Considering the amount of video games that Mario has starred in, it should really come as no surprise that Nintendo has recently decided to remove Samus from her traditional environment and place her in a variety of games that at times contradict the very idea of a Metroid game. However, it does hit a somewhat raw nerve; after 8 years on hiatus, the success of Metroid Prime has turned Samus Aran into Nintendo’s Master Chief. And while more Samus is never a negative, one has to wonder as to what genius thought up Metroid Prime: Pinball. Logically it makes sense: Samus can turn into a ball and pinball games use a ball. But it does seem like a rather feeble attempt to cash in on a rejuvenated franchise. And while Metroid Prime: Hunters never feels like an attempt to cash in, it does feel like Samus and the Metroid universe have been used to promote a first-person shooter that shares little in common with the previous Metroid games.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad game. Far from it: it’s an excellent first-person shooter that offers an enjoyable experience to anyone that can overcome the hand cramp that is inevitable from long sessions of playing the DS. (Although this problem is apparently rectified with the DS Lite.) It offers an engaging, albeit linear, single-player experience, and the multi-player mode offers a ridiculous amount of options that almost feel unnatural on a console, let alone a handheld. It’s also Nintendo’s first attempt at an online first-person shooter, and the end result is something that doesn’t dethrone Halo 2, obviously, but surely ranks in at a close second. For starters, the in-built microphone allows for voice communication in the lobbies. There is also a wealth of options, combined with an effective friends and rivals scheme, 4-player WiFi from a single card, and the option to search for local players means that the game is easy to recommend as an essential purchase for DS owners.
However, it’s just not Metroid. It might seem like an odd statement, but Metroid Prime: Hunters only shares superficial elements with its brethren. It contains Samus Aran and her spaceship, it contains a few snippets of classic Metroid music, and it retains the visor-clad, first-person perspective, but after that, it’s an entirely new beast; rather than offering an environment to explore, Hunters offers a series of planets to search. It’s not completely linear – it has a branch structure – but the planets offer a strict path to traverse and, unfortunately, none of them seem to feel like they belong in the Metroid universe. Nor does the game require the player to hunt out augmentations in order to access new parts of the world; instead, players are required to collect a series of relics, while engaging in a series of firefights with rival bounty hunters. It’s an excellent experience in its own right, but those purchasing the title expecting the traditional attributes of a Metroid game will be sorely disappointed. Nintendo might have claimed, quite rightly, that Metroid Prime was a first-person adventure, but make no mistake, Metroid Prime: Hunters is a first-person shooter – there’s little adventure to be found at all.
The bottom line, then, is that if you’re looking for an excellent portable shooter that you can also take online, look no further than Metroid Prime: Hunters. There have been many attempts at making a portable first-person shooter, but Metroid Prime: Hunters is the first one to get it right. And with the exception of Halo 2, it’s also the best online experience you will find outside of a PC. However, it’s not really a Metroid game. Samus feels like she’s been placed in a game that should have had its own, original license in order to shift units. It’s not a negative, per se, but Metroid fans should be fully aware of it before diving into the game. However, if you like first-person shooters and you own a DS, you would be foolish not to pick this up. In fact, if you don’t own a DS, what better excuse to pick up a new, shiny DS Lite than Metroid Prime: Hunters? This is by far one of the best first-person shooters to have graced consoles. Purchase immediately.