Unleash The Beast
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is hard.
From classic series like Mega Man and Ghosts’n Goblins to new fantasies like Dragon’s Dogma, developer Capcom takes pride in its reluctance to hold your hand through the experiences they present. Yet it is this challenge that separates Capcom games from the status quo, and despite alienating certain audiences with crushing difficulty, it rewards those with persistence an even greater sense of accomplishment.
So it would seem rather odd then that the Monster Hunter series is continuing with an exclusivity to Nintendo rather than catering to core audiences on all platforms. Nevertheless, Wii U owners should be rushing out to pick up Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, a game that requires you to do far more than simply run from start to finish without flexing a strategic muscle.
A fresh member of the Hunter’s Guild seeking renown, you set sail to Moga Village. This peaceful little seaside town has recently acquired an aquatic neighbor, an immense beast called Lagiacrus. The island has also been plagued by earthquakes, and the village elder enlists you to ascertain whether the tremors are natural occurrences or if a sinister force is at play. Already deemed the future savior, the villagers welcome you with compliments (and some of the cheesiest dialogue I’ve seen), and offer their services. Though not much more than a few thatched huts, Moga Village comes equipped with an armory, blacksmith, general store, guild registrar, farm, and a handful of residents who dole out quests and rewards for your convenience.
When you’re ready for adventure, uncivilized lands teaming with danger are mere footsteps away in the Moga Woods. The first handful of quests acclimate you with some of the game’s features, such as gathering resources via bug catching, fishing, foraging, mining, and salvaging useful items from carcasses. However, after a few quests mostly laden with docile creatures, you discover how underprepared you actually are when you engage your first elite monster.
Proficiency is expected from you both in how you manage your inventory and in combat itself. Your backpack has a limited number of slots available, and the wrong choices at the beginning of the hunt could make the already difficult task even more hazardous. There are hundreds of different items, each serving a useful purpose. Half the fun is scavenging materials from carcasses and the various florae scattered around the arena-like sections of the map, then transforming them into lifesaving potions and more efficient weaponry and armor. Even still, when confronted with an unknown beast of gargantuan proportions, only an incredible amount of luck will yield success on your first attempt. The more prudent course of action is to study your enemy, tracking attack patterns and the harmful conditions it unleashes upon you.
The twelve classes available are defined by the weapon used, and each plays incredibly different from the other, ensuring the experience never gets stale. Felling massive monsters requires an equally stout weapon, thus from the light bowgun to the greatsword, each weapon sacrifices portability in order to pack a punch. This plays into the game’s weighty controls, where timing is critical in absolutely ever action you take. The monsters pounce with aggression, and spamming the attack buttons will only get you knocked off your feet. Looking for that tiny window of opportunity to strike requires a great deal of trial and error, but when your efforts are rewarded with an enemy limping away, you’ll find that resolve to get the job finished.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate makes practical use of the Wii U GamePad. A customizable interface allows you to choose what information and what menu options you would like available on the touchscreen. The screen is divided into six sections where you can place your health and stamina bars, backpack, map, even a secondary camera control. If you prefer a more traditional control scheme, the game fully supports the Pro Controller. Each style has its own advantages. The GamePad allows you to remove all the HUD clutter by shifting the important information onto the touchscreen, as well as making access to your inventory much easier than scrolling through an item wheel. The Pro Controller, on the other hand, allows you to stay focused on the action, yet still works in conjunction with the GamePad. When using this method, I chose non-critical options for the touchpad, such as gestures and item combining. It was nice having the ability to save up to three manual configurations to swap on the fly, though changing controllers required exiting all the way to the title screen, a lengthy ordeal to be sure.
Embarking on a solo hunt is satisfying, but gathering a group of four is the ideal way to play Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. Having the extra crew to draw attention away gives you more opportunities to strike, and with a knowledgeable party, you’ll marvel at the efficiency at which you dispatch the beasts. Actually forming an online party, however, is where the hassle is found. The updated Wii U version still uses a rather archaic lobby system, and if your attempts to join a party fail, you’re booting right back to town and must start the process over again. If you are lucky enough to have three friends with a 3DS copy of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, you can engage in four-player local play. The 3DS version is considerably rougher with textures, but the adventure itself is a mirror of the console version. Thus you can transfer your Wii U save file and pick up right where you left off on your 3DS, and vice versa.
Even though the Wii U version is much more pleasing to the eye, it still falls short of expectations on Nintendo’s new console. Being an updated port of the 2010 Wii game, Monster Hunter Tri, the visuals were treated with a high-definition coating, but not rebuilt from the ground up. The result is stale, empty-looking environments and character models that lack smooth outlines. However, this a small detriment in the grand scheme of the game, as the action trumps the visuals, and the animations still run smoothly.
The audio is also recycled from Tri, yet what it lacks in sound quality, it makes up for in authenticity. The laid back acoustic strumming beckons you to throw yourself on the cabana bed and let the warm breeze whisk you to sleep. When it’s time to hunt, you’ll believe the power behind each swing of your weapon by the crushing sound it emits. The monsters trump those, however, with morale-disintegrating roars that command respect and prudence from the tiny little hunter that is you.
The Monster Hunter series has always had a firm following of loyal fans, but has never quite breached the barrier into a mainstream blockbuster in the West. As the standard bearer for the first wave of post Wii U launch titles, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate has a golden opportunity to make its presence known. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a must-have purchase for anyone who likes challenging gameplay, big weapons, even bigger enemies, a hefty crafting system, and a satisfying cooperative experience.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
The backgrounds are flat and the character models archaic, but excellent high-definition upscaling of the monsters makes them some of the best looking out there. 4.2 Control
The weight of the controls varies depending on the weapon you wield, but this is all by design. Both the GamePad and the Pro Controller function well. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The audio is recycled from Monster Hunter Tri, but is still both beautiful and intimidating at just the right moments. 4.7 Play Value
There is a ton to do, both in and out of the main storyline. The multiplayer is fun, and simply switching weapons offers a brand new gameplay experience. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best