Monster Hunter is a well-known series to some, not so much to others, developed by the very well-known company Capcom. Being born into the world in 2004, the series has had strong ties with Sony, though also releasing a game for Microsoft called Monster Hunter Frontier. Now a new age has begun, seeing Capcom releasing their newest title, Monster Hunter Tri with Nintendo for the Wii. Sadly, being new to the series, I cannot compare the differences and similarities present within the console jump. But let’s see how well the game does pleasing a newcomer to the series from the potential customer base they’ve tapped.
Welcome to Moga Village, your new home. You’re a hunter with an appointed mission; take down the scary sea leviathan Lagiacrus and save the townspeople! But at the current period in time, you are not up to the task, so it’s time to test your strengths and venture out into the Monster Hunter world to get some firsthand experience. Prepare to start your hunting under the guidance of the Village Chief and his son as you slay, capture and study the monsters waiting for you out there to discover. But is everything as it seems?
That paragraph sums up the storyline of Monster Hunter Tri in a nutshell (without spoiling some interesting bits). There’s no elaborate plot with numerous twists and turns, so don’t come into it expecting something extravagant. Monster Hunter Tri is not about the background, it’s all about the action and achievements. There is a storyline to follow throughout the offline mode, albeit a small one, that works smoothly enough. You can also take a greater interest by talking to the different members of the village and reading quest descriptions to attempt to self-add in some extra details that aren’t primarily thrown at you. So yes, the plot is lacking, but you won’t be phased by it as you’re too focused on other concerns.
Why did I agree to this!?
Something newcomers should know about Monster Hunter Tri is that it’s not an easily accessible game. You’ve got to be willing to put in the time and effort in order to reap the benefits; you cannot simply stumble into it and expect to be brilliant (I’m looking at you Call of Duty). The most obvious of learning curves is the combat system. The four main things to look at are weapons, armours, items and the monsters themselves. Each aspect is quite diverse (though older Monster Hunter fans will know there were more weapons, armours and monsters in past games) and requires a fair amount of thinking/planning on behalf of the player.
You’ve got several weapon options to look at, from the all-rounder Sword n Shield to the projectile-using Bowgun, from the silent but deadly Great Sword to the interesting morphing weapon known as the Switch Axe. Each weapon has numerous paths that can be undertaken, with many weapon paths branching off from the basic Bone and Iron paths you’ll start off with. Players will have to undergo a process of experimentation in order to find what works well for them, as each weapon brings something to the table and you really have to spend a lot of time with a weapon before you can “master” it so-to-speak. And on top of raw damage, weapons can also have an Element or Status attribute, something that can be used to give you an edge or advantage over the opposing monster. Not to mention all monsters are different, so you will need to have multiple monster-slaying tools at your disposal. In other words, the game encourages players to become well versed in at least two weapon types over the course of the game, which can only be a good thing.
Similarly, you won’t be using the same armour set for the whole game that’s for sure. Each set of armour, or even pieces if you want to break it down further, consist of weaknesses/resistances and skill points. Your armour set determines how strong/weak you are to the different elements, as well as what skills you have according to your points. You can also use Talismans and Decorations to further increase your points and unlock more skills. Different armours and combinations of armours will be more appropriate in certain situations than others and building complete sets can sometimes require a fair amount of consideration on the part of the player, remembering the materials that they have and will need for forging/upgrading.
You've got to work-it-out!
To be blunt, there are more items in this game than you can throw a Jhen Mohran at. It will take you a while to become accustomed to them, as different items become available and required over time. Items can also be combined; allowing players to make items that they may not want to pay for or perhaps items that can’t be found any other way. It’s not always about battling, you will be spending a fair amount of time maintaining and combining your items in order to prepare for your future monster encounters. Whether it be buying, combining or trading, you’ll realise quite quickly that you can’t just run into a hunt and live to tell the tale; preparation is the key.
You’ll be managing all this stuff (weapons, armours, items) with your box which can be found in your room. You can use it to combine, organise and effectively maintain a working system with everything you own. When viewing a weapon you can see what attributes it has, compare it to what you currently have equipped and see what it looks like (same goes for armour). You can also use the box to equip “sets”, allowing you to equip an entire set planned rather than cycling through the separate parts mashing the A button to get them all on. The different options are also presented when using the Smithy, giving the player the great ability to compare and preview things before they make the decision to forge/upgrade. Such is the great ability to customise and organise present within this game (I mean, how many games provide you with the ability to not only fully create your own character and manage their look later on, but even choose their grunts too?).
Progression in the game is based on a series of quests. Quests come in four main forms: Hunt, Slay, Capture and Gather. Each quest type presents a different challenge for the player, whether it be gathering certain materials or attempting to weaken the monster just enough to tranq it and drag the thing back home. Quests sometimes have a fee to initiate and will also have a payment if you complete the quest successfully. Though you’ll quickly find out you can get monster parts via carving in Moga Woods, you’ll also soon find out that you’ll get extra rewards (both monster and item based) in what’s known as the quest rewards which you’ll get to after a “quest complete”. More often than not, there is also what’s known as Sub-quests. Doing these will get you extra rewards in the quest rewards, as well as giving you the ability to require from a quest on one should you need to (note that it won’t count as a quest complete). The small yet interesting variety in quests will keep your interest, sometimes being constrictive and at other times more open. As you will need to do the key quests before you can unlock more things, the game encourages the player to take part in all quests in due time, helping to ensure no part of the fun is left untouched.
So what’s a hunt like? On first encounters, you’re likely to find yourself a good hard slog challenge, assuming you haven’t done extensive research of course (and even then, it doesn’t win it for you just like that, I should know!). Monsters will only become easier as you upgrade your weapons/armours and learn their attack patterns. Whether it be putting you to sleep with their spit, blasting you away with a fireball or paralysing you with a swift tail strike, each monster presents a unique and challenging confrontation for the player to overcome. With different abilities, attacks and elements, monsters will force the player into learning more about the game; to learn what is good against what and that you cannot simply choose “what looks good” and hope to progress from beginning to end. Not to mention that battles can take place on both land and in water in Monster Hunter Tri.
Hmmm... perhaps a bigger sword next time?
Battles underwater are a notable mention. Not present in the previous edition(s), the concept of manoeuvring and battling is a big learning curve for both new players and veterans alike. No longer are you fighting on a flat 360 degrees battlefield, now you’ve got up and down to worry about too. But don’t worry, because once you get the hang of it, battling underwater presents something unique and highly enjoyable. In the past, one would fight water-dwellers lured onto land. Now, you can jump in and splash around with that sea leviathan. The controls for underwater moving are relatively the same as on land, your d-pad still controlling where you move to, still being able to dodge etc. Something different is your oxygen meter, which will deplete over time. The player can refill it by resurfacing, going through a stream of bubbles or an item. If not, and it hits red and stays that way for a while, the player will begin to experience a slow health decrease (yes, they’re not so horrid that you just drown and faint straight away).
As well as all those differences, you’ll also slowly unlock the different areas in Monster Hunter Tri. For example, you could find Lagiacrus in the Deserted Island, but you may also find it in the Flooded Forest. Or perhaps you want to hunt the Gigginox, which resides only in the Tundra. Each environment presents something completely different, from a flooded rainforest to a harsh volcanic region. With each change in environment, players will meet new monsters, new environmental hazards and new sights to enjoy. The constant swapping around from environment to environment is another way the game stops itself from becoming stale, an incredibly important consideration given the extreme grinding this game requires. With each area presenting new battle opportunities, secrets to unlock and more battles and items to help you progress, you’ll enjoy swapping around from one to the other as you get your hunt on. One thing some players do tend to complain about with this game is the loading time between areas. Considering it is roughly only a two second wait, these people are simply whingers and it does not detract from your gaming experience.
I'm blue, if I was green I would die
Where this game really shines, however, is the online component. Though I’ll warn you now: complete offline mode first, or you may never go back to it! Going online presents the player with the ability to hunt alone or with a team of up to four people. You’ll get a lot more quests, many of them brand new; including some monsters you can’t find offline. Monsters also gain a boost in terms of ferocity in order to maintain a balance, as four on one is hardly fair now, is it? Players will have to search servers and city gates in order to find/create a city that suits their needs. And with an easy to use friend system, you can easily add your mates and all gather together to share in the glory of the hunt. The online component also has a level-up aspect known as your Hunter Rank. You gain experience toward your Hunter Rank by completing quests and gaining experience. In turn, your gain in Hunter Rank will unlock new quests for you to enjoy, as well as some storyline like in offline mode (yes, online also has a storyline of sorts, which is less developed than offline, but doesn’t matter as you won’t be paying it much attention, if any). Overall, online is extremely fun and definitely what makes Monster Hunter. Though you will undoubtedly experience some connection issues during your time with this game, whether it be trying to get into a city or being disconnected during a quest, overall it’ll be sound and you can get on an enjoy yourself. If I could make a suggestion for the online segment, it would be to grant the player the ability to lock a city to people who aren’t their friends. It’d save people having to find a really out-there city and warping to each other and would eliminate the hassle of other people joining your city and not leaving when politely asked to make room for a friend you're waiting on.
Though I tend to do this with often Wii reviews, I think I’ve found my new favourite in terms of graphics. The environments, given their variety and attention to detail, will always present you with something new and breath-taking (play around with that camera angle!). You’ll even find yourself spending time checking out things like weapons (you won’t be able to help yourself, some are just too bad-ass not to admire). Cut-scenes are also great, running smoothly and doing a good job of introducing such things as a new monster or area.
I believe I can fly! ... Why so Gobul!?
Sound-wise this game is great, who’d have thought you’d hear a big monster in the next area before you go there? From the cries of the pestering Jaggi to the roar of an enraged Rathalos, the game provides an interesting take on the portrayal of a world as being natural (in other words, you could almost swear it is real at times... or I just wish I had a Jhen Mohran under my bed). You’ll also fall in love with the music, with such epic tracks as your final battle with Ceadeus and the main theme of the game, not to mention the bone-chilling crawl of Gobul’s music (why so Gobul?). Although the music won’t always be as noticeable, a side effect of extensive playing, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s got a great set of tracks that fit their specific place quite well.
Monster Hunter Tri is nothing short of incredible, easily one of the best games the Wii has seen so far. For a new fan like me, it’s been an absolute pleasure to play for the last couple of months and continue to do so (yes, this game has brilliant length and replay value, assuming you don’t just do something once and never again... how could you? It’s far too fun!). Though I do sometimes wonder what I’m missing out on, considering the lessened total of monsters, weapons and armours in comparison to previous iterations, this game holds its own and if taken to be a brand new series (and as far as Nintendo and fans are concerned, it might as well be) it presents an exciting future of games to look forward to. It's incredibly addictive and to the player willing to put in the time and effort, very rewarding. Few games offer the same level of achievement you'll feel while playing this one. Despite minor upsets with the online component, overall Monster Hunter Tri is a solid game with great customisation and general gameplay on offer and is a definite recommendation for those who love the grinding element in games, or the interesting action experience of slaying monsters that only Monster Hunter can effectively give you.