Published on March 19th, 2013 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Hunting the Beast: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate Review
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]Release Date: March 19, 2013
Platform: Wii U (Reviewed), Nintendo 3DS
Review Notes: A copy of the game was received for review purposes.
The proprietary goal of a monster is to scare the pants off of you. These creatures come in many forms: From tussled, matted hair, to fanged beasts with unruly tempers.
But being scared tends to change when you’ve got the upper hand. If you are equipped with the right tools of the trade – like a sharpened axe made of Earth Crystals, Iron Ore and other elemental concoctions – those vicious animals might as well be playful puppy dogs. Well, most of them.
When Monster Hunter Tri (really, Monster Hunter 3) hit the Nintendo Wii, it seemed like a godsend for role-playing enthusiasts. The game finally brought a worthwhile social online RPG to a console that seemed to lack such an often overlooked, but important genre. Not only that, the game seemed to impress many who believed the Wii wasn’t capable of impressive visuals – a trait presented well in the game. Even with the admirable effort, Monster Hunter appeared to lack an easily accessible control scheme. Yet with the Classic Controller, the game seemed much more bearable.
Moving past the awkward control schemes, there seemed to be something enchanting at the game’s core. Multiplayer quests open up social interactions with other players – something the Wii struggled with for the entirety of its lifespan. In Monster Hunter Tri, players could interact, but the necessary interaction never seemed to reach its true potential. Players cried for a justifiable headset, but none were ever really delivered. Some of the issues with the release of Monster Hunter Tri seemed to be in Capcom’s crosshairs, as many have been addressed with the re-release of the game on the Nintendo Wii U. Now, the game receives a much needed graphics overhaul, new control scheme, additional content support and online interactions that builds on the previous institution.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate brings more to the table than just an HD dinner setting. If you were looking for an expansive multiplayer housing some serious bang for your buck, look no further. Here is the full rundown of additional content included in the Nintendo Wii U release:
• New Brachydios monster and nine new variants
• Kayamba as a new companion
• 211 new quests, 339 total
• 12 Arena Quests
• 2042 new pieces of equipment
• 1028 new armor pieces
• 11 new companion masks
• 58- new items & materials
• Three new stages
The expansive environment of a ‘monster hunter’ fit into Capcom’s repertoire of unusual story archetypes. Exaggerated weapons, oddly placed characters and quirky – yet likable – abilities seem to be a staple for the developer. With the re-sculpting of Monster Hunter Tri to fit the Nintendo Wii U, the company seems to have reached yet another platform of success.
The Nintendo Wii U GamePad offers a different approach to both the Classic Controller and even the Wii U Pro Controller. Having the touch screen filled with customizable tiles is one of the most notable of additions. The digital panels on the screen will streamline your hunting efforts. The entirety of the game’s menu is laid out in tiles, and tapping each and moving them around. These tiles changed based on player needs and preference. You will probably find yourself adjusting these multiple times to find something that works, and works well.
The layout I found most comfortable was really quite awkward. Much like having a game guide to reference by my side, I had the GamePad open with a large display of my character health, smaller map screen and touchable item menus. This was propped up half the time on the Wii U GamePad easel, and most times in my lap or on the ground next to me. It wasn’t necessarily meant to be played this way, but I found extreme comfort in this. Glancing back to check health status or monster location didn’t feel as bad as looking straight down for some reason.
In terms of the regular buttons of either controller, they are traditional in style. The ‘X’ and ‘A’ buttons are used for attacks, while ‘Y’ is used to activate a selected supply/device. Such abilities as using health or sharpening tools are completed with the ‘Y’ button, while ‘A’ is used to loot. The ‘R’ button is used for a sprint when you weapon isn’t drawn, and ‘L’ is used to redirect the camera.
Capcom had good intentions with the tiled screen, but I don’t think it was as impactful as it could have been. When looking at the map tile I expected it to use some sort of varied zoom. Instead, it either zooms 90 percent, or practically too small to make note of your character beacon. I did like the functionality of the item sort with simple directions of “left” and “right” instead of holding ‘L’ and scrolling through with ‘X’ or ‘A.’ Having the map accessible and using the combination features for potions was probably the most useful tool I found within the confines of the menus. Also, when dealing with the Wii U GamePad battery life, there should have been options to change controller schemes on the fly. I found myself restarting the game just so the Pro Controller could be used.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Monster Hunter series, the game opens up to exploration and of course, hunting monsters. There is an abundance of items and weaponry to explore in the game. Classes are carved out and delegated by weaponry.
• Sword and Shield
• Great Sword
• Bowgun (Light, Medium and Heavy)
• Switch Axe
So, you simply choose your character build and appearance, but when choosing a weapon, this dictates your class. For example, if you choose the Long Sword, you won’t exactly bounce around the map like a 6-year-old on a sugar rush. Customizing the look, feel and style of your character and chosen weapon, beyond the large areas to cover on foot, are an exploratory experience in itself.
The game plops players in the “Moga Village,” which is in need of a hunter for hire. The sea port opens up into the first area where players can explore and hunt. It is also known as home. Quests are delivered via “The Guild,” a village hiring hunters to aid in its survival.
Heading to the Quest Counter will show the available missions. Jobs are posted to meet village needs, and players can pick and choose which quest to partake in as long as it’s within their current character’s level. Players start in the first tier of quests and are mostly there for introductory purposes. Weapons, monster trapping and hunting are all learned. When the opportunity opens up for an “Ugent Quest” and is completed, the next tier of quests becomes available. As more open, the tougher they become and more areas are able to be visited. The jobs require simple to difficult quests including delivering supplies to aid the village, talking to cats and occasionally slaying giant slobberin’ bear-like monsters in the woods. Other Arena quests, which challenge you to slay a number of different monsters, also reward items and “zenny,” the game’s form of currency. Simple, right?
There are many characters to interact with at the town. You can head to people like the Wyverian Artisan for your ‘smithing needs. Weapons and Armor can be forged and upgraded here, while newer armor can simply be purchased if you lack the materials. Bring items back, like the purple-hinted skin of a Jaggi—a velociraptor type creature—and create armor that is sturdy and purdy.
The game draws many aspects from multiple genres. There are hints of elements taken from popular action and adventure titles to overlay the role-playing backbone of the game. Players can easily become a journeyman as they scour each area and learn to utilize the environment to their advantage. Venturing out into the wilderness and encountering dangerous creatures comes with the territory. From giant mosquito-type creatures bearing stingers known as Bnahabra, to the towering bear-like honey eater known as the Arzuros, variety is definitely the game’s strong point. Building upon that in ‘Ultimate’ is something that seems to stem from the game’s early development roots.
A little backstory for you history buffs: Monster Hunter Tri was to be originally developed for the PlayStation 3. However, high production costs limited the release to the original Wii. Capcom was the opportunity to build on that early iteration by adding it to the Wii U’s library, delivering a more rounded experience. More monsters in the game mean more challenges to those who’ve seemed to master the prior title.
I was for certain that the map layout of the game would change now that the Wii U was capable of more physical disk space. After playing the demo, the map stayed the same and could have for many reasons. The physical map itself is similar to what you’d see in the real world on a hunting endeavor, having each location separated based on animals types. However, the general makeup can be confusing for first time players and does draw away from the open world environment. Doing so also limits the time spent trekking across large fields and doesn’t leave you to fast-travel everywhere. Even so, quests can sometimes last all the way up to the 50 minute mark, so it sort of counterbalances itself.
Dropping one of these enormous, and sometimes tyrannical, beasts takes skills learned as a hunter. Whether it’s the use of your Bone Axe, or piercing shot of your Bow Gun, there’s more to the game and simply hitting a big creature with the biggest weapon you have.
The game also draws focus and certain elements from role-playing games. Such things as crafting and forging materials often come into play. Health items and materials can be gathered and created based on your botanical knowledge. These newly crafted potions and cooking utensils become your ‘medicine cabinet’ so to speak, providing health potions, heat and cold remedies. Worry not, hunter, over the course of the game your knowledge of the many plants and fungi will grow on you. Consistency in outcomes increases with the more books owned. “Learn to churn so you won’t burn” is my hunter motto. Good ol’ PappyJACK … she knows it well. Much like the approval of shallow friends, this too can be purchased for the right amount.
Foraging the environment for supplies is something unusual – an angle that seems to work well with the game. You might enter a quest with minimal supplies, but most everything that you could prepare yourself with can be scavenged for in each location. Even the common Whetstones, which are used to sharpen weapons, worn from use, can be excavated from the environment. A good example occurred while on a quest to hunt and defeat the giant fire bird known as the Qurupeco – a harrowing battle in which any margin of error could lead to mission failure. After I had used supplies carried into the mission, I was able to go fishing in another portion of the map, catch a whetfish (used for sharpening equipment to the same degree as a whetstone) for my blade, some regular fish for stamina and continued the fight. This delivers a feeling of “living off the fat of the land,” and really using your world as a tool for survival.
It’s tough to say what exactly Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is. The game is an action-adventure title with RPG elements, which is expanded and refined by the included online multiplayer experience. Though the game first saw light on the Wii, the Wii U release brings with it a slew of features, content and promises something in which the original release simply couldn’t provide: Downloadable content.
Even though the game could easily be marveled at, there were some things that didn’t sit well with me. I did feel that the overall aesthetics took an encouraging stride to outperform its predecessor. Even so, certain character models and foliage at times revealed the age hidden underneath the glossy coat. Matted greenery and muddy NPC clothing –standing in high contrast to the rest of the environment – were among these noticeable gripes. For example, some water textures displayed reflective, shimmering effects, while other large bodies of water – near Section 10 of the Moga Woods – looked as though someone hit “copy and paste.” I couldn’t help but compare what I played to something like Dragon Age Origins, a game that wasn’t so much beautiful as it was an RPG fan’s dream. Much like the animation sequences, similarities can be seen in the continued attack or heal animations found in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. Sometimes causing frustration, sometimes relief, that you weren’t struck as you were stuck in the animation.
While most of the control schemes were favorable, there were some that should have been taken into account. One of which can be experienced while in combat.
I encountered quite a few issues when it came to the camera, for one. Also, underwater combat is troublesome if you managed to become accustomed to the any sort of Bow Gun. Waving your crosshairs around like a wild man is probably the closest description that I could give. It was frustrating to not simply aim the reticule at an enemy and fire away. The squirrely aiming didn’t help during evasive maneuvers, either.
Most of the game was played with some sort of dual-handed weapon. Doing so is reminiscent of rogue type characters in other games where speed is emphasized over power. While slashing away without a guard it was essential to find relief in evasive moves. However, larger enemies often filled the screen with bulk. Going back to the camera, the size of the enemies often left for awkward view angles – and temper tantrums – during heated battles. It would have been fine for an episode of “Maury,” but for slaying a Great Ludroth, it wasn’t the friendliest experience. The aquatic creature held the stature of a lion and flailed like a fish out of water. Evasive rolls from danger were caught in-between environment walls without anywhere to go, or rolling in the complete opposite direction that my character was facing. This was also the case in such missions underwater, having been pinned against the exit doorway to each numbered section of the map.
Wielding the Katana and its upgraded skins became comfortable, yet still fell to the problematic angles at times. Geometry this bad should be left to high school classrooms, not a massive RPG title.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate really is the ultimate experience. The game proves its worth in content, an HD upgrade, and moderately simpler control design.
The game offers an expansive environment for players both experienced and inexperienced in the hunting arts. Hiccups in the camera department leave for some frustrating moments when facing larger enemies, but nothing to shake a stick at. Unless you are fighting with a stick, then, by all means, shake away.
New monsters exist to challenge returning players, and new equipment to to keep them enthralled. Online multiplayer provides for future experiences with both Wii U and Nintendo 3DS players.
There isn’t really much bad to be said about the game. It is one of the most expansive games in its series, even more so now on the Wii U console. The game brings with it a slew of content upping the ante from the Wii release, something that people will be hunting for come when it comes to re-releasing a game on a new console.
+ Value Added Content
+ Equipment upgrades/items/character modifications
+ More than an ‘HD’ upgrade
+ Online modes
– Camera angles
+/- Map layout/fast travel
+/- GamePad tiles