Metroid Prime Hunters
|Metroid Prime Hunters|
North American box art
|Developer(s)||Nintendo Software Technology|
Wing S. Cho
Metroid Prime Hunters is a first-person shooter and adventure game for the Nintendo DS handheld video game console. It was developed by American video game developers Nintendo Software Technology, and was released by Nintendo in North America in March 2006, in Europe and Australia in May 2006, and in Japan in June 2006. When the Nintendo DS launched in 2004, the console included an unrated early demo of Metroid Prime Hunters, titled Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt, in most regions.
At the beginning of the game, the governing body of the galaxy, the Galactic Federation, asks bounty hunter Samus Aran to investigate a mysterious message that originated from the Alimbic solar system. Traveling throughout the system, Samus discovers that long ago, a creature named Gorea destroyed most of the peaceful civilization that once lived there, the Alimbics. Before it could do more harm, the Alimbics sealed Gorea away. Samus learns that Gorea sent the transmission to the Galactic Federation, and that she must defeat the creature before it escapes its intergalactic prison.
Reviews were generally favorable towards the game, which received an aggregated score of 85 out of 100 from Metacritic and an 84 percent from GameRankings. Praise focused on its gameplay and graphics, while criticism targeted its control scheme. Metroid Prime Hunters received several honors, including an Editors' Choice Award from IGN, which also named the game the Best DS Action Game of 2006. Nintendo Power gave it awards for Best Graphics, Best Shooter/Action Game, and Best Wi-Fi Functionality. Over 410,000 copies of the game were sold in North America in its first month of release, and it was the fourth best-selling game during its debut month in Japan.
Like the previous titles in the Prime series, Metroid Prime Hunters is generally classified as a first-person adventure to highlight the focus on navigation and discovery. However, the game differs from its predecessors with the removal of assisted aiming, more action-oriented gameplay, and the inclusion of an online multiplayer mode. The player controls Samus Aran, who is equipped with a Power Suit that allows her to access her gunship from anywhere. She can scan almost any object in the game; the gunship will return relevant information retrieved from its database. An Arm Cannon is attached to the Power Suit, which she uses to attack enemies. To enter small tunnels, Samus can roll into a Morph Ball, an alternative form of the Power Suit that decreases her size substantially. In this form, she is given an unlimited supply of bombs but is only allowed to use three at a time. She can use the bombs to defend herself and destroy small objects.
In Metroid Prime Hunters, the Nintendo DS's top screen shows Samus's HUD as seen from her visor, which displays the amount of remaining ammunition for the currently selected weapon along with her health; in multiplayer games, the number of kills and time remaining in the round are also shown. The bottom touchscreen displays the radar. When using the default control scheme, movement is controlled using the D-pad, and aiming is controlled by dragging the stylus along the touchscreen.
Metroid Prime Hunters features a multiplayer mode that supports up to four players and includes voice chat capability. In it, the player is able to control Samus or one of six other bounty hunters featured in the single-player mode. Each bounty hunter has a unique alternative form, such as Samus's Morph Ball, and a special weapon. The game host can set options for point and time limits, and restrict the use of radar. Computer-controlled players of varying skill levels can be added to games if the minimum of four players is not met.
In the Metroid series chronology, Metroid Prime Hunters takes place third in the Metroid fictional universe, between Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. At the beginning of the game, the governing body of the galaxy, the Galactic Federation, receives a strange telepathic message that states the key to the "ultimate power" resides in the Alimbic solar system. The Federation broadcasts a message to bounty hunter Samus Aran, asking her to investigate and retrieve this power, and should it prove irretrievable, to keep it secret or destroy it outright. Six other bounty hunters intercept the transmission and proceed to the Alimbic solar system to claim the power for themselves.
Through investigation of the planets and space stations that orbit the Alimbic sun, Samus gradually pieces together the history of the Alimbic race. She discovers that they were a peaceful, spiritual, highly evolved society. The Alimbic utopia was shattered when a comet struck the planet (Alinos), and out of it emerged a monstrous creature named Gorea. The creature copied the cellular structure of the Alimbics, physically mimicking them and their weapons, and destroyed their civilization. Unable to stop Gorea's rampage, the last of their race transformed themselves into focused telepathic energy, then confined Gorea into a "Seal Sphere", which they placed in a starship called the Oubliette. The ship was launched into a dimensional rift called the Infinity Void, to be released only when eight keys called "Octoliths" were assembled.
After warding off the other bounty hunters, Samus retrieves the eight Octoliths and opens the Infinity Void. Here, she and the other six hunters confront Gorea, who originated the telepathic message in an attempt to free itself. After the beast absorbs the powers of Samus' rivals, she defeats Gorea using the Alimbic weapon called the "Omega Cannon". As Samus and the other hunters evacuate the exploding Oubliette on their respective ships, three Alimbic spirits appear before Samus, and honor her with a salute.
The development team for Metroid Prime Hunters at Nintendo Software Technology (NST) was led by the game's director, Masamichi Abe and the lead technical engineer, Colin Reed, who had both previously worked together on several games, including the Nintendo games Pikmin and 1080° Snowboarding. The team for Hunters was composed of thirty people, which Abe noted was larger than the development team of most other Nintendo DS games. Kensuke Tanabe of Nintendo Company, Limited (NCL) in Japan came up with the original idea for the game. Retro Studios, which developed previous Metroid Prime games, was unable to develop Metroid Prime Hunters because it was already working on a game. Therefore, Tanabe contacted NST with the idea, and let them develop it instead. NST developed the game instead of NCL because Nintendo wanted the division to influence Metroid Prime Hunters with western ideals, styles, and presentation.
While developing the game, most of NST's efforts were focused on its multiplayer aspect because of its first-person shooter gameplay, and to take advantage of the Wi-Fi and voice chat capabilities of the Nintendo DS. One of the game's designers, Richard Vorodi, noted that "the hardware kinda dictated [their focus onto the game's multiplayer mode]." Wanting to introduce a new element to the Metroid series, Abe created several new bounty hunters after he realized that the game's multiplayer mode and the new bounty hunters could both be implemented seamlessly into the game: "We had this idea early on and thought that would be a good way to introduce [Metroid Prime Hunters] and [the new bounty hunters] to the gameplay and take advantage of that in the multiplayer." Metroid Prime Hunters includes several references to previous games in the Metroid Prime series. Samus' ship is from the original Metroid Prime, and her suit is the same one that appears in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. The developers decided to add them because they wanted to show that the technology has evolved, and they also wanted to include something that was instantly recognizable to those who had played previous games in the series.
Metroid Prime Hunters was first revealed at the E3 convention in 2004, with IGN gave the game their Best Nintendo DS Game of E3 award. An early demo, titled Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt, was included as a pack-in game with the Nintendo DS when it launched in 2004. As a single-player game, it consisted of training scenarios with no specific plot, while the multiplayer portion allowed up to four players to compete via the Nintendo DS' local wireless communications. After the demo was released, the game's controls shifted from a control stick method to stylus aiming. When Nintendo received negative feedback at E3 2005 about the game's lack of an online feature, the company announced in August 2005 that the game's release would be delayed to give the developers time to implement Nintendo WFC support.
After the game's release was delayed to give NST time to implement the multiplayer feature, the developers took the time to make more changes. They worked on the game's framerate to make the graphics move more smoothly. The game's visuals were improved; a developer added reflections to the Morph Ball. The other developers admired the effect, and added it to other parts of the game. NST collaborated with Retro Studios, the company behind several Metroid games, to design the game's art and characters to make sure that they fit into the overall Metroid series. When asked why Metroid Prime Hunters was placed between Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes chronologically, Reed noted that the game was not influenced by the story of either game, so there were no continuity issues. He described Hunters as a side story to the Metroid Prime series.
Nintendo promoted the release of Metroid Prime Hunters with a television advertising campaign in the United States, under the title "Dig". The commercial was directed by Len Wiseman, known for his work on the Underworld series and Live Free or Die Hard, and was produced by the Leo Burnett advertising agency, while the special effects were handled by Ntropic. The commercial was shot at night to create a dark setting, and Wiseman felt it was important to also provide an "old-world" tone, with much of the technology shown looking used and "gritty".
On May 20, 2006, the "Hunt Is On Tournament" competition was held by Nintendo of Europe and HMV, and took place for participants in several locations throughout the United Kingdom. BT Openzone provided a video link for the tournament. A winning prize was a trip to Seattle to meet the developers of Metroid Prime Hunters for those who won the tournament, while the vouchers from HMV was received to the runners-ups.
Metroid Prime Hunters was given generally favorable reviews, receiving an aggregated score of 85 out of 100 from Metacritic and an 84 percent from GameRankings. Several reviews praised the amount of value that Metroid Prime Hunters offered on the Nintendo DS handheld video game console. GameZone considered the game phenomenal, and believed that it used the DS to its maximum potential regarding graphical ability and innovation. The Toronto Sun remarked that the graphics were big enough selling points on their own for the game, and The Press called Metroid Prime Hunters the best-looking game for the Nintendo DS. The Australian agreed that the graphics are "outstanding" and push the Nintendo DS to its limits, and The Independent asserted that Metroid Prime Hunters was perhaps the best first-person shooter ever for a handheld console. GamePro's review stated that "it's hard to imagine how Nintendo squeezed Hunters into a tiny DS cartridge." Despite a few "small quirks", the magazine noted that Hunters "is a very polished game". The Times concurred with these claims, remarking, "A lot of thought has clearly gone into making the most of the DS's touch-screen capability here, and it works gloriously."
Game Revolution admired the "high-quality work" found in the game's production design and smooth online play. 1UP.com asserted that fans of the Metroid series should recognize the technical achievements that the game showcases. GamesRadar lauded Metroid Prime Hunters' gameplay, and believed that the game was strictly for hardcore gamers "who live for fragfests". Convinced that making a Metroid game different from its slow-paced adventure predecessors into a "nail-biting wrecking ball" was a "risky trick", they appreciated the results, stating, "Damn did it ever work." Both GameSpot and Game Informer enjoyed the game's "worthwhile" and "electrifying" multiplayer mode. Nintendo Power praised the game as a "new-school, action-packed" game that makes a "great addition to the growing collection of Wi-Fi titles", and The Guardian claimed the game's multiplayer aspect as their favorite feature. The Sunday Times wrote that Metroid Prime Hunters does a "staggering job" of replicating the style of previous Metroid Prime games.
Complaints about the game stemmed primarily from its control scheme. IGN found that the high leaning curve and "cramp-inducing" control scheme made it difficult to play. This sentiment was shared by Electronic Gaming Monthly, which claimed that placing the interface used to switch visors and weapons on the touchscreen made the process unnecessarily complex. The magazine was also disappointed with the game's single-player mode, claiming that it does not live up to the experience offered in previous games in the Metroid Prime series. They criticized the levels as "contrived and predictable", and noted that the designs felt too formulaic "after a few worlds of hunting for keys, fighting repeat bosses, and escaping before the bomb blows". The Washington Times agreed that the game's repetitiveness eventually grew tiring, and that "manipulating the DS controls will be a painfully cramped endeavor".
Concurring with this sentiment, GameSpy noted that using the stylus to play the game felt a bit strange. Eurogamer also expressed their disapproval of the control scheme, predicting it would lead to "the coming years of physiotherapy on [their] arms". They were also unhappy with the game's "flimsy" multiplayer experience, noting that it is best used when played locally with friends who also have the game. X-Play had particularly negative sentiments about the game, stating, "This feels like yet another genre shoehorned poorly onto hardware that just isn’t equipped to handle it."
Metroid Prime Hunters was the fourth best-selling game in its debut month in Japan, selling over 32,000 units, and has since sold over 90,000 units there. Over 410,000 units of the game were sold in North America in its first month. Hunters received several awards and honors; IGN gave it an Editors' Choice award and named it the Best DS Action Game of 2006. The game also received the awards for Best Graphics, Best Shooter/Action Game, and Best Wi-Fi Functionality from Nintendo Power for 2006.
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