I have a unique relationship with Monster Hunter. I put over 30 hours into Freedom Unite on the PSP, and only two hours in Tri on the Wii. Monster Hunter might take several hours to sink its teeth into me, but once it does, I’m hooked. The series can be very daunting for players that are new to the series, and the lack of hand-holding can turn off even experienced action RPG fans. One thing is for certain, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate has everything I wanted in my next Monster Hunter addiction, though the significant improvements come with some equally large shortcomings.
For those who don’t know, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (MH3U) is a remake of the 2010 Wii title, Monster Hunter Tri. It’s not a full re-release, but most of the mechanics and areas remain the same. With some additions like advanced underwater combat, new monsters and quests, and a higher rank cap, the game offers up more content for the Tri veterans.
Players take on the role of a fresh-off-the-boat hunter that has just arrived in Moga Village. The village is in distress after a massive earthquake, which villagers believe to have been caused by a gigantic monster. They want the new hunter to take it out, and fulfill some quests for the locals along the way.
The name of the game is getting better loot by obtaining resources from gathering spots, skinning hunted animals and completing quests. Many missions have the player going to different environments to collect a certain number of items, kill monsters or explore the world. Everything seems to lead to something bigger and better, and once I had everything I needed to get that new set of dual blades I had my eye on, the feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming. That feeling also comes into play during the bigger quests. These require the player to hunt, track and kill (or capture) a large, dangerous monster. These are the bread and butter of MH3U.
Much like Dark Souls, these boss battles are sometimes drawn out and take a significant amount of time and patients to complete. There is high risk for such high reward. If the time limit runs out before the quest is complete, it must be retried from the beginning. This adds even more tension to the fight at hand. Finding the monster can be a task in and of itself, and keeping track of it when it runs off is part of the challenge. There are no enemy health bars, so watching and learning the mannerisms and movement patterns are the only clues about the target’s status. Managing resources, health, stamina and weapon sharpness also come into play. Victory requires preparation and skill to come out of a big hunting quest alive.
Finding resources is not the only thing a good hunter must learn, but developing resources through trading and farming can reduce the amount of time wandering monster-laden paths. Combining items to make new useable gear can make or break the hunt.
Choose your weapon with care
The game features 12 different weapon types that have both strengths and weaknesses. Experimentation with them all is highly recommended. I personally preferred the quick action of the dual blades and the fierce attacks of the long sword for most of my game. Melee is not the only choice though, as there are a number of bows and bow guns that can help hunt from a distance. Each weapon plays very differently, and the variety of 12 different types adds much depth to the combat. There is always something new to experience in MH3U.
For the 3DS, the bottom screen offers extensive customization options, allowing players to add options and mechanics as they see fit. This takes away much of the clutter on the top screen.
I will mention, most of my playtime was with the Circle Pad Pro peripheral. This helped my experience in many different ways, but the biggest change was noticed during the underwater segments. Without the Circle Pad Pro, controlling the camera is a downright chore. It makes the game almost unplayable, especially when trying to hunt down a large aquatic creature. Trying to control the camera while swimming is impossible to do with a single analog stick and D-pad. Luckily, there is a targeting lock-on system that can be used when fighting the giant bosses, but even then, it is still cumbersome. Without the Circle Pad Pro, I couldn’t have made it through many of these parts.
Monster Hunter players know that multiplayer is a large part of the experience. Many of these monsters can be taken down much more easily with a couple of experienced friends. Unfortunately, the 3DS version of MH3U is lacking the rich multiplayer experience of the Wii U. As of this review, the only way to play the 3DS version with other people is through local play. This requires multiple people in the same room, each with their own 3DS and copy of the game. Unfortunately, this means that this entire review is based on my single player experiences. It didn’t diminish my enjoyment, but it did make taking down some of these bosses much more challenging.
Monster Hunter has always been a unique experience for players. It is one of those games that lays out a goal, but doesn’t explain exactly how to accomplish it. This mystery is intriguing to some and frustrating to others. Since playing Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, I can see how many improvements have been made. Much of the tutorial is streamlined, the quest difficulty ramps up more gradually and introductions to new mechanics are brought in at a much more natural pace. Even with these improvements, MH3U can still be a confusing ride for new players.
It may be difficult to get into, but if the game clicks, it becomes rather addicting. Even with a challenging control scheme, I always seemed to work my way through. If you are looking to try your very first Monster Hunter, this is a great place to start. If Tri fans are looking for a portable version, this is the ticket. With some patience and a Circle Pad Pro, you will be gathering items and killing monsters in no time, and even having a good time while doing it.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.