A bizarre, almost Halo-like Metroid arrives as something of a mixed bag on DS.
The Bad: Single player is very dull and repetitive, and not much like Metroid; single player isn't very hard.
2002 saw the rebirth of the Metroid franchise with Metroid Prime on Gamecube and Metroid Fusion on GBA. Since then, Metroid: Zero Mission for GBA and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes on the Cube started a very successful new era of Metroid games by Retro Studios. Though Prime 2 was a slight disappointment relative to the first Prime, the Metroid train was still going pretty strong.
Meanwhile, the DS was picking up steam very quickly by early 2006 when Metroid Prime: Hunters was released. The First Hunt demo that came with your DS probably whet your appetite, and meanwhile, more good games than average for a new system were arriving left and right. Super Mario 64 DS, Nintendogs, Castlevania, Kirby, and Mario Kart all made their mark on the DS in 2005, kick starting the systems beginnings. And all that time, the life of the GBA lived a little longer because the DS plays GBA games, and Zelda: The Minish Cap and Final Fantasy V and VI rock.
Hunters is certainly the first big 2006 title for the dual screen replacement of the GBA. It took awhile, but it arrived at last: 3-D Metroid, portable.
The gameplay is similar to the first two Metroid Primes. You'll be using your beams, guns, and missiles to battle your opponents, switching visors and turning into a morph ball and dropping bombs in tight spaces. The big, obvious difference is the aiming system. You won't have a lock on system as seen in the first two Primes, but instead move Samus's head with the stylus. This works much more efficiently than a control stick, and is certainly the better way to utilize the system.
Meanwhile, you use the control pad to move Samus, hit buttons on the touch screen to switch between missiles, guns and morph ball, and hit the shoulder button to shoot. It even allows for multiple controller set-ups for lefties. The controls all work together nicely, and are some of the best I've yet seen from the touch screen.
The graphics and music are very high quality as well. Hunters looks more like a console game because the screen is so small than it does a handheld game, and other than Mario Kart, as of its release, nothing even compared. The music has a level of ambience expected from Metroid, and the sound effects are really cool and futuristic.
The single player campaign, however, is the major disappointment of the game. Unlike Metroid Prime 1 and 2, Samus's new mission is very linear, a lot of the rooms look exactly the same, and you're basically doing the same thing eight times. You even fight the same two bosses over and over. There are cool cutscenes interspersed through the game and they show us how that's done on two screens, but they're all very short.
There are six opposing bounty hunters Samus battles over the course of the game. At first these are fun to fight and actually mix up the boring and repetitive gameplay, but later they grow a little stale as you find out the tricks to fight them. It's too bad, because the first two Prime games did a great job of mixing up gameplay, and this one feels like you're doing the same thing over and over.
On the other hand, this is certainly not the only mode to Prime: Hunters, and oddly enough, multiplayer is it's saving grace. Prime 2 introduced multiplayer to the franchise with four players controlling a Samus, but now Hunters takes it to the next level.
The controls and graphics and all are just as good on Wi-Fi, which also improves the experience (though local play is fun too), and there's not really any lag, very impressively. Single card play only allows you to play as Samus, but that's not that much of a drawback. Meanwhile, if you've seen other opponents in multiplayer or single player, they're unlocked for you. This means the six other bounty hunters that rival Samus in single player are options for you to use too.
That element is more of a distinction than it sounds. Each hunter does indeed have their own very unique fighting style, and the more you practice with that particular hunter the better you'll be executing kills. Also, there are tons of levels, over twenty, and they are all the most unique areas from single player. It helps to practice in all the locations too, because finding the secrets in each area will truly give you an edge.
But as in many other Wi-Fi games, multiplayer is fun even if you're bad at it. There are even multiple modes.
So to sum up, this Metroid isn't like any Metroid before it. The controls are awesome, the graphics and music are awesome, the single player is just so-so, and the multiplayer, oddly, is a blast. If you're a Metroid fan and you have Wi-Fi set up, and maybe you enjoy just fighting with your friends or wireless players, Hunters is certainly a great choice.