious about trying the game out with a “thumb stylus”, which you can read about here and also here. the latter link is from a post at IGN about the original DS which came with an early demo version of MP:H, which i’m also curious about trying out.
among my other, more-minor complaints, are that the morph ball mechanics are less forgiving than the other prime games and that there are rather too many insta-death situations, both of which cause some really tedious sections of the game. the story is yet another rehash of the first prime story, and i beat the game without realizing that there’s something you’re supposed to do to get the actual ending which was also quite annoying.
at first as i played hunters i kept feeling like i really understood how mario fans must have felt when they first got to play super mario land: that having a portable mario game made up for any shortcomings. but in the end overall i found this game to be quite enjoyable, so much so that i’d actually give it the edge over MP2, which for me just dragged on. as i mentioned, i didn’t spend that much time with the multiplayer modes which were enjoyable enough against the computer but felt fairly repetitive, but i’ll come back to them at some point. meanwhile, i’m seriously itching to try out metroid prime 3. let’s see if i get sucked into that one as well …
huntin’ for bounty-ful links:
– the official site has a lot of video clips and wallpapers for each of the hunters
– if anyone’s interested, nintendo power’s coverage of the game included a preview of the multiplayer mode (march 2006, v. 201), a cover feature and a poster of the hunters (april 2006, v. 202), a review (may 2006, v. 203), and a guide to beating the final boss (june 2006, v. 204).
– great game site at metroid.retropixel.net
– the entry at strategywiki.org includes a lot of info on multiplayer strategy
– entry at metroid.wikia.com, which includes screenshots of the brawl trophies for all the hunters
– video of the ending
– a good FAQ at gamefaqs
– guide at IGN
– entry at wikipedia.org
– entry at metacritic.com