By Michael Mygind
I’m going to start this review off with a question. Do you like Metal Slug? If you answered yes, you might as well be a fan of In the Hunt as well, even if you’ve never played it. This game would essentially help lay the foundation for what would become one of the most beloved run-n-gun series ever, while proving to be an amazing game itself.
In the Hunt was developed for the arcades in 1993 by Irem, known most for its R-Type series. The specific group of Irem developers that made In the Hunt, Nazca, would later develop Gunforce 2 before eventually leaving Irem. Gunforce 2 heavily inspired their future project for the Neo Geo MVS, Metal Slug. Nazca was eventually absorbed into SNK, allowing rights to future Metal Slug sequels. (Side note: Nazca was also responsible for the stellar Neo Turf Masters on the Neo Geo MVS/AES/CD, a golf game that you actually want to play! If you’d rather not sell a kidney for a Neo Geo port, look for it on the SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 compilations, released on the PSP/PS2/Wii.)
So, back to where it all started. In the Hunt is a 2D horizontal shoot-em-up/shmup that puts the player/s in the role of a submarine that takes on an entire army, as well as other dangers such as sea monsters. The story is based around a resistance force who is fighting back against the D.A.S. (Dark Anarchy Society), who has melted the ice caps and has flooded the world. This particular port is on the Playstation, released in 1995 by THQ and Kokopeli Digital Studios.
Two different ways of playing the games are at your disposal. The submarine can either fire torpedoes straight ahead or shoot upwards while dropping bombs. The game has two planes of play: Submerged and floating on the surface. This secondary plane of play incorporates some strategy so that you’re doing more than just shooting what’s in front of you, but also worrying about taking out what’s dropping bombs from overhead. While most shmups are scrolling, In the Hunt lets you control the movement of the stage at your own pace; just keep an eye on the clock.
The visuals use the same gritty but unique style made famous in the Metal Slug series. Each level is chock full of many different enemies, hazards and destructible set-pieces. End bosses are always huge and fill up most of the screen, which would later become a staple of the Metal Slug games.
The music blends well with the action and ramps up at the right moments to add tension. That is, if you can focus on it while everything around you is exploding.
With six very large levels and co-op gameplay, In the Hunt is a must have for fans of shmups or action games in general. Aside from the Playstation port, it also saw release on the Sega Saturn, the PC and supposedly had a planned Super Nintendo port, which was said to be scrapped during development. From what I have heard, this particular port plays much smoother than the Sega Saturn version, which suffers from occasional slowdown. While it won’t be found on eBay for cheap, the hefty price is certainly for its quality. The American version can be found on average for $80 or more, but the Japanese release can be had for about $40.