Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Night of the Hunters

I've just been playing Metroid Prime: Hunters on the Nintendo DS. Some of you may be in possession of the (collectible?) MP:H demo game-card (First Hunt) that was included with all Nintendo DS launch systems. If so, you'll appreciate just how far MP:H has come. If not, you're in for an extraordinary experience.

What can you expect? On a presentational level, this game sets a standard. The sound is futuristic, highly evolved. The music flows directly from the Gamecube editions of this series; it's dark, brooding and mysterious. The visuals are extraordinary. You won't quite believe what you're seeing on the DS screens. The framerate is glorious. The environments are breathtaking.

As I often do with Wi-Fi DS games, the first thing I did after booting was log in for some multi-player action. Within a minute or so I found myself in combat. Flawless. I got my ass handed to me 7 to 2, but that had more to do with the fact that I hadn't configured the controls to my liking (should have set it up prior to logging in - let that be a lesson to you all).

The menu systems are excellent, and though wholly focussed on the stylus user or thumb navigator, you can still get around with the control pad and buttons - quickly and without error.

I've only just dug into the single-player experience (and having glanced at the guide, there were 60+ pages of walkthrough). It seems deep, with hundreds of Logbook Entries (creatures, events, places, objects). In multi-player, there are 26 arenas. This game has some longevity built-in.

There is a welcome feature in multi-player that has been missing from prior Wi-Fi DS games - the ability to instantly log an opposing player as a "rival" so you can search for them online at a later time. The system still uses Friend Codes, and features a Hunter's License to track your rank and progress. It logs wins in all game variations, connection history, win ratio, win streak, "lucky" arena, favorite weapon, headshot kills, favorite mode, biped kills, alt-form kills, kill streak, Wi-Fi and wireless play time and total game time. I suspect there may be more. The game features a large list of unlockables. There is also an interesting mode called Rival Radar - which puts your DS into a sort of waking-dream mode. As you make your way in the real world, your DS is scanning your surroundings for other DS owners who happen to have their own DS in Rival Radar mode; if two or more DS units locate each other, "rival" data and Hunter Licenses are exchanged. Next time you look at your rivals roster, it will have grown.

For now that's all I can relate. I need to dig deeper. It is time for battle.