As much as I have wanted to play it since its rise to fame on the PlayStation Portable, I’ve always had to admire the Monster Hunter series from afar. Entry into Capcom’s beast-slaying world requires many, many hours of solid play after all, and life has so far conspired to prevent my wanting initiation to Moga Woods.
With Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
on the Wii U, I had a chance to finally see just what all the fuss was about. And I played by the rules, setting aside a whole weekend to train up and smack down as many colossal creatures as I possibly could. Ironically, if I’d have found past Monster Hunter
games slightly overwhelming, then I was really jumping into the deep end with this one.
For Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
represents one of the biggest updates that the series has seen, with a whopping 73 creatures to hunt (including those featured in Monster Hunter Tri
and Monster Hunter Portable 3rd
), 211 new quests, over 2000 new pieces of equipment and three new arenas to explore and hunt prey. That’s a lot of fresh content for hardcore fans to sink their teeth into come launch day.
But for someone like me, the stats represented a world of opportunity locked away until I could understand exactly what the fudge was going on. Capcom spends the first 10 hours practically holding your hand in this regard, so this will require a lot of patience if you’re a twitch-gamer looking to step out of your comfort zone.
While it’s easy to complain about the opening hours of the game, it’s important to note that Monster Hunter
includes a vast amount of features, nuances and gameplay mechanics, and each are slowly and surely introduced so that you can understand how everything works and why.
For example, there’s no traditional level up system in this game. Your ultimate goal is to slay the Lagiacrus - a powerful beast that can be crudely described as an underwater dragon - that is terrorising the populace of Moga Village. To do that, you need to get stronger, and this is achieved by building equipment (weapons, armour) and crafting support items for use on the battlefield.
It sounds simple enough, but in practice it really isn’t. You start off as a weedy warrior with the beast-hunting equivalent of a toothpick to hack down your targets. At first, you’ll be taking down small-fry creatures like the Jaggi (which remind me of the ‘spitters’ in Jurassic Park
) in a ‘free-hunt’ mode to build up Resource Points. Resource Points are one of the key currencies in the game. Collecting these helps restore Moga Village - your hunting hub - to former glory, and can reward you with more convenient ways to harvest certain materials.
Complete a few requests for the village, and you’ll be introduced to the Quest system, which offers the other valuable resource that you need in this game - money. These are specific objectives that must be completed within a certain time limit (usually 50 minutes each - which in itself gives you an idea as to how many hours this game requires of you), and sometimes under peculiar circumstances.
Initially, you’ll be asked to gather items from a specific environment (be they mushrooms, ores or objects that require you to skin a dead monster), but as you rank up you’ll be entrusted to hunt or capture very large targets. Now, it’s when you start to get Quests like these that Monster Hunter
really comes into its own. And indeed, where its real beauty shows.
For a beginner, the first hours of play can pretty much be described exactly as Adam explained when reviewing the 3DS version of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
- the controls feel a bit iffy, there’s seemingly no real space for collectibles, and there’s no real targeting system to speak of. Combine this with the completion of rather simple tasks, and you’ve got a mixed first impression.
But the beginner should stick with it. Because you soon realise that this isn’t a case of Capcom forgetting to keep up with modern trends. This is all by design - strategy and tactics would be thrown out of the window if the art of beast-slaying was limited to a lock-on function and multiple stabs of an X or Y button. Capcom wants you to find a weak spot (by yourself, usually), ready your weapon, time your attacks well and evade at the right time for victory.
To use supply weapons, there’s no instant consume button. Time doesn’t stop while you select what herb to use. You need to sheathe your weapon (mid-battle if necessary) and select your item from a quick-menu. Your weapon will degrade in strength the more you use it, so you must keep it sharp by using Whetstones. Large monsters won’t be tracked on the map unless you hit it with a Paintberry item - and at the start of each hunt, you’ll need to use your powers of deduction to actually find the thing in the first place.
Monsters all have their little idiosyncrasies too - mannerisms, quirks and movement patterns that have to be analysed severely before taking them on. Bnahbara mosquitos are hard to kill, until you find out that they are attracted to flame. So the next time you see them, using a torch will bring them right towards your sword. Or Gunlance. Or Long Sword. Or (my personal favourite) Switch Axe. Seriously, there’s loads of weapons in Monster Hunter
There’s just so much depth and strategy involved in Monster Hunter
, and once it all clicks you’ll be sucked into an addictive world that you won’t want to pull yourself out of. The hunt of one large monster leads to a hunger to get the next one, and the next - until you get to the Lagiacrus. Of course, things will go wrong along the way - expect death, defeat and abandoned quests many times over - but none of this feels cheap, and only adds to the unique narrative that you weave for yourself over the course of your journey.
So how does the Wii U update stand up compared to its Wii predecessor, then? Well, there are some gameplay benefits - the ability to use a greater variety of weapons underwater and the addition of some new creatures to hunt will pique the interest of fans looking to upgrade, while the re-introduction of G Rank to the series offers diehards a new set of challenges that will test those who have aced the Wii version.
The GamePad offers a much more natural play experience over the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and the additional buttons give it a control advantage over the 3DS version. The touchscreen on the GamePad is used in almost the exact same way as its handheld counterpart. Multiplayer has been handled pretty decently too, with Guild Cards easily transferrable between online players and even via StreetPass (if you have the 3DS version to walk around with).
Playing Monster Hunter
with friends is where the game really comes into its own. The more people you have in a party, the greater your chances of succeeding in a particularly devilish quest, after all. With the Port Tanzia area as a lobby of sorts, players can invite one another to co-op quests - and a whole list of challenges separate to those found in Moga Village will be available, with the option to compete with friends and foes via leaderboards.
Graphically, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
is nothing to write home about. There have been some visual improvements, but it barely even aspires the same attention to detail that we’re used to in HD remakes on other platforms. What it lacks in definition, however, it makes up for in vibrant colours, interesting art design and captivating monster behaviours and animation. Once you start getting immersed into a serious hunt, visual qualms will be the last thing on your mind.
Much like Dark Souls
, Monster Hunter
is a Japanese RPG series that requires an abundance of patience for some serious gameplay rewards. Be prepared to invest some serious time to get your money’s worth - go all in, or go home. Dig deep enough, and you’ll uncover an enjoyable and captivating action-RPG experience.
+ Incredibly deep and rewarding
+ Fantastic action strategy elements
+ Multiplayer hunting is a great experience
- Not a graphical wonder
- Will require serious time investment
SPOnG Score: 8/10