Needless to say, the Galactic Federation has once again called upon Samus Aran, their power-suited savior with a knack for completing impossible missions. The other six hunters span a number of motives and abilities, and the Federation isn’t taking any chances. Samus is ordered to retrieve this mysterious power before anyone else can, and failing that, destroy it to keep it out of enemy hands. Those enemy hands are quite capable, too. A deranged super soldier, a religious zealot, a cybernetic space pirate and three other galactic bruisers are fixing to take Samus out, and they all have alternate forms comparable to Samus’s morphball. This impressive rogues gallery makes for perfect multiplayer material, but in order to unlock all six hunters in multi, you’ll have to face them in the solo adventure.
Rooting them out amid the four sprawling planets isn’t that tough; they’re gunning for you anyway, and they happen to show up at the worst possible times. Getting to the ultimate power requires eight keys, called Octoliths, and the hunters can literally beat you into submission and steal your hard-won artifacts. The Octoliths are initially acquired after staple Metroid boss fights, which in turn start a staple Metroid escape countdown, where you must get to your ship in a matter of minutes. As you escape, the hunters will appear randomly to block your getaway, and these frantic timed battles are some of the game’s most memorable moments. It’s just a shame that the main boss battles aren’t as creative. The Octolith guardians are simply a continuing variation on two gigantic security robots, and fighting the same laser-shooting eyeball four times gets old. Thankfully, the hunters show up throughout the game to challenge you, and they get progressively smarter. One of the more hectic highlights involved the sharpshooter Sylux assaulting you with the help of his ship, which provided cover-fire as Sylux laid mines, sapped your energy with his shock-coil, and was a general pain in the ass.
The auditory accompaniment to the solo quest is what Metroid fans have come to expect: atmospheric, pulse-pounding at times, and always high quality. The NST sound designers have given the music a harder edge, a deeper, grittier sound than the other games in the series. The score isn’t as epic or sweeping as say, Super Metroid’s, but it adds another element of creepiness to an already ominous environment. Samus truly is alone this time and very far from home and backup, and her only company are the ruthless hunters who want her dead. The music selection does a very good job of reinforcing this ambiance, especially how it is tailored to the confrontations with the hunters. Each hunter has their own signature theme, but Metroid veterans will recognize familiar homage to Kenji Yamamoto’s older scores from previous titles. The item acquisition fanfare is probably the most nostalgic, along with a few snippets from the GameCube titles. Sound effects are lifted mostly from Prime and Echoes, but they too carry a signature edginess, a darker modification that makes Hunters stand out as “different.”
All in all, the adventure mode takes a cleaner balance of exploration, puzzle-solving and shooting to complete, although the shooting is a little more prevalent this time. The boss fights, morphball sequences, scanning and hunting about stack up to a solid ten hours of gameplay, at least the first time through. While Metroid Prime and Echoes offer a meatier experience, Metroid Prime Hunters is still a worthy, involving affair that proves challenging enough. You’ll still have to search for missile expansions, energy tanks and scan logs, hidden in secret locations off the beaten path. It’s certainly longer and more difficult than Metroid Fusion or Zero Mission on the GBA, which were good but sadly short romps.
I have only one small complaint: this game contains no Metroids. When “Metroid” is a part of the game’s name, the titular energy-suckers should make at least some small appearance in the game. More confusing is their presence in the First Hunt demo. NST did a great job recreating the little buggers for the demo, in fact they were almost identical to Retro’s version on the GameCube, but they are oddly absent from the final game. It’s a small gripe from an old school fan, but I can’t believe they couldn’t have fit them in somewhere.
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