Monster Hunter is one of those games that everyone has heard about, but have never gotten around to playing. It’s been knocking around since 2004 on the Playstation 2 days, before extending to other platforms since then. And hell, Capcom isn’t too afraid to continually retool one game such as 2009’s Monster Hunter Tri for a whole new audience and system.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate takes place in a strange world. And by strange world, I mean the nightmare fuel wildlife of Australia has somehow managed to branch out to all the continents available. There’s a bunch of monsters to kill, some coin to collect and some skills to hone and that’s where you come in as a fresh off the boat hunter.
It’s pretty simple overall. Hunt monsters and reap the rewards. Of course to hunt some bigger game, you’re going to need to hone your skills and inventory, as well as set up camps and liaisons with villagers. There’s some sort of plot threaded throughout this game, but it’s thinner than a 50 shades of grey fan fiction.
Now, this isn’t your typical RPG. Sure, you’ve got quests, items and exotic weaponry that would be impossible to wield in real life, but you don’t exactly level up in the traditional sense of XP = Power. You gain power by playing, so the more you hack away, the stronger you’re going to get. In other words, reality just started knocking on your door.
It’s also all about the controls, as you’re going to need to learn when to swing a broadsword or put your daggers away. You only get one set of weapons with which to slash your way to victory at the start of the game, and you’re going to need to fiddle around until you find a particular blood-letter that suits your fancy.
You’ve got eleven of them to choose from, and depending on their size, they’ll do a set amount of damage at a certain speed. Long swords require you to time your strike perfectly before you bring it crashing down, while short dual blades allow you to frenzy your way in, but at a reduced amount of damage. It’s all about give or take, and it’s a function that is bolstered by some reliable controls.
Enter the Wii U GamePad, which you can then customise to feed you the information that you want, from HUD to health bars. It’s a nice touch that you can make your main screen less cluttered, provided that you enjoy glancing at your controller to get a constant heads-up of info. But hey, at least it makes your game, your game.
As for the monsters, get ready to earn your payslip. You’ve got your run of the mill lizards and dinosaurs, creatures which are nothing more than wads of meat on four legs, and then you’ve got creatures that could crack the planet in two with a fart if you piss them off. Each monster operates a certain way, with its own set of attacks and defense mechanisms, requiring you to know which tactics to employ at any given time.
It’s a lot of practice that is needed for this game, as it can become overly-complex for the sake of being complex, a facet of Japanese RPGs that I absolutely detest. When you’re taking on a beastie, you’re commiting yourself to a larger battle, and you better have damn well practiced your dodging beforehand. Trust me, this is one game where you need to be clever and prepared, not bloodthirsty and chaotic.
And that’s leads up to another intriguing trademark of Monster Hunter: You’ll always feel like a hunter. Plenty of RPGs will progress you to the point where you’re practically a god, but in Monster Hunter, there’s always a bigger fish in the ocean.
But it’s not just Monster Hunting that will consume your time in this game. You’ve got odd jobs to do, materials to collect and new weapons and armour to forge. That’s part of the appeal of this game I reckon, that farming for monster corpse loot to help you craft that perfect set of armour so that you can take on a beastie. It can get a bit tiring, but doing missions with a buddy in tow is always fun at least as you compare strategies and techniques in this largely open world.
But it’s a hell of a learning curve, and I think this is what presents the biggest problem in Monster Hunter. Monster Hunter 3 hits a lot of high notes for a Monster Hunter game…if you’re a Monster Hunter fan. This isn’t exactly the most inviting game on the planet, and as this was my first foray into this world I was left wanting.
But after taking it to a friend who had an entire PSP library of games from that franchise, it’s clear that he was having a ball at least. It makes it tricky to judge a game like this, and while I can praise the content, it’s marred by several archaic bugs and ideas that waters down the experience.
One other aspect that Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate really hurls towards the player is an online mode. And it works quite well…most of the time. Spread over eight worlds that encompass several difficulty levels, joining or creating a lobby works well enough with the action unfolding over several hunting trips.
It’s most certainly not a game about looks either, as evident from the ported over nature of this title. The Wii U may claim to be a next-gen console, that fact isn’t evident here with bland textures and clunky character models that have the usual lack of voice-over work. Still, when you’re taking down dragons with massive swords, visuals will be the last thing on your mind.
But it all falls apart when the host decides that enough is enough, as there happen to be zero migration options available. Once a host is gone, so are the rest of the players who joined up, while latency troubles pop up occasionally. It’s not a bad feature overall, but it’s one that does need some polishing.