Monster Hunter may be a hit in Japan, but it seems US reactions to the series have been a little slow to warm up. Although Monster Hunter on the PSP and PS2 did have technical issues, the series was still praised by critics for its old-school approach to the action RPG genre. Despite consumers’ initially cool reaction, the Monster Hunter series still garnered a cult-like following stateside. However, with the release of Monster Hunter Tri, it seems the Monster Hunter series is ready for prime time. The same Monster Hunter formula is present in this title, but with reworked controls, a larger world to explore, and a more user-friendly tutorial system Monster Hunter Tri is certainly the best entry in the series to date.
The game starts rather simply with a character creation tool. You can choose to be a male or female, and you can select a variety of hairstyles, face types, and accessories for your character. Once you have created your monster hunter, you will arrive at a small town where you will be the newest recruit on the monster hunting team. The island has been suffering from terrible earthquakes lately, and most of the residents believe that a monster is responsible for the damage. However, you won’t be going after this monster for quite some time.
Instead, you will spend your time in the game going on quests and exploring the world of Monster Hunter. The game is set up as a sprawling, open-world adventure. You can come and go as you please, and as long as you complete the initial tutorial stages, you can explore the world and take on quests to your heart’s content. This unguided approach really gives Monster Hunter Tri a feeling of freedom that is seldom felt outside of the MMORPG genre.
In addition to roaming around and killing monsters for various quests, you will need to invest a lot of time into your character. At the beginning of the game, the amount of development needed can almost seem overwhelming. From developing your attack tree to building the perfect weapons, armor, and tools, there is so much to do initially that it can be a little overwhelming. However, the game’s open world and self-guided direction gives you plenty of time to get your personal armory together.
As engrossing as the single-player aspect of Monster Hunter Tri is, the multiplayer is where the true replay value lies. The multiplayer experience here is more than simply going on story-mode quests with extra people. The multiplayer modes open up an entirely new area (known as “The City”) filled with different lands and quests targeted towards different players. When I first started the multiplayer mode, I was able to enter a “Rookie” room for those who have low-level weapons and experience. This rookie area was filled with easy collection quests, and lots of helpful players who helped me find items and complete quests. However, after hanging out in the rookie area for awhile, you can go to more challenging rooms where players are more competitive, and you’ll have to go in brandishing some serious metal if you want to get through the tough quests and challenges.
Although I am a huge fan of the single-player experience in Monster Hunter Tri, the multiplayer really is what makes this game worth your time. The experience of hopping between servers, making friends, and going on quests makes the multiplayer experience feel very close to a console MMORPG, and the level of immersion is almost immediate. It is entirely possible to sink more than 100 hours into just the multiplayer component of the game, and that’s without any additional special events or quests.
As far as the combat system is concerned, Monster Hunter Tri uses a very simple mechanic where you can build on simple weapons-based attacks. There are three different control schemes: a traditional button-based system, a right-stick combat system, and a motion controlled scheme.
Although the motion controls sound the most intriguing, they just don’t work. I don’t even recommend trying them out, as the button mapping is awkward and swinging to attack gets old pretty quickly. Fortunately, there are two Classic Controller options, which allow you to chain together combos with the face buttons on your controller or use the right stick to fight. The only downside to the Classic Controller schemes is that you have to keep the Wii-mote close by, as you have to put it in “Pointer mode” in order to add monsters to your index. This Controller-Wii-mote shuffle feels awkward at best, and when you have a hungry monster charging towards you, it’s difficult to juggle both controllers without losing half your life. Still, if you can manage this shuffle mechanic, both of the classic control schemes work very well.
The visuals in Monster Hunter Tri start off quite promising, with some pre-rendered cutscenes that featured stunning detail and fast-paced animations. However, the in-game visuals are a huge step down, and they barely resemble the pre-rendered scenes. Still, despite the huge step down, the world of Monster Hunter Tri is lush and vivid. Just don’t expect too many monsters to render on-screen at once.
Monster Hunter Tri is an exhilarating game. There isn’t another game on the Wii that can match it in both size and scope. Although there are still a few small issues holding this game back from perfection, if you are a fan of MMO-type games or RPGs in general, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. The single-player mode is great by itself, but the real reason to pick this game up is for the multiplayer. It is the best multiplayer available on the Wii, and it might even be the best console-based multiplayer RPG of this generation. Though the monster-based combat may not be for everyone, if you like sprawling, open-world RPGs with plenty of quests to undertake and lands to explore, Monster Hunter Tri is definitely for you.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
Cutscenes are beautiful. In-game visuals are also nice, but large areas often feel empty due to limits on how many monsters can be rendered at a time. 3.8 Control
The Wii-mote and Nunchuk controls are virtually useless, but the Classic Controller offers a more organic alternative. However, putting the Classic Controller away and switching to the Wii-mote for identifying monsters feels awkward. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Gibberish dialogue is repetitive, and background music is infrequent. 4.8
Monster Hunter Tri is a game that really sucks you in. With a single-player mode that can last 30 hours or more and a multiplayer mode that has an endless amount of new areas to explore and quests to complete, if you pick this title up, you may not be able to put it down!
4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.