At the Tokyo Game Show last week Capcom showed for the first time Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on Wii U and revealed how it will work in tandem with the Nintendo 3DS version, already out in Japan but scheduled to launch on these shores alongside the Wii U version in March 2013.
At the show Eurogamer chatted with Monster Hunter chief Ryozo Tsujimoto who explained the games' interesting cross-platform features.
You'll be able to save data across both versions. To do this, you'll have to download a free app from the 3DS eShop, which you'll use to transfer data from the Wii U to the 3DS and vice versa over wi-fi. With this function, you'll be able to continue your Monster Hunter game on the move.
A Wii U console and up to three Nintendo 3DS consoles can communicate for four-player local co-op play over wi-fi. Using this, in combination with the data transfer between consoles, means you'll be able to invite your friends over for what Capcom hopes will be Monster Hunter parties, them bringing their data files on their 3DS to communicate with a Wii U, and all four players playing in the same game.
This feature is to make up for the lack of online play on the 3DS version, Tsujimoto said.
"We wanted people to play together," he told us. "We know there are some people who want to play online. Unfortunately with the 3DS version you can't do that. But we have made this feature so you can play together. You can have your friends bring their save data to your house and have a Monster Hunter party. One person will play on the big screen and three other people will play with their 3DS versions. People can continue their save data from what they had before and go back home and update their data on their Wii U."
Why did Capcom fail to implement online play for the 3DS version?
"To put it frankly, when we were developing the game we were looking into it but there were some places we were unsure about," Tsujimoto said. "We didn't have the correct techniques to get it to work. We decided we probably shouldn't release something that didn't work well. We didn't want to lower the quality of the game." The just announced 3DS exclusive Monster Hunter 4, still without a western release window, does have online play.
And the Wii U version of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate has online play, too. Nintendo's kept online gaming on its HD console shrouded in mystery, but Tsujimoto did offer some detail on how it will work with his game.
"With internet play you can play with other hunters online," he said. "In terms of new features, we have text chat in the game. Right now we're looking into voice chat and seeing how we can get that to work, but it hasn't been 100 per cent confirmed.
"In the game we have a friends list. So if you have your friends you know personally, you can add them to that list. That makes it very easy to jump to wherever they're playing.
"If you want to find other players there is a search function you can use. Once you get four hunters connected together you'll automatically go off on a quest. We're trying to make an online experience that's extremely stress-free and easy to use for the players."
With Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate Capcom hopes to grow significantly the popularity of the series in the west. It will launch both versions simultaneously, and with regards the 3DS version, the localisation effort is Monster Hunter's shortest yet.
But Tsujimoto insisted Capcom will not make drastic changes to the action series to appeal to western gamers. Instead it hopes to grow the fan base with small but important tweaks, such as the addition of a Target Camera for use on larger monsters.
"We know there are a lot of people overseas who have made their own Monster Hunter communities," he said. "We know there are a lot of people who are huge fans of the series overseas. We want to make products to continue to build that fan base. We know it's a fantastic game and an interesting game for overseas users. So we think if we continue working on the game, it'll eventually start to break out.
"We don't want to segregate the two groups, like Japan and overseas. We view them as one group. The most important thing for us is we keep the essence of Monster at its core. We want to make sure everyone knows this is what Monster Hunter is all about" - Monster Hunter chief Ryozo Tsujimoto
"We don't want to segregate the two groups, like Japan and overseas. We view them as one group. The most important thing for us is we keep the essence of Monster at its core. We want to make sure everyone knows this is what Monster Hunter is all about.
"We do get opinions and feedback from people from all over the world, not only in Japan, but also America and Europe and other countries. We take that all into account when we're developing our games. That's one of the reasons why we have this new feature called the Target Camera. We got a lot of feedback from fans, and they said one of the most difficult things about playing Monster Hunter is controlling the camera. So we added the Target Cam to the game so with the press of a button you can focus on one of the monsters you're fighting against. You don't have to spend all this time pressing the d-pad just to focus on a monster. You can just do a simple button press and you're done.
"Those are the kinds of changes we want to make. They might be little changes, but they can turn out to be very significant as well."
Some fans have questioned the decision to launch Monster Hunter 4 exclusively on Nintendo 3DS, particularly given the series' phenomenal success on PlayStation Portable.
Most believe the exclusivity is the result of Nintendo's effort to secure the franchise on its handheld console - and therefore away from the PS Vita. But Tsujimoto insisted it was a design decision fuelled by the experience the team had making Ultimate 3 for 3DS.
"When we were developing Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the 3DS, it was an experiment," he said. "It was new hardware for us. We didn't know the capabilities of the hardware. But as a portable system it was very unique to work with. It has two screens and 3D capabilities. To us as developers, we want to challenge ourselves to make something that is very good on that system.
"So after we made Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on 3DS, we were able to analyse what we did on that game. We realised it was quite easy to develop for. That was the reason why we continued with Monster Hunter 4 on 3DS."
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