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Perhaps one of the most well-known and widely anticipated titles for the Nintendo DS, players first got a glimpse of Metroid Prime: Hunters from a demo that came included with the original system, and they’ve been waiting for it ever since. It was something of a long and bumpy road to get here, with delays, questions and concerns popping up around every corner, but at long last a portable version of the FPS Metroid Prime series has finally arrived.

Set sometime between the first and second Metroid Prime games on GameCube, Hunters takes place in the distant Tetra Galaxy, where a powerful race known as the Alimbics once ruled. Though they wielded an advanced technology unlike any the universe had ever seen, the Alimbics were also a peaceful and just race and reigned over the Alimbic Cluster as such...until they one day disappeared. The only evidence that they ever existed were strange artifacts they left behind, but now, thousands of years after they vanished, a mysterious message echoes telepathically from the region: "the secret to ultimate power lies in the Alimbic Cluster."

Metroid Prime Hunters

The call attracts the attention of some of the most powerful forces in the Galaxy. Some want it for power, others for the challenge and still others, such as Samus Aran, go as ambassadors for their people to ensure that this "ultimate power" does not fall into the wrong hands. However, Samus Aran is far from the only bounty hunter headed for the Tetra Galaxy and, as she travels between the four areas (two planets and two space stations) that make up the Alimbic Cluster, she’ll face-off against six others (hence the title) of equal motivation, cunning and, of course, firepower.

While the Galactic Federation has sent Samus Aran, some of her foes have different reasons for being there. Some have a righteous cause, like Noxus, who is determined to keep the power from the unworthy, or Spire, who believes the secrets of the Alimbics can help him solve the mystery of his own missing race. But others, such as Trace and Kanden, seek to prove themselves through the blood of others. Whatever their motivation, it is clear that the race, or rather the hunt, is now on!

I don’t want to reveal too much more about the story – and, really, what I’ve told you can all be found in the instruction manual – so I’ll just say that, while the story itself isn’t lacking much beyond what you’d find in the console chapters (and take that as you will), I did find the single player mode a little wanting. Of course, that’s just what many people feared when it was officially announced that Metroid Prime: Hunters would indeed be online, and that’s the problem with a game like this: you can’t please everyone.

In this new age of gaming, there are some people who think every game needs online play or multiplayer of some sort, even if the game doesn’t at all warrant it! But then there are also those who are afraid a strong multiplayer mode will cause the rest of the game to suffer and, sadly enough, those fears weren’t unjustified when it comes to Hunters.

While the multiplayer aspect, both local and through Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, is quite robust and offers a decent amount of variation (more on that in a moment), the single player is just too short, made even more so by the repetitive and incredibly linear structure of your missions. For example, just about every minute of this game will fall somewhere within this 10-part basic outline:

And, on top of that, the missions are incredibly easy – even if the steps listed above don’t sound too far off the mark for any other game, I can’t imagine any level taking more than 15 minutes or so for any player of average skill. If you’re not scanning something, you’re shooting something and whatever you’re shooting usually isn’t that hard to beat. Apart from that, the damage you may take in a battle is usually just the cost of how long it takes to switch your visor to scan and actually identify the creature (if you even take the time to do so). Other than that, a battle can usually be won without much difficulty simply by strafing the level and shooting round after round at weak spots that are, more often than not, ludicrously exposed!

If there’s any longevity to be had in the single player, it is only for those who appreciate completing a game to its fullest, which means scanning just about every little thing you come across. However, I think the game could have offered so much more if it given players a chance to play through the story mode with each of the seven bounty hunters, starting in different areas and on different planets and actually having a chance to take on Samus. The experience isn’t a total loss though, and if you’re that eager to take-on Ms. Aran, there’s always the multiplayer!

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Posted: 2006-03-31 07:28:57 PST