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Metroid Prime: Hunters
By Michael Waskiewicz
Fort Wayne Reader
Let me first say that I believe that Metroid Prime for the Gamecube is the greatest FPS ever released for a console (Sorry Halo fans!). So you'd think that I'd walk in to a Metroid review favorably biased. In actuality, my expectations are higher. That's why I was pleasantly surprised Metroid Prime's sequel, Metroid Prime: Echoes, was actually good. And that's why I'm blown away that Metroid Prime: Hunters for the Nintendo DS is a surprisingly faithful re-creation of those console experiences and great in its own right.
Although I thought the story was weak (I usually do), this is not some re-hash of earlier adventures. You’re searching an area of space known as the Alimbic Cluster for the "ultimate power." This power comes in the form of Alimic artifacts known as Octoliths. You view the game from behind the mask and visit exotic space locales, while killing oversized roach inhabitants and other creature-fare. In this Metroid adventure, however, there are bounty hunters added to the game, also in search of the "ultimate power." A good portion of the game is spent fighting these bounty hunters, and if you lose, they can steal your alimbic clusters.
The Hunters experience is exactly what you’re used to if you played the Gamecube Metroids. In fact, it is so much like the console version that you'll spend hours gawking at the highly impressive visuals. There are not a lot of different levels, but each level is huge and obviously made with the intention on repurposing for multiplayer modes. The environments are impressively detailed and full of particle effects. It seems our little DS' were capable of more than we thought as the game runs at a silky-smooth 60 fps with no noticeable slowdowns.
There is one thing to this new Metroid that I could spend the entire article gushing about — the controls. They’re absolutely amazing. Although I love shooters, no console shooter has ever been able to recreate the PC shooter experience. Controlling "look" and "movement" with joysticks is counter-intuitive, whereas the PC keyboard/mouse method seems to make perfect sense. In Hunters, you control your movement with the D-pad and you use the touch-screen for looking around the environments and aiming. This works amazingly well. So well, in fact, that I believe that Nintendo has developed the most intuitive way to handle a non-PC first person shooter. Looking around and aiming is fluid and responsive, once you get used to the controls.
Multiplayer comes in the form of local wireless play and Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection. Local play requires only one card, although it's infinitely better if everyone has a card. When all opponents have a card you can play as any character and in any of the 27 battle arenas. As usual, Nintendo's free Wi-Fi service is easy to connect to, fully-featured and brimming with challenging opponents. This alone is reason to buy the title. I found the experience to be smooth and effortless. And, if you dueling a buddy on your friends list, you can talk with them through the systems built-in microphone (Unfortunately, you can only do this pre-game, not during matches.).
This is the point where I should say something like "Samus is back and better than ever." I'll spare you. But I would like you to notice that I spent a great deal of this article comparing a handheld FPS to console FPSs, not handheld versions. It would be unfair to compare this game to a Gameboy shooter, because those are categorically bad. It would also be unfair to compare to a PSP shooter like S.O.C.O.M. That game, impressive as it may have been, is not even in the same league.
Metroid Prime: Hunters is a category defining FPS for any handheld platform. If you like shooters, then this is the handheld game you've been waiting for since you first played Doom. Its controls are spot on, its level design is amazing, and it's by far the most engaging FPS to ever fit in your hands. My hope for the future is that developers are paying attention and will learn to take advantage of the DS' unique capabilities that have now proven to be groundbreaking in every way.