So, cards on the table – I did a fair amount of thought on whether I should have done this video. You see Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt is not exactly a game in the fully-formed sense. However, after thinking it over, I do believe it should be covered in this series, even if this won’t be a proper review in the traditional sense.
To put this all in context, when Nintendo released their brand new Nintendo DS in Western territories at the end of 2004 and beginning of 2005, they decided to bundle it with a cartridge at launch, for the first time since the Super Nintendo’s launch. However, rather than bundle the system with a Mario title, like maybe the port of Super Mario 64 that was available at launch, instead, Nintendo put a cartridge in the box featuring a demo of an upcoming Metroid game – Prime Hunters. Think about that for a minute – The Metroid series was huge enough at the time for Nintendo to see it as enough of a draw to get players hooked on their new system. Not even The Legend of Zelda has had one of its games bundled in with a system at launch.
Metroid Prime Hunters wouldn’t even be released until 2006, but here was a Metroid game, front and centre at the launch of one of the biggest consoles in gaming history (not that anyone could have guessed, at that time). Unlike Metroid Prime, First Hunt (and by extension, Metroid Prime Hunters) was developed by the in-house Nintendo Software Technology team, based in North America, although Retro Studios provided supervision and art direction. NST are mainly known for their work on ports and software applications for Nintendo systems but have been known to create the odd original game here and there.
Metroid Prime Hunters First Hunt Demo Impressions
Narratively speaking, this demo is largely unconnected to the main Prime Hunters game itself, acting as a training or diagnostic programme of sorts – Giving Samus’ suit functions a good workout for future missions. Three single-player modes are available, plus local multiplayer, giving just a brief taste of what’s to come. After each mode’s completion, you’re given a score, and achieving a high score on all three modes will unlock a brief teaser trailer for the Metroid Prime Hunters game.
Regulator can be considered as the most “traditional” mode. You are given just 10 minutes to beat a brief single-player level, facing rooms of enemies that must be cleared before progress can be made to the next one. You’ll encounter just three types of enemies in the whole of First Hunt – The Zoomers and Tallon Metroids from Metroid Prime, plus a highly weak Metroid-like enemy referred to as a Xenomorph that has more to do with Super Metroid’s Mochtroid than the real thing. This short stage will also involve navigating through a maze using the Morph ball plus a very short platforming section involving lifts. The whole stage culminates in a tricky battle with a doppelganger of Samus (seriously, what is it with Samus fighting mirror images of herself?). Beat this foe, and the mode abruptly ends. You are scored on how quickly you finish this level.
Survivor Mode is just that – An endless cycle of enemies coming at you in one multiplayer arena, featuring the same three enemies from Regulator. You’ll keep playing until you lose all your health and die, after which you’ll be given a score based on how many enemies you’ve defeated, along with a combo score increased by consecutive direct hits on enemies, resetting if you miss a shot.
Finally, Morph Ball is the briefest of courses, requiring the player to use the Morph ball to race through a route denoted by blue spheres. The more of these spheres picked up without missing any, the better your score.
First Hunt adopts a first-person view but doesn’t work as elegantly as Metroid Primes. The demo provides five different control schemes – The default Stylus Mode where you use either the D-pad or face buttons to move, and the touch screen to look around and aim. There are two different types of Dual Mode that uses the control buttons and face buttons to move or look, depending on your preferences, and two different Touch Shoot Modes that allow you to tap the bottom screen to directly aim your shots at enemies. In all of these modes, the touch screen is used to switch between missiles and power beam shots, activate and deactivate Morph Ball mode, and also control the Morph Ball as well. Truth be told, none of these modes are particularly comfortable, but either the Stylus or Touch Shoot modes are your best bet.
In a first for Metroid, the standard Power Beam only has a finite ammunition supply, although more can be found throughout the Regulator and Survival modes. If you run out, you’re still able to fire, just at a much slower rate – So it’s really important to make your shots count and not just to shoot wildly in all directions. Missiles are briefly available in both modes, although it is rather cumbersome to use the touch screen to select them, as is switching between the Morph Ball mode and back (not that you’ll need to do it much in this demo).
To be honest, First Hunt really is just the slightest of demos and it won’t take you more than 10-15 minutes, tops to see everything there is here. There is a multiplier mode for four players, but this is limited to local play only, so it’s extremely limited. The controls kind of work, but holding the DS in one hand and a Stylus in another is not exactly the most comfortable way to play a game – Especially the original version of the Nintendo DS system that this demo was bundled with.
There’s really not much more to say about this cartridge. Even as a demo, it’s just not substantial enough. It just about serves its purpose as being a reasonably good showcase of the Nintendo DS’ technical power and hardware abilities, but if you had this cartridge and no other games, I think you’d be a little disappointed. The movie you unlock for getting high scores on all three modes is so short and vague, so there isn’t really much reason to go back to Metroid Prime Hunters First Hunt – Unless you’re a weirdo who thinks it’s a good idea to make a video series on every Metroid game and must absolutely include everything. But what kind of loser is like that, eh?
If you thought this video was weird, well, next episode I’m playing a pinball game – So buckle up as the series possibly jumps the shark in Metroid Prime Pinball. Is this Nintendo DS title an enjoyable diversion, or an insult to the series? Find out, next week!