This copy of the game was bought by the editor.
With Federation Force being the only new Metroid game incoming this year, several of the old games have been re-released in it’s wake. Most recently, Metroid Prime: Hunters for the Nintendo DS was re-released on June 2nd for the NA eShop, months after it was placed on the JP eShop in September 2015. But is it worthy of your purchase?
There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this, you’re likely already aware of what Hunters is; after all, it was covered recently on the site. But for the uninitiated, a simple plot summary is in order.
Hunters takes place shortly after the original Metroid Prime, when Samus is sent on a mission to investigate a mysterious signal leading towards the Alimbic Cluster that mentions an ‘ultimate power’. Unfortunately, six other bounty hunters also received the signal and want this power as well. To acquire the ‘ultimate power’, eight McGuffins known as Octoliths must be collected to open the location where this power is stored. To the dismay of the characters, however, the aforementioned transmission was a ploy from a creature called Gorea that wanted to be freed. After unintentionally waking it, Samus destroys the creature and it’s prison, ending Metroid Prime: Hunters.
Four worlds to travel to, eight Octoliths to claim, six weapons to find and six hunters to repeatedly fight. Compared to the scavenger hunts in the first two Prime titles, Hunters streamlines it down considerably and makes it easier to complete. Scanning remains a cornerstone of the gameplay, though due to the lack of multiplayer, the reward for 100% scan completion(an Octolith emblem for multiplayer cards) is not worth it.
As a Virtual Console release, there is a better than decent chance that most who buy Hunters will have already played the game at some point in the past. As such, the rest of this review will focus mainly on the changes experienced by virtue of being a Virtual Console port of a Nintendo DS title.
On a basic level, the port is completely intact. Everything that was on the DS original is here, with the exception of wireless multiplayer, both local and online(which is also the case with fellow VC title Mario Kart DS), a main draw of Hunters in it’s heyday. Multiplayer with AI controlled bots remains, however, so there’s still a remnant of the feature left, and at the highest difficulty, the bots can provide a challenge. Lack of wireless multiplayer is still a big downside, though.
A big question for most, however, would be how the original control scheme fares on a new console. The stylus-based control scheme was a widely debated part of Hunters, in that it either worked or was too cumbersome, whereas the other control scheme, using the face buttons to move the camera, was deemed largely inferior. On the GamePad, stylus control remains the optimal way to play Hunters. In fact, the GamePad arguably improves the stylus control due to the size of the screen(even though the screens are emulated to the length of their DS originals). And as a recommendation, the optimal screen setup for Hunters is the ‘Upper Screen on TV’ option. Given that looking at the touchscreen is unnecessary a fair amount of the time(exceptions being looking at the map legend, switching between visors/alt-formes and switching weapons), attention can be focused on the more important upper screen. This is on top of the other screen options being awkward to work with and shrinking the screens down to a hard to play level. This screen option also brings the game slightly closer to a console Prime title, for an added bonus.
From an aesthetic viewpoint, it remains clear that Hunters was a game that pushed the Nintendo DS to it’s limits, and the graphics as a whole still hold up today, with the possible exception of the FMVs, which do look slightly worse if you upscale the screen. Likewise, the sound design remains unchanged. Hunters tries it’s best to create an atmosphere akin to Prime with the more limited hardware, and it can succeed at times with the musical themes to each world. Due to the superior hardware the game is being emulated on, a bonus is added in shorter loading times, a small but definitely noticeable attribute.
Overall, one can still play Hunters as if it were the DS original, even with the jump to a big screen, which arguably benefits the game. For those bummed at the lack of a new Prime title on the Wii U, you can now own the entire Prime quartet on the same console between Metroid Prime Trilogy and Hunters. The asking price is $9.99 USD or your regional equivalent, and while it’s a step above the price of every other DS title available on the Virtual Console, you’re still getting a 4-6 hour long adventure for what it’s worth; it may be a turn-off for some fans, but most DS titles on the eShop are short as is. Nevertheless, Hunters is worth experiencing if you plan on getting Federation Force or are simply curious about this oft forgotten title.
Editor’s personal note: The re-release was certainly well timed, happening a full 10 days before my birthday(the same date this review is being published), which is something I’m quite happy with. Thanks for the early present, Nintendo.