Monster Hunter Tri Reader Review
Monster Hunter 3. A game that is renowned for its difficulty and requiring hours of dedication from its player has come to the casual orientated console of this generation, Nintendo's Wii. Whilst the Monster Hunter series has been astoundingly popular over in Japan, rivalling the likes of Dragon Quest and Pokemon, here in the West it has remained a decidedly niche affair.
The Wii would seemingly make an odd choice at an attempt to popularize a series such as Monster Hunter, with previous 'hardcore' offerings such as Little King's Story, Madworld and the Conduit being rather woefully ignored. But Capcom ignored this, or rather learned from their publishers mistakes and have strove to ensure Monster Hunter appeals to as many people as possible without fundamentally altering the core gameplay.
Monster Hunter 3 is off the bat a hard game to categorize. The best comparison that can be drawn to it is undoubtedly Phantasy Star Online, Sega's MMO franchise. You take control of a hunter (who you are freely able to customize to a pleasing depth), who is ultimately tasked with ridding Mogi village of the fearsome Lagiacrus.
This is the beast that is slapped across the box's cover and inhabits a stretch of water you will quickly want to avoid at the beginning of the game. But before you slay the mighty Lagiacrus, you are tasked with improving the village and completing quests, which invariably takes form of either slaying X amount of monsters, capturing a monster or 'fetching' certain items.
One of the characteristics that separate Monster Hunter 3 from other games, and what proves to ensure its famed difficulty, is that you do not level-up. Your starting health and stats are more or less going to remain the same throughout the game. You can increase them marginally via armour, potions and charms but the difference is not exactly huge. That first boss monster will still be capable of kicking your butt after 30 hours of gameplay if you let your guard down.
This results in Monster Hunter becoming a game of evading and opportunity. Go blindly in swinging your weapons and button mashing against the bigger beasties and you will be stomped to death within minutes. In Monster Hunter you must learn the monster's patterns, continually react to their changing strategies, attempt to strike a blow where possible and avoid being eaten all at the same time. Death is not uncommon.
With regards to the monsters, there's a decent selection of 36 available to fight. Whilst not quite reaching say Pokemonsí huge spectrum of critters, each monster is gorgeously designed. Moving fluidly and realistically, walking amongst them gives you a feeling very much reminiscent of 'Walking with Dinosaurs' (A fantastic British 'documentary'). The weakest of these monsters will give you no trouble whilst many of the strongest titans will cause you to be continually on your guard. Fights lasting more than half an hour are not out of the question and most of them will kill you on your first try.
To help tackle these beasties, there is a range of weapons at your disposal. Apart from the beginning 'Sword and Shield' type, these weapons are SLOW. A single swing/hit can take up to several seconds to be fully realized. This may not sound much but when a gigantic monster is snapping at your heels it becomes a important issue. Your use of weapon must be extremely well timed; a misplaced blow could cost you your life.
To comment on each of the types (Great Sword, Lance, Long Sword, Sword & Shield, Hammer, Bowgun and Switch Axe) would be effectively pointless as each will suit different players accordingly and really you have to try each out to find which best goes with your preferred method of gameplay. It's all a very subjective affair and trying them out is half the fun.
Controlling your character is simple and if you've played any 3rd person game before, you'll pick it up in minutes. However the nuances of battling, especially if you've never played a MH title before, will take a while to get to grips with. But it's a enjoyable learning curve instead of frustrating. You have the option of either Wiimote/Nunchuck combo or the Classic Controller (which it is bundled with).
Having tried both out, I'd say the Classic Controller bests the Wiimote/Nunchuck but only just. It is a tad more comfortable and allows for more optimization when attacking. Thankfully motion control hasn't been rammed into the game (it really would never need it). You can 'swing' the wiimote to attack, but it is easier and more precise to press a button.
Underwater environments have been added to the series this time around and unlike most games, controlling underwater is simple. You angle the camera in the direction you want to go, and then point your character forward. Your oxygen supply, a dreaded feature which often sucks the fun out many a games underwater levels, is plentiful so it never proves to be an issue, and can be easily replenished if it did.
Battling underwater is as easy as on land, in fact arguably easier with certain weapons. There's honestly very little to complain about! Sure the water dwelling monsters usually have a speed advantage over you when submerged but that is to be expected. The situation is reversed if you can get them onto land so there is balance.
Graphically, MH3 is a joy to behold. Each area has a distinctive theme, which we may have seen a hundred times before i.e. forest, desert, snow, lava etc but Capcom has realized them beautifully. At times I found myself stopping and panning the camera to take in and enjoy my character's surroundings.
Though of course the game is never going to rival the Wii's HD rivals, by this point any Wii owner shouldn't be expecting that anyway. It does however match and sometimes arguably surpass the Wii's other best looking titles such Twilight Princess and Super Mario Galaxy. My only complaint would be is that perhaps the text is a little too small, but this is a niggle rather than a game-stopping problem.
A major selling point of MH3 is its online capability. No friend codes, free to play and minimal lag, it's a Wii owner's dream come true. Capcom has gone all-out to ensure a smooth, easy, enticing online structure. Playing online is a simple as choosing to connect to a server, then selecting a city and then you and your friends, or a bunch of randomers, can hunt yourself happy.
For communication purposes, Wiispeak and keyboard support is included, though typing on a keyboard whilst attempting to avoid a fire breathing griffon borders on impossible and is not recommended. Wiispeak of course has its own follies, but it's the best option if you want some form of constant contact with your teammates. There is also an in-game virtual keyboard if you own neither device.
Off-line multiplayer is sadly confined to the 'Arena' where you can take down various monsters. Whilst challenging, it makes a poor replacement for the full quest multiplayer online offers. If PSO could do full off-line multiplayer 10 years ago, why couldn't MH3 today?
You'll notice this review has been largely positive about Monster Hunter 3 and that's really because there's very few negative things to say about it. What can be said negatively is mainly subjective as well.
For instance, music does not feature too heavily in MH3. It ramps up here and there, especially when you're facing a 'boss' monster but otherwise it relies on naturalistic sounds to maintain the atmosphere. Is this a good or bad thing? It fits the game well and stops music become irritable in those long fights, but for a video game music lover like myself, there were occasions where I wished the music had continued.
Another contentious issue is the lack of auto-targeting. Should it be included? Perhaps, but then the game aims to be realistic and you certainly don't get that feature in reality. The camera occasionally proves to be annoying but this is only during the big boss fights, it's not game breaking but the constant tweaking you may have to do is frustrating.
Monster Hunter 3 is a deep, traditionalist game that is arguably archaic in its structure and has no place on the Wii. But... it sold, and sold well, hitting the top ten charts in America and Europe. It has proved that "hardcore" titles do have a place on the Wii, when done right.
Odd really considering the game is actually quite repetitive in its various quests. You often need to repeatedly hunt the same monsters to acquire the right materials, and it is unquestionably hard. Yet it proves to be so damn addictive and its difficulty serves to produce a feeling of triumphant and euphoria when you manage to slay the fearsome monsters that is seldom felt in today's games. It's not hard to see why Monster Hunter fans end up pouring hundreds of hours in to this franchise.
I've hardly touched upon many of the deeper aspects of MH3, such as item combination, forging, mining and many of the other sub-quests and tasks you can undertake. If you're looking for a challenging, difficult (without ever seeming unfair I might add) game that provides the Wii's best online interface which will suck hours of your life away then Monster Hunter 3 is definitely it.