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ups: one of the best looking games on the DS, solid gameplay, intense multiplayer
downs: controls take some getting used to, recycled bosses

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Metroid Prime: Hunters Review
game: Metroid Prime: Hunters
four star
posted by: George Holomshek
publisher: Nintendo
developer: NST
ESRB rating: T (Teen)
date posted: 09:34 AM Thu Mar 30th, 2006
last revision: 09:33 AM Thu Mar 30th, 2006

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Click to read.Ever since Nintendo packed in the tease of a demo known as Metroid Prime: Hunters - First Hunt with the Nintendo DS at launch, stylus wielders have been left begging for more. But the wait has finally come to an end and gamers now get a chance to take control of Samus once again in her latest adventure, Metroid Prime: Hunters.

Taking place between the events of the original Metroid Prime and its sequel Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Hunters finds bounty hunter Samus Aran sent on a mission by the Galactic Federation to find the meaning behind a strange telepathic message: \"The secret to ultimate power lies in the Alimbic Cluster.\" However, Samus soon discovers that she is not the only one searching for this ultimate power. Six other bounty hunters have also received the message and are none too happy to find somebody already screwing up their plans.

Metroid Prime: Hunters follows the same gameplay style as the two Prime games that came before it, except optimized to take advantage of the DS\'s features. Not only does this mean dual-screen gaming and WiFi features, but also one of the most precise control methods to ever grace a handheld shooter. While it can initially be a little awkward and clunky, I found that using the stylus to look and aim while using the buttons on the left side of the DS to move and shoot provided one of the most intense handheld experiences I have ever put my hands on. Though players can also choose from other control techniques such as using the thumbstrap that came with the DS, or forgoing precision control altogether and using the face buttons to aim and move. And southpaws need not worry, left handed control schemes are available as well.

As far as eye-candy is concerned, this is easily one of the prettiest DS titles to date. The environments look great and there is a healthy amount of detail throughout. This goes double when cutscenes kick in. I was blown away by how good these little clips look, and they often use different camera angles on the top and bottom screens for an added and effective cinematic effect. I did notice, however, that in wide open areas things can get a little grainy. Sometimes, mainly in multiplayer, you will find yourself returning fire at a strange moving dot off in the distance. And you can tell that the NST team was really pushing the limits of the DS because every once in a while the framerate will dip if the game throws a little too much action at you. But these times are few and far between and are relatively moot when you take into account just how good the game looks.

The NST team also did a good job of bringing the great music and ambient sounds from Hunters\'s GameCube brothers to the little DS. Along with the classic Metroid chimes and tunes, there is a healthy dose of other techy music and sound effects.

When I first got Hunters I was afraid that the single-player mode might have taken a backseat to multiplayer during production. But to my surprise I found that both modes are very strong and full-featured, especially for a handheld title. Many called the original Metroid Primes on the GameCube \"first-person adventure\" games instead of first-person shooters. This is because those games contain a relatively low amount of shooting, and use of the lock-on feature made fights more about strategy and thinking on your toes instead of accuracy with the crosshairs. But Hunters breaks this mold and is an FPS in the truest sense. And while lock-on may be missing, all the frantic Metroid action we have come to expect from the Prime series is present in spades.

But while the action of the series made the transition from console to handheld solidly, level design and layout did not. Levels and areas are now far more linear and straightforward than the other Primes. This makes Hunters feel less about adventuring and more about doing. This isn\'t to say that it makes the game any less fun, but it does lose the \"natural\" feel of other Metroid games. Another blemish in the single-player mode is that bosses are recycled with only minor changes to their behavior or weaponry. Also, once you beat a boss, a timer starts and you must get back to your ship before time runs out. Why does this timer start? I have no idea. There is no big explosion or climax after you successfully escape and worst of all you end up coming back to the same area later. It makes you wonder what the whole point of escaping was in the first place. The timer does provide an extra challenge, but the problem is that it happens at the end of every boss fight, eliminating any surprise or anticipation as soon as you open the boss door.

Of course, one of the main reasons people are talking about this game is the online multiplayer, and Metroid Prime: Hunters does not disappoint. Finding a game is as simple as selecting Nintendo WiFi from the multiplayer menu and tapping \"find game\". Making a game with friends is equally as easy. An added feature that works surprisingly well is the ability to voice chat with friends in the pre and post-game lobby. Simply holding the X-button and speaking into the DS\'s microphone will let you instantly speak to the others in the lobby, essentially functioning like a walkie-talkie. While you cannot chat during combat, this isn\'t really a flaw depending on who you ask. Voice chat during battles can get pretty annoying.

Also, while the much loathed Friend Code system is still present in Hunters, there is what some would call a half-fix. Whenever you finish an online game and see how you stacked up, you can select \"Add Rival\" next to an opponent\'s name. If they accept, you can then see each other online and play games together. However, unlike friends, you cannot voice or text chat with them in the lobby. But this is a small price for the huge step up from what was originally given with Mario Kart DS online.

Metroid Prime: Hunters is the game to have on the Nintendo DS right now. Metroid fans, especially those of the Prime series, will love it and FPS fans are going to dig the awesome online play. It looks good, sounds good, and though the controls can take some getting used to, once you get them down you will find that Metroid Prime: Hunters is easily one of the best handheld-shooter experiences around.

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