PN Review: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (3DS)
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a revamped version of Monster Hunter Tri for the Wii. Ultimate is being released simultaneously on the Wii U and the 3DS, and the two versions are essentially identical and compatible with each other. I immersed myself in the 3DS version and recruited a friend to play with me on the Wii U. It was a beautiful thing.
Gameplay: Monster Hunter is at once both incredibly straightforward and mindbendingly complex. The plot of the game is simple: You are a hunter in a village, and the villagers want you to hunt monsters. It is quest-driven, and with little variation the quests are “Go hunt this monster.” Beyond this, the game gets pretty difficult. Quests typically have a 50-minute time limit—and you often need it. A pretty standard quest will have you search out a huge monster and then wear him down. You are required to watch his movements, learn his attack patterns, and look for weak spots. It has a fairly steep learning curve. As a newcomer to the franchise, I had to die several times before I got the hang of how to handle these monstrosities. Because of this, Monster Hunter might not be for everyone, but if you’re up to the challenge, it’s intensely rewarding. Bringing down a huge dragon after nearly an hour-long battle brings a sense of thrilling exultation.
The itemization system of the game is pretty deep. When you’re out in the field, you can harvest parts from slain creatures, mine for ores, catch bugs or fish, and otherwise gather resources. These resources can be sold, combined, or used at the blacksmith to forge new weapons and armor. This makes for a rich, complex item system. Buying items only gets you so far—you need to get out and collect, then combine and forge.
Look and Feel: This is a pretty gorgeous game. The environments look good although they could have had a little bit more substance. The monsters are simply wonderful, especially the bigger ones, the “boss” monsters. Even on the 3DS, these huge creatures were awe-inspiring. Walking into a forest clearing just to see a giant wyvern descending upon me was one of those experiences that reminded me of why I love to game.
One thing I seriously loved about the look of the game was the HUD. It’s built out of panels that you can move around freely. So you can move everything to the lower screen (or to the GamePad if you’re on the Wii U), and you can put the various displays where you like them. That means the screen is clear. Just you, the world, and the monsters. This is definitely something I want to see in future Wii U titles.
The game has an interesting feel. Sometimes I wasn’t sure how seriously it was taking itself. On one hand, there are insanely epic battles with cool, scary, well-designed monsters. On the other hand, there are tiny cat people, ludicrously unrealistic weapons, and some downright ridiculous-looking armor. Overall, though, that kind of worked for me. It all makes for an interesting feel for an enjoyable game.
Multiplayer: Playing with your friends is what makes this game come alive. It was a very smooth experience. All multiplayer interactions take place in different area than the single player quests. You sail to a port called Tanzia where you can either play online or locally with a Wii U and 3DS’s. There you can hook up with your buddies and set out on quests together. We did run into a couple weird moments where one game had an instance of a monster that wasn’t there in the other copy of the game (although it was actually pretty hilarious to watch my friend’s character hacking and slashing the air while he insisted he was fighting something). For the most part, however, it was very successful. And it was so fun. Coordinating attacks with friends makes Monster Hunter a great cooperative experience.
Overall: Monster Hunter is not for the weak of heart. It requires patience—in climbing the learning curve and in each huge battle. But for those who thrive on the challenge, Monster Hunter is richly rewarding.