Monster Hunter Tri is the latest in Capcom's beast-hunting RPG series, and it's a true MMO-style grind-fest. This I learned at my cost – having never played a Monster Hunter game, my commando-esque strategy of 'run at dragons with pointy sword and swing mightily' did me absolutely no favours.
Make no mistake, Monster Hunter
is a game that requires a lot of play time to truly 'get it'. That's why Nintendo went to great lengths to educate us mere game journalists – not only were there plenty of Wii pods available, but Capcom producer Ryozo Tsujimoto and director Kaname Fujioka hosted a special presentation to teach us 'new recruits' about the world of Monster Hunter
So, for those who've never played a game in this series before (like me), here's the key element – teamwork. You need teamwork to tackle all of the beasts in the expansive world around you, or you're going to fail, guaranteed. You start your game by picking a noble warrior as your avatar, which is fully customisable right down to the hair colour and type of armour you can wear. I found a character whose armoury looked like a pink panda – there are fun options for those with a similarly bizarre sense of humour (like me! Rock on, panda chick!).
Once you've made your character, you're plonked on this world map, with a base camp that you respawn at should you 'faint' (read: die mercilessly by mutant dragon teeth) and a nearby village where you meet up with people, create teams and accept quests. On the Wii, you can play with a friend sitting next to you, or you can go online and team up with three other friends.
The best thing about this latter option – and it's a startling compromise on Nintendo's part – is that Capcom has managed to circumvent the Friends Code system, meaning you can approach this like a 'regular' MMO.
Speaking of which, this game has plenty of elements to suggest a Massive Multiplayer Online experience, but it's tailor-made for console play, so it's very streamlined and in fact, quite elegant in execution. Nothing like the dirge that was Final Fantasy XI
on Xbox 360, this is more like your Phantasy Star Online
kind of approach. And I like it. A lot.
What's most like an MMO is the beasts themselves – there's no health bar for any of the monsters you encounter, and you'll likely spend outwards of half an hour on each one on your first few hunts. Each creature is like an MMO boss in itself, and this was evident when I was playing with three other hardcore Monster Hunter fans – sat across each other, I heard calls of item requests, strategy changes and other such banter.
So, with all the discussion going on that can make or break a hunt, it's good to know that Capcom has also enabled Wii Speak compatibility for Monster Hunter Tri
. Otherwise, organised battle plans just go right out of the window and you're back to random stabbing (like... oh you know who I'm talking about).
The humourous presentation from Tsujimoto-san and Fujioka-san proved to be beneficial to not only me, but also to the select number of lucky fans who had been invited to the press event. This is because Tri
is slightly different to previous Monster Hunter
games. There's the obvious difficulty tweak to allow the target audience of the Wii (and people who don't get it, like... me) to easily jump into the action, but the major addition to the game world is in its new Ecology system.
Creatures will now exhibit various kinds of behaviour around other species, and it's all based on real world animal research. I was given some examples – little velociraptor-esque monsters called Jaggies travel in packs, and are very territorial when anything else invades their space. Rathions – which are huge beasts – are prone to wandering into their territory, and watching the Jaggies distract themselves on the Rathion can give you a chance to escape.
Monsters also have stamina, which can run out over time – they'll run away to the nearest watering hole or area which houses prey to regain strength. Your strategy here is to ensure the beasts wear themselves out without managing to get back lost energy. Finally, I was shown an example of mimicry – a creature called Quropeco can imitate other monster's cries, which will give this otherwise weak beast a few hard-as-nails friends. Quropeco's a little git.
While Monster Hunter
has always been a multiplayer affair, Tri also introduces a single-player mode, which introduces you to the different gameplay mechanics and offers a storyline of a village threatened by frequent earthquakes. It plays a lot like a one-player version of the standard mode to be honest, with the addition of a little creature called Cha-Chas, which are human companions that get stronger as you play the game.
There are various new modes and additions to keep die-hard fans happy too, including a new Switchaxe weapon to add to the list of Bowguns, Lances and Great Swords. Switchaxes have two forms; a sword form and an axe form, and pressing the R button on the Classic Controller Pro whilst unsheathed will allow you to change your weapon according to your strategy.
It seems like, after a few hours of training to be a true Monster Hunter, this can be quite the addictive game. Depending on how Nintendo plan to promote the game in the run up to its April launch, the usual cult of hardcore Monster Hunter
fans could well have many more friends to team up with. And that wouldn't be a bad thing at all.