Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (Wii U, 3DS) Review

Our last review of the month of April is from a series that hasn't in the West even come closely to meeting the success the series has in Japan. The game is Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, a title available on both the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. Is it worth checking into if you've already played Tri, or is it a good game for newbies of the series to enjoy? Here's our review that answers those two questions and more.

It Was A Monster Mash.

Monster Hunter is a series that is one of the most popular in the Land of the Rising Sun. Each game in the franchise is consistently a million-selling title in Japan alone. In the West, the series is much more niche rather than being a widespread success. Despite this, Capcom has been open to releasing the games to North America, Europe, Australia, among other parts of the world. The latest installment of the Monster Hunter series is Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, essentially an expansion of the Wii's Monster Hunter Tri. With more weapons, more monsters, and the ability to transfer one's character from the Wii U to the 3DS and vice versa, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is the best Monster Hunter game to date. Here's why.

The world of Monster Hunter can seem very overwhelming at first. What weapon do you choose? How do you face off against more powerful monsters? What armor should you gun for? How do I get _____ to upgrade my _____? The questions posed to players are immense. Thankfully, the game does a remarkable job of easing players into the game via starting tutorial missions. While these may annoy longtime Monster Hunter players, as they are mandatory, for those who are for the first time entering the Monster Hunter universe or haven't played Monster Hunter in a long time, they're invaluable to complete.

Even attacking harmless creatures isn't
below a typical monster hunter.
Quests are the main draw of the Monster Hunter series. These assign you a task such as collecting a specific amount of a certain item, taking out a specific number of monsters, or taking down a "boss" monster such as Qurupeco or a Barroth. Each quest has an entry fee that players must pay, but if the mission is a success you get more zenny (the currency of the Monster Hunter series) than you originally paid.

Each monster has their own attacks that need to be dodged accordingly. For instance, the fiery dragon Rathalos spews out fireballs that will cause a temporary burning status to whomever it hits. Meanwhile, the Great Jaggi, one of the earliest big monsters, will swipe at hunters with its tail and even call in reinforcements. The fun of Monster Hunter is finding the best ways to go about defeating each beast, how to dodge their attacks well, and knowing when to simply run away. Simply button mashing will not bode well for those on the hunt. Monster Hunter as a series is all about timing your attacks and evasions for the best success. This learning experience is an exceptionally rewarding feature of the Monster Hunter series, and it holds true for Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate.

Be careful! This creature's quite shocking!
Fighting the "boss" monsters is a bit of an endurance match. Monsters do not display a health bar. Instead, you have to take notice and observe their behavior. For instance, a weakened monster on the cusp of defeat will start drooling, start staggering as it walks, and sometimes even miss their own attacks. Weakened monsters are also known to flee from the current area, so tossing a Paintball to track their location on the map is essential.

When a monster is on the edge of being slain, you can do one of two things. You can either slay it normally, or you can opt to do the more difficult task of the two, capturing it. A weakened monster, as stated, will have telltale signs it is about to keel over. By dropping a trap and luring the beast into it, you have a shot of capturing it. Of course, a pitfall or shock trap alone won't put the monster into hibernation. No, you need Tranq Bombs to chuck at the monster to soothe it to sleep. One might wonder what the point of capturing a monster is if it's a more challenging task. Well, capturing a monster will give you more resources, and sometimes the rarest of them can only be received through capturing a monster.

This winter rabbit is quick to chill any hunter out.
Resources are incredibly important in the world of Monster Hunter. They are acquired through catching bugs, fishing, and most importantly, carving up deceased monsters. In order to upgrade your weapons and armor (or forge entirely new ones), you'll need to have the required amount of resources. For example, to create the pieces of the complete Rathian armor (helmet, body armor, leggings, arm guards, waist armor, etc.), you need to receive various resources from the Rathian monster. I'm referring to things like the Rathian Claw, Rathian Tail, among other parts. Crafting new weapons and armor is essential in getting stronger, as Monster Hunter has no experience levels. You only get stronger through the gear you upgrade.

It is important to choose the right weapon and armor for the proper situation. If you're going to be facing a monster like the Royal Ludroth who does water attacks, you might not want to wear an armor with a fire element to it. Choosing the best weapon for the job is also important. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate features a dozen or so weapon archetypes, each with their own way of handling and each with their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Sword and Shield doesn't take too long to attack, but it's one of the weaker weapons of the game, requiring a lot more attacks on a monster than say, a Great Sword. The problem with the Great Sword archetype of weapons, however, is that it's a heavy weapon, requiring some time in order to get off an attack. Finding the right weapon for your play style is of the utmost importance. Learning what weapon works the best for you and then being an absolute boss with it is an awesome thing.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate doesn't just offer local play. It also has its own network mode, where Wii U players (sorry, 3DS owners) can hop online, set up and enter rooms on the various lobbies of the game's servers, and team up to take down savage monsters together and complete unique online quests. This is probably the most fun I've had with an online game in a long time. The cooperative aspect of the hunt with friends or total strangers, chatting into the Wii U GamePad's microphone or inputting text, and helping one another out in battle gave me an incredibly empowered and fun feeling.

Teaming up with friends and/or other players
is such a rewarding and enjoyable experience.
Like the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate offers cross-play between the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game. What this means is that you can take your hunter from the 3DS version and transfer him over to the Wii U version, and vice versa. You can take your hunter from a home console, transfer him to your 3DS, and take your 3DS out and about as you slay monsters on the bus to school, on the train ride to work, or wherever. Additionally, the Wii U version sports off-TV play, which makes for a great novelty. Nothing like watching Deadliest Catch as you take down a fierce Gigginox!

The latest patch introduced off-TV
play into the fold.
The inclusion of dual analogs on the Wii U GamePad makes keeping a monster in your sights easy. Seriously, it is a godsend to be able to control the camera in a Monster Hunter game like never before. On the 3DS, you can use the touch screen to move the camera around.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is absolutely packed with things to do. It is not unheard of for certain players to log in over 500 hours of playtime. Of course, that's only for the most dedicated hunters out there. You need not play for so long to experience the most the game has to offer.

Perhaps the only issue I have with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, other than the slow start the game has and the steep learning curve for those trying to get into the series, is with moving between areas. When you near the edge of one area, you are automatically taken to the next. The problem with this is that if a monster moves to an area's edge and you follow it, you will accidentally be taken to the next area. I would have liked to have it where you have to pres the A button to move from area to area, as fighting a monster and then unintentionally moving to a new area is sometimes really frustrating.

Yeah... I think you win the 
"Who's taller" contest.
Moving onto the presentation of the game, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate isn't the belle of the ball when it comes to look. It's just a high res version of the Wii game. That said, the game doesn't look awful by any means. It just isn't a showcase of the Wii U hardware's power. The game does run at a steady framerate, even when a lot of monsters and players are on the screen at the same time. The sound of the game is top-notch with impressive roars of monsters, weapon sound effects, and ambient noise. The music, performed by the FILMharmonic Orchestra of Prague, really engages the player, making them feel like they right there in an epic showdown with an enormously powerful monster.

The Flooded Forest is one of the prettiest
locations in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate.
It is because of these reasons that Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is currently the definitive Monster Hunter experience. Online play with voice chat, off-TV play, cross play with the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS versions, better controls, and more features make that known for sure. Things like the mandatory opening quest tutorials and the learning curve for beginning players make for a less-than-perfect experience. However, if you stick with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, you will no doubt get to enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

[SPC Says: 9.25/10]

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