On The Hunt: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate Hands-on Impressions (3DS/Wii U)
I suck at Monster Hunter. I’m putting that out there right away. I love the concept but I’ve never been able to explore it fully. Hunting down tough monsters for their parts, and crafting said parts into new equipment to take down tougher monsters for their parts and so on and so forth is what Monster Hunter is all about. I love the idea, but it doesn’t love me.
You see, I’m not kidding when I say ‘tough’ monsters. The game is very tough. Some people say the game is just badly designed because there’s no lock on button, the monsters don’t have health bars and the game’s controls are complicated, but I’m not going to do that. I don’t think my troubles with the series lie with the game, it’s due to my impatience and lack of skill.
The demo of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate I got to play on 3DS allowed me to see what I was missing out on, as it was played in multiplayer with high level equipment, meaning the equipment grind was done away with, and we could jump straight into a hard battle and stand a slight chance. The high level bosses still beat us in the end, but we all felt like we were doing alright.
Monster Hunter is a niche series in that it’s not one that makes you feel powerful as a player- it makes you feel totally out of your depth. You’re just a random guy or girl with weapons taking on gigantic monsters, you’re not a chosen one, you don’t have special powers, you’re getting by (or not) on your skill alone. You take on quests which are usually hunting a group of smaller monsters, or one larger, boss-like one, but are sometimes gathering quests, which involve finding a certain item through fishing, mining, hunting monsters or similar means.
Completing quests gives you money and rewards, and increase your rank, allowing to to take on harder quests. As the quests get harder, you’ll need to get better equipment if you want to survive. You can just buy the equipment of course, but that’s much more expensive than supplying the materials yourself. Where do you get said materials? From the monsters of course! Gathering the materials for your equipment yourself and turning it into something tangible is a great feeling.
It wouldn’t be Monster Hunter without, you know, hunting monsters, so how does that work? Better than previous installments, would you believe? The game is an improved version of Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii, adding in a lot more content (like quests, monsters and weapon styles), refining the controls and making the graphics prettier. With the dual analogue sticks on the Wii U’s GamePad (and on the 3DS’ Circle Pad Pro, which we didn’t get to use) the camera works much better than the handheld iterations of the series, allowing for easy camera adjustment while simultaneously moving around, much like using the Classic Controllers on Tri.
For the 3DS version of the game, the touch screen has some handy shortcuts, like a virtual D-Pad for adjusting the camera (alleviating the need to use the infamous ‘Claw’ position to adjust the camera), items, and a button that instantly centres the camera on the boss monster you’re fighting. It isn’t a lock on button, as it only adjusts the camera once when you press it, but it’s extremely helpful when under the pressure of battle, while not making the game too easy.
The actual combat is where things get really interesting. There’s a large variety of weapon types to learn and use (around 12 I believe the official count is), ranging from hammers, swords, guns and, er… a magical horn. They all play very differently, with their own strengths and weaknesses which allows for multiple styles of play. You have to carefully time your attacks to maximise damage while not getting absolutely obliterated by your foes.
You have to learn your enemies’ attack patterns, and exploit them. While there’s no health bar, you can tell your blows are having an effect when your foe appears to be physically damaged, with horns broken off and whatnot, and their behavior will change. This could be something subtle like drool coming out of their mouth, or something more noticeable like searching frantically for an exit and fleeing. When monsters flee, things get really frustrating, because they’ll normally heal a significant portion of the damage you dealt them, and it can take time to track them down again.
It’s especially annoying when you’re trying to capture a monster alive for better rewards (or if the quest is a jerk and has it as a requirement) as you have to not only weaken the monster, and know when it’s weak enough to trap, but also place the trap, lead the monster into it and tranquilize it, all before it flees and heals itself and you’ve wasted a trap. Monster Hunter really isn’t a game for the impatient or easily frustrated, but if you can handle its slow burn and intricacies it’s worth your time.
The game really shines in multiplayer. This was the first time I got to play the game with other players, and it was a load of fun. We teamed up against one of the new boss monsters, whose name was complicated, that had acid based attacks and left deadly pools in its wake. It was a long fight, it fled multiple times, and some of our party was inexperienced, but we dealt a lot of damage to it, breaking several of its parts, but in the end it bested us. I felt good about it though, the good equipment our characters had, and the synergy of our party’s different weapons gave me a taste of what the game could be in its later stages, especially when we later took down a monster that had troubled me in the past. It’s a really enjoyable experience if you have the time and patience for it, especially if you can gather friends to play. This is made easier via the Wii U’s online support, which is something the portable versions have lacked.
Monster Hunter is a really brutal game at times, but Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate looks to be a great treat to those who can stand it. Tri had some unique features over its predecessors like underwater hunting and online, and adds plenty of new content on top of that. Just be warned, this game isn’t as newcomer friendly as other games on the market.