Metroid Prime Hunters – Scope~Progression~Gameplay

May 6th, 2011

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Didn’t take long did it?

Back in January I finished playing Metroid Prime Hunters for the DS and had written up some notes on the game. I wanted to focus on the game’s structured exploration. Here is more or less what I wanted to say, minus substantial, validating examples.

The game is broken up into several planets that the player must go to twice each. Exploring certain planets will give the player the beams they need to open doors on other planets. The beams/doors are a lock and key approach which facilitate the player having to return to each planet a second time. Each “journey” to a planet contains 3 parts: obtaining the artefacts, a boss battle and an escape, with the former most being the largest portion of the three. Since there are 3 artefacts, this initial portion is then broken down into thirds. But it goes further still.

The DS isn’t a technical powerhouse, so to create the perception of a large scope while not running the hardware into the ground, each planet is only a handful of 4-8 large rooms connected by small passages. Considering how much processing is needed to render and store these large rooms, they’re mined for all they’re worth through this lock and key approach. Each room is locked several layers deep when the player first enters. The player then needs to do a variety of tasks, namely, clearing enemies and activating locks to peel back the layers and open the room completely.

As we can see, from the game as a whole to each individual room, Metroid Prime Hunters is broken into a series of micro-objectives that manage the gameplay. Whether it be go to a planet, get an artefact or beat this enemy to open this part of the room. What this highly-managed system does is create a contrived sense of progression. The player only ever needs to explore for themselves in small steps before another task opens up. So, in the end Hunters feels clinical and inorganic. Contrast this to the game’s console brother Metroid Prime where the player is given a whole area, several rooms or an entire sub-terrain to explore and find clues.

  • Woot! Metroid Prime Hunters!

    One of my favorite DS games… for the multiplayer. I didn’t like the single player. It didn’t help that I got lost despite knowing the maps well from multiplayer battles.

    I think you mean contrived sense of exploration, not progression. Still, that’s an easy claim to make when you don’t like a game. The hard part is explaining exactly why Prime Hunters is so different from the original Metroid or even the games in the Prime Series strictly in terms of challenge, or exploration, or secrets.

    Does the game feel inorganic and clinical because of your expectations? Or is there something about its design?

  • Okay sure. I meant to say exploration in the last paragraph:

    “What this highly-managed system does is create a contrived sense of exploration.”

    I think that the article answers your questions, but I need to flesh some of my conclusions out a bit. The game feels clinical and impersonal, because the gameplay is broken into these micro goals that are so small that the player doesn’t have a lot of freedom to explore.

    Furthermore, these small pieces have too much scaffolding. When the player enters a room their goal is already very apparent or they’re clued in to what they need to do by a cutscene. These measures tend to come off as quite contrived.

    Compare this to Super Metroid. In Super Metroid the player is usually let loose on a good chunk of a sub-terrain at the one time and the clues are rarely, if ever, made explicit/obvious to the player.