What's this? A handheld, first-person shooter that crams in all the headshots, layered level designs and multiplayer options of the typical Xbox Live title? And it's on the touch-screen powered Nintendo DS? If we hadn't played it ourselves we would barely believe it.
But it's true. Metroid Prime Hunters takes the usually explorative, space-faring series online in the biggest possible way: its stylus-and-L-button control scheme (think PC's mouse-and-keyboard setup) scorches every other portable shooter in existence. You've got seven uniquely-powered bounty hunters to choose from, all vying for the same ultimate prize - a set of powerful artifacts lodged somewhere in a remote galaxy. The mission? Kill the other guys first.
Taking Samus, Spire and the rest of the multicolored hunters online is a snap thanks to the Wi-Fi Connection. Up to four can play at once online, locally or even with one version of the game. Once you're pitted against friends, rivals or total strangers, it's all about sniping, bombing and blasting fools away in several different modes. Capture the flag, straight-up deathmatch and five other methods of fragging are available, some with team play too.
What makes Hunters stand out, even from other high-profile shooters, are its malleable stars. Each of the hunters can shrink down into an alternate form (like Samus' morph ball) and use a whole new move set. Trace can become invisible while remaining still, Weavel splits in two ... you just never know where each match is going to go. Every character also has a specific weapon that they alone can use to its fullest - Samus' missiles hone in on enemies, for example. Add in stat-tracking, voice chat and an online ranking system and you've got a game that makes console shooters blush.
We could gush on and on about Hunters' freakishly posh multiplayer, but there is a single-player game tucked away as well. Instead of a constant head-to-head, you take Samus through the galaxy alone, searching for the aforementioned artifacts. The six alien bounty hunters, however, are always on your tail, ready to crack your faceplate open and steal whatever goods you've uncovered. If they do, you've gotta take 'em down to get the treasure back.
It's much like an actioned-up Metroid Prime from the GameCube. While this solo adventure isn't as ornately detailed as the console games, the same item-scanning, corridor-scouring gameplay is intact. The only real downside is the lack of location - you basically bounce from one planet to the next, and back again. You've got the fire planet, the ice world ... yawn. Non-hunter boss battles are a rehashed toss too. As a secondary diversion, however, the solo mission is a hardy addition that makes Hunters a must-have title.
Take a look at the other Wi-Fi DS games out there. Mario Kart DS. Tetris DS. They're all "everyone can play" titles that hit a broad audience. Hunters is strictly for the hardcore, bloodthirsty gamers who live for fragfests. Moving Metroid from a slow-paced adventure to a nail-biting wrecking ball of explosions was a risky trick, but damn did it ever work.