Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Metroid Prime: Hunters (DS)

A lot of people are interested in aliens. Where they come from, what they look like and, seemingly, how to kill them. The Metroid Prime series doesn’t differentiate from this formula, but actually goes that little bit further and lets you kill the ones that aren’t even trying to take over the world, like the Zoomers. To me, they look a hell of a lot like hedgeghogs. If this was set in Cumbria, Animal Rights would have a field day. But it’s not, they’re Zoomers and they look just different enough from real hedgehogs not to worry any animal lovers.

This latest release is the first Metroid Prime game to make it to a handheld console, unless you count Metroid Prime Pinball, but that’s just themed pinball. As a rule, first person shooters don’t work on a handheld console, even games as basic as the original Doom seemed overcomplicated on the Game Boy Advance, but Metroid seems to have solved the problem.

The game is controlled in a similar fashion to the classic PC Mouse and Keyboard combination, instead using a D-pad and the touch screen. This takes very little getting used to, and allows fast access to a variety of weapons as well as improving your in-game accuracy. I wasn’t able to master the accuracy in my play through, but it’s there if you want to try it. Although the control system is the greatest feat of the game it’s also the weakness. I tried to play it on the bus and found it very difficult to play, and also after extended use of the game I got cramp. I may be the first person in the world to suffer from DS elbow. You can play the game using a more standard system, using the D-pad to move and the face keys to aim, but this really misses the point of what makes ‘Hunters’ so special.

The single player game revolves around Samus and some strikingly similar bounty hunters looking for the ‘Ultimate Power’ by visiting four planets, each holding two of the key like ‘Octoliths’. This means, as one may have noticed, that not only is there no Metroid Prime, there are actually no Metroid at all, with only Samus making it from the series to this release. Still, that’s no bad thing as they’ve managed to bring most of the best elements of the Gamecube classics to the DS.

The morph ball and scanning have been brilliantly ported across, and the touch screen approach to weapon selection actually feels a lot more natural than that on the Gamecube. Sadly a lot of the more exciting tools had to be removed (such as the grapple beam) but given the platform this is understandable. The greatest flaw though is found during the boss battles. In the game, there are four different end of area enemies, however for most of the game you’ll fight variants on the same two over and over again. These, incidentally, are a lot less interesting than the final boss fights as the forms they take are: A floating eye and a stick. It does damage the experience somewhat, as it lowers the excitement of reaching new areas of the game.

Multiplayer is handled very well, with Nintendo providing a stable server that seems more than capable of organising games. Unfortunately, I can’t testify too well on the balancing of the game, as due to the aforementioned accuracy issues, I was usually killed before I could work out what was happening. This suggests that perhaps the makers could create a better player matching system. Still, it provides a variety of modes, a huge amount of levels, wifi compatibility and download play.

Overall, Metroid Prime Hunters provides a fresh experience on the DS with lasting appeal. The single player campaign is quite short, so you’ll need either friends or a wireless connection to get the most out of the game. Even if you don’t, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with the game, even if it’s just to shoot Zoomers on the go.