By Operation Rainfall Contributor / March 26th, 2013
|Title||Monster Hunter 3 (Tri) Ultimate|
|Release Date||March 19, 2013 (NA); March 22, 2013 (EU)|
|Age Rating||ESRB: T; PEGI: 16+|
When Monster Hunter 3 (Tri) originally arrived on the Wii, it was greeted by moderate sales in the West and a rock solid band of “hunters” that continue to support the game to this day. A 3DS port of Tri was released late 2011 to critical and commercial acclaim in Japan, but news of the game’s Western release didn’t hit until September 2012, when an “HD” port to the Wii U was also announced. Now that both games are released, you’ll probably have a few burning questions: for owners of the Wii version, are there compelling reasons to upgrade to the 3DS or Wii U versions? If you haven’t yet played Tri, which version(s) should you get, and is Monster Hunter a series worth getting into in the first place? Hopefully this review will help to clear things up.
NOTE: This review is going to start with an overall review of the game, which could in theory also apply to the Wii original. For those looking for an in-depth review of the 3DS version, please read the 3DS review (coming soon). For those who have already played Tri on the Wii and would simply like to know what’s been changed in the Wii U version, skip ahead to this section.
First off, for those new to the Monster Hunter franchise, is Tri Ultimate a good place to start? The short answer is a definite “yes” for most people. The stories of each game are completely independent of each other, meaning that you won’t be missing a single bit of story from past games.
When you first boot up Monster Hunter Tri, you are tasked with creating your character. While many of these features can be changed at any time once gameplay starts, be sure to pick your Name (which is displayed online) and Gender wisely, as you won’t be able to change these without starting a brand new character from scratch.
You just so happen to arrive in Moga village immediately after a larger earthquake hits. The earthquake has the local villagers working harder than usual to get things back into ship shape. You arrive in perfect time to help the village get back in order. Your first few missions will act as a tutorial of sorts, asking you to help collect items to help rebuild or to fend off creatures that may pose a threat. Eventually, you are given assignments from the local hunter’s Guild, which mainly tasks you with taking down either large groups of smaller monsters or individual gargantuan-sized monsters. After each kill, you can collect parts from the monster, some of which are used as upgrade materials and others can simply be sold or traded for extra cash or other commodities. The presentation is so well done that when you first start the game, even the smaller monsters come off as intimidating. Your first time fighting a Great Jaggi will most likely be met with horror, and possibly a death or two. Suffice to say that Great Jaggis aren’t even a hint of the behemoths that await you many hours later into the game.
While the single-player campaign focuses on building up your character and armor, and getting players acquainted with various hunting methods, arguably the main meat of the game is the robust online multiplayer. The initial task of actually getting online may seem a bit awkward at first, but after your first hunt or two, you’ll be jumping in and slaying Lagi’s with the best of us in no time. While you can hop online at pretty much any time, it is, however, highly encouraged that newer players familiarize themselves with the game mechanics and hunting techniques before jumping in with others. Online matches share limited resources (and lives) between up to four players per hunt, making each hunter’s role critical, especially when fighting larger monsters.
The game allows for use of the Wii U Gamepad, Pro Controller, and even the Wii Classic Controller/Pro. The Wii U version does not support the vanilla Wii Remote/Nunchuk combo, but that’s probably because twin analog sticks are much smoother than using the D-pad. A new targeting camera eliminates one of the biggest hurdles for newcomers by allowing the camera to re-focus directly on larger enemies, meaning you can focus on fighting the monsters without the need to battle the camera as well.
On Wii U, the game looks fantastic. The original Wii game was already a very pretty game, but seeing the bigger monsters get an HD makeover was definitely one of the highlights. While the player characters and larger monsters have benefitted from antialiasing and cleaner textures, the world itself is sometimes still a bit low-res, which doesn’t hurt the gameplay badly, but it also means that Monster Hunter Tri Ultimate probably won’t be serving as a graphical showcase for the Wii U either. Ultimate on Wii U also allows you to customize your HUD. You can choose to play the classic way, with all HUD elements on the main screen, or you can send specific HUD elements to the Wii U Gamepad, allowing for a clean TV screen for your hunts. A patch in April will also be adding Off-TV play, but obviously that wasn’t available to try at the time of this review.
In addition to looking good, sound also plays an integral part of the hunting experience. The soundtrack itself accompanies the game nicely – when large monsters spot you, you will know instantly via audio cue, followed by rousing battle music. Each monster has a distinctive set of calls and cries, whether fighting Jaggis and their leader, taking on the pesky Qurupeco (and whatever he decides to tag in!), and especially when battling the larger Leviathans and Elder Dragons. The audio sounded great in the original Wii version, and it’s because of this that I couldn’t tell if the audio received an upgrade for Wii U or not.
As Monster Hunter is well known for its healthy online community, there will never be a dull moment in the game. After several years, the original Wii game still has a decent community, despite the fact that the official Wii servers are about to be shut down very soon. A forthcoming patch will allow players in Europe and the Americas to play cross-region for the first time, opening up even more multiplayer opportunities. Because of the online counterpart, the replay value for this game will last as long as there are servers (although the beefy offline game is still fun enough and packed with enough content to play for dozens (or hundreds) of hours without ever connecting to the ‘net at all). The Wii U edition also supports voice chat, which is thankfully built into the Gamepad without even needing to buy an extra headset peripheral. You can also choose to turn off voice chat and use the pop-up keyboard if you prefer typing your messages over chatting. The community at large is helpful, friendly, and welcoming (provided that if you are a newcomer, you stick to the beginner server until you get some experience).
A final feature that is worth mentioning is the fact that your save file can be cross-transferred to your 3DS, and the Wii U version also supports local co-op hunts with 3DS systems. The local co-op works fine and battles went smooth during our playtesting. However, for the data transfer, there are a few catches… First off, to perform a save data transfer, you must download a separate tool on the 3DS (the tool is built into the Wii U version). If transferring from the Wii U to the 3DS, the 3DS cannot have any MH3U save files, meaning that if you created a character on the Wii U and 3DS and wanted to send over just a single character slot, you are out of luck. There are a few more catches that make this more cumbersome than it probably needs to be, but let’s just say that while it does function as it should, it is also a bit of a hassle. It’s not enough to knock off points from the score, since it is functional and only takes about 1-2 minutes each time you want to transfer, but it is something that users should be aware of.
- Early-game battles are easier and early missions have been streamlined.
- Late-game hunts are a tad bit more difficult and some of the enemy AI has been enhanced.
- The entire game is upscaled to 1080p, however only the larger monsters and the player character seemed to have received a major texture upgrade and poly-count boost. (To be fair, the game still looks very pretty, thanks to antialiasing and good art direction.) The game also features dynamic, real-time shadows for enemies.
- The entire HUD can be moved to the Gamepad screen, cleaning up all clutter on the TV for a more epic hunting experience. The HUD on the Gamepad can also be customized, showing the information you choose at different sizes.
- The title makes use of the built-in Gamepad mic, so everyone has access to voice chat and the game also uses the touchscreen to type in custom chat messages.
- A light target camera has been added by tapping ZR and then tapping L to center the camera on larger monsters mid-battle.
- A second AI companion will join you in single-player mode.
- 3DS-Wii U save transfers and local co-op play via SpotPass.
- Your character data is attached to your Mii account, so you can keep track of people you’ve played online via your Friend List.
- 73 Additional monsters, some are just new sub-species and others are brand new to the series.
- 211 new quests, including new high-rank village quests.
- A total of 1398 weapons, including dual blades and the hunting horn from Portable 3rd.
- 1028 new pieces of armor.
- Three new areas, including brand new locations to the series.
- Free DLC missions and content
Monster Hunter is a series that requires a bit of dedication to get into. There is a definite learning curve, and the game is not gentle – your hand will not be held. Monster Hunter is not a charge-in, hack-n-slash action game. Once you realize that each hunt takes skill and preparation, and once you get a feel for each monster’s behavior, all of that work and training becomes incredibly satisfying. Slaying the larger beasts leaves a feeling that very few games can – akin to being made up of many dedicated boss levels. The online community is lively and runs lag-free. The characters and world are colorful and vibrant, and the localized game has a sharp dose of humor injected. Monster Hunter Tri Ultimate is the definitive game in the series, overflowing with content, streamlining and improving several complaints from the original while making full use of many Gamepad features.
Review copy was provided by the publisher.