Graphics aren't as special as they could have been
Monster Hunter has been a relatively unknown series to us in the West up until recently. A hugely popular game in Japan, it was originally released on Playstation 2 and while the rest of the world did get the game, it received little-to-no advertising, no media attention, relatively bad reviews and once it was sold it was never seen again. Because of its failure in the West, we never got a chance to play Monster Hunter 2. It never left Japan. Around that time however, we got Monster Hunter Freedom on PSP. The game was a straight port of Monster Hunter G, a Japanese-exclusive expansion to the original. The game didn't do too well but Capcom wasn't swayed. Later on, Monster Hunter Freedom 2 was released on PSP in the West. It was a straight port of Monster Hunter 2 and received a larger amount of fans. Last year, wereceived Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, an expansion of Monster Hunter Freedom 2 with additional features, levels, weapons and armor. It received television and internet advertising and gained a huge amount of fans outside of Japan.
Now, Monster Hunter Tri has been released exclusively on the Nintendo Wii. While it was released in Japan last August, it was released in Europe and North America late April this year. The wait was well worth it, not only are the American and European versions free to play, but it has been upgraded to support Wii Speak. Monster Hunter Tri is also the first Wii game to not require Nintendo's Friendcode system, a system which would have failed greatly with the Monster Hunter series. However, these fantastic additions don't come without faults. For example, North America and Europe have their own servers, so if you have a PAL copy then don't expect to be playing with anyone from America. Not only that, but because of the addition of Wii Speak, rooms online (called cities) can only hold four people as opposed to ten in the Japanese game. This is a huge problem because you cannot lock cities and parties for quests are four max. I found several times while attempting to meet up with three friends in a city, two of my friends would join, then a stranger would jump into slot four while my fourth friend sends me a message asking why the city is full. It becomes increasingly frustrating when they refuse to leave, forcing you and your other two friends to set up a new city. The server occassionally gives you errors that stop you and your friends from meeting up. If you're lucky, this error happens outside of a quest, we have experience a server error mid-quest, splitting us all up and sometimes dropping us straight out a quest we had spent half an hour working on. Hopefully Capcom sorts this issue out, as online play is the biggest part of the game.
The single player mode in Monster Hunter Tri is the weakest single player experience I have played in a while. I would go so far as to say that it's barely worth picking this game up if you don't plan on playing online. Monster Hunter on the PSP, which still has four-player local ad-hoc multiplayer, was much more suited for single-player experience for those that didn't have buddies to hunt with. The village quests were definitely a lot easier because you could only do them alone, but the Guild (the multiplayer room) quests were clearly toned down for those that didn't have people to play with, thus it wasn't impossible to solo your way through the entire game. The Guild quests were also playable offline. Monster Hunter Tri has an easily completed single player experience with an online mode that requires an internet connection to access. The online play is actually pretty challenging, which is understandable seeing as it takes only a few minutes to set up a four-player game with complete strangers, then you're jumping straight into a quest. Online play is by far the most enjoyable, co-operatively hunting with other people is enjoyable for sure, unless you get in a party of people who purposely try to ruin your experience, although every online game has that.
Monster Hunter Tri would have succeeded a lot better if it was the first game of the series rather than a continuation. After Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, it's hard to play Tri without feeling a little let down by the removal of monsters (besides three monsters which carried over) and weapons. It's a case of two steps forward, three steps back. The addition of the Switch Axe is fantastic, the ability to switch between a quick wide weapon like a Long Sword and a fast Great Sword with no block is fantastic, it's easily my favourite weapon in the series. However, the removal of the Bow, Dual Swords, Hunting Horn, and Gunlance seemed unnecessary in retrospect. Although, the Bow wouldn't have worked underwater and the Hunting Horn could have been a bit iffy too, it's a game and it hardly has to be realistic. In addition to things being removed, the Guild Card from previous games has been removed completely. You still obtain Awards but because you can't show them off on your personalized and upgradeable Guild Card, you won't be showing off your Awards thus rendering them somewhat useless. You still have unlockable titles which other people see along with your own personal comment, but it's simple.
All problems aside, it really is a great game. The graphics do shine on the Wii although I'd never compare them to a PS3 or 360 game. When purchasing Tri you'll be able to buy it in a bundle with a Classic Controller Pro, or by itself. I highly recommend buying the Classic Controller Pro bundle seeing as it's laid out VERY similar to that of PS2 controls and you can even choose between PS2 or PSP controls which is a nice addition. I can't imagine anyone professionally playing this game with a Wiimote and nunchuck. As a Monster Hunter fan, I don't see myself playing this game for much longer unlike Unite which I put 500+ hours. The lack of content compared to the previous games on PSP just can't hold my attention for as long. If you've never played a Monster Hunter game before, now is the time to grab yourself a copy of Monster Hunter Tri for your Wii, the game was obviously designed to hook in newcomers. If you're a long-time veteran looking for something new to hunt, or a newcomer who has never touched a Monster Hunter game before, you're bound to get a kick out of this.