Review | Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

March 25, 2013

 

It’s time once again for another StreetPass San Diego game review! This time around, we’ll be reviewing the newly-released Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. This game is an expansion to 2010’s Monster Hunter Tri, but even players of that game will find huge amounts of new content. In addition to Tri’s 18 large monsters, there are 11 more new and returning species, from Plesioth to Brachydios. And that’s not to mention the 19 new and returning subspecies, which are recolored versions of the monsters, often in new environments and always with new tricks up their sleeves! There’s also one new hunting ground, a new level of difficulty beyond low-rank and high-rank, a new companion character, 211 new quests, and 2042 new pieces of equipment, so if you’ve played Tri and think that 3 Ultimate is going to be the same game again, you’ve got another thing coming!

 

With that out of the way, it’s time to take a look at 3U on its own merits.

 

 

Let’s start off with the writing! Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was translated by the same team that did such a great job on Tri, and it shows. The dialog is charming and often humorous, and the equipment names are all vibrant and interesting. While much of the dialog in the village low-rank experience is lifted from Tri, there’s still plenty of new material, not the least of which comes from Kayamba, the new Shakalaka companion you can find and befriend during your travels. He is a rival to Cha-Cha, the companion character from Tri, and their comments about one another are particularly rich! Once you reach the all-new high-rank village quests, you’ll be treated to some all-new story dialog, sparse though it may be. Monster Hunter has never truly been known for its story, and this game is no exception to that, so let’s move on to something far more central to the game!

 

 

Gameplay. When we pick up any game, that’s usually the one thing that has to come first and foremost for us to enjoy the game. Well, I am pleased to say that MH3U has got gameplay in spades. From the 51 large monsters to hunt to the three levels of difficulty to the always-entertaining multiplayer, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate will keep you going for as long as you’re willing to let it, and it does its best to make you let it! This game is easily the most accessible to newcomers out of all the Monster Hunter games, but it still remains challenging to veterans of the series. It starts off easier than its predecessors, and has new features like the Target Cam, which makes a press of the L button center the camera on the monster being fought instead of behind the character, to help out new players. Of course, it doesn’t stay this easy. As you continue to go on quests, you’ll find the difficulty steadily ramping up and up and up, until finally you’re taking on gigantic beasts that can easily send you packing if you’re not careful!

 

 

And then, once you’ve taken down those monsters, it’s time to rank up and fight the easy monsters anew, only this time with some handicaps to make things even tougher for you, and some new monsters added into the mix!

 

That’s the general formula of Monster Hunter. You start off doing the easy work, gathering mushrooms here, carving up placid herbivores there, then fighting bigger and badder monsters until it’s time to cycle back around. You’ll be seeing a lot of the same faces after you rank up to high-rank and then again to G-rank quests, but the dynamics of the game’s combat system and the new challenges they throw in with each rank-up.

 

So, what’s the combat like? Well, if you’ve got a 3DS or a Wii U, you can download a demo and see for yourself (though it’s recommended to check out the virtual manual for the demo and then play around with the weapons a bit before actually trying to take on the monsters), but here’s the gist of it:

 

 

You pick one of twelve weapons. Your choice isn’t final, and you can swap to another weapon at any time between quests. You then take that weapon and take advantage of its unique moves and playstyle to attack the monster, while also trying to dodge or block its attacks. If you take damage, you need to find a safe place to use a potion. If you keep attacking the same spot on the monster, you can cause it to flinch, giving you a few free hits, and sometimes you can break parts of monsters, such as severing tails with cutting weapons, or breaking the spikes on the wings of some monsters. You continue this dance until either the monster dies or your group of players (or just you) accumulates three total faints between them. It’s important to know that every single action you perform in this game has a cost, and that cost is time. It’s of vital importance to budget that time wisely. If you need to heal or sharpen your blade or reload your bowgun, you need to find a safe time to do so. Sometimes this means moving to an area the monster isn’t in, while other times it means waiting until its attention is focused on one of your teammates. It’s mandatory to watch the monster you’re fighting. You need to get to know how it behaves and try to predict its attacks (all of which have some sort of tell, however slight they may be) in order to hold your own.

 

All the while, you’ll be fighting the monster in one of six beautiful hunting zones, from a swampy forest to a harsh volcano, or five special arenas. The six hunting zones are broken up into several distinct areas, with very brief load-screens connecting them. On occasion, monsters will move from one area to another during the fight, and you have to give chase before they try to sleep and recover health, or eat to recover stamina. And once you finally defeat the monster, you can carve its body for parts used in the crafting or upgrading of items.

 

That carving reward system is part of what keeps the game going for so long. You can see what you need to craft each item or upgrade once you’ve fought and gotten some parts from the monster that are required to craft it, so you know just who you have to fight in order to get that shiny new sword or chestplate. This reward structure means there’s always a carrot in front of you, just in case you don’t find the hunts to be their own reward. All the weapons and armor speak to a truly stellar design team, and they all evoke aspects of the monsters whose parts you use to make them. Whether it’s the presence of Rathalos scales on the outside of the Rathalos armor or the flabby skin pulled tight across the coffin-shaped Gigginox hunting horn, you can tell what each piece of equipment is made from. Even the monsters themselves are impressively designed. They’re all visually distinct from one another, and they all move in ways that seem completely natural for a creature that’s built like they are. This results in a great spectacle as you’re fighting them, as well! Also pay attention to the fantastic music that plays when you’re fighting monsters!

 

 

3DS Version

 

 

Of course, fighting monsters isn’t all there is to Monster Hunter. Not everything can be made with monster parts. Sometimes you’ll have to perform simple tasks like finding and then combining the ingredients for potions, or simply getting your inventory ready for the next hunt. One of the biggest parts of the game is learning what each monster is capable of, and if there are any tricks to make the fight easier, like using a sonic bomb to startle a burrowed monster into getting itself stuck in the sand momentarily, or using a flash bomb to blind a monster while it’s enraged, giving you openings to hit it as it attacks randomly instead of targeting its fury. Learning what to bring on each quest will help your success immensely in the game, and the game does a fairly good job of subtly teaching you what’s useful by including one or two of that item in the quest supply box.

 

That speaks to how the game tends to teach itself to new players, actually. Monster Hunter has never been the most approachable series because of its challenging gameplay and fairly steep learning curve, but it does give players all the tools they need to figure out the answers to problems. It’ll tell you how to do everything that needs doing, and then leave you to figure out how to do it effectively. This game has a fairly guided opening experience, making you start off by gathering a few things, then fighting small monsters that are hardly deserving of the name, then teaching you how swimming works, before finally pitting you against the first of the large monsters. It’ll tell you what needs to be done the whole way, but it leaves you to discover how to do it best, which makes the knowledge of how to play truly yours, rather than something that was just handed to you. There are no arrows pointing you towards the most efficient path, and no enemy health bars to tell you how well you’re doing against a monster; these are things you need to figure out on your own.

 

Of course, once you’ve figured things out, you’re absolutely encouraged to try the game’s multiplayer! Monster Hunter is a series that was designed with multiplayer in mind, and it shows. With more players, you’re able to split up duties with your friends and more efficiently bring down monsters, working dynamically as a team to grant each of you an easier time with a monster that would be far more difficult to take down alone. It is in multiplayer that the combat system truly shines, and this is made even better by the ability to cross-play in local multi between the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game.

 

 

Wii U Version

 

So, to sum things up, this game is gorgeous, has charming writing, and has a challenging but rewarding combat system that can provide thousands of hours of gameplay, particularly if you play with friends. Of course, for all its virtues, even this game has flaws. Despite it being the most approachable Monster Hunter game to date, it still hides some information from newcomers in out-of-the-way places, requiring them to go through two menus before they can find information about each weapon, for example. The game also brings forward some of the flaws from previous games in the series, such as the invisible cutoff at the paths out of each area at which point you’ll load into the next area. Sometimes a monster will sit in one of those spots for a while, and you’ll accidentally go to another area while trying to attack it, or it’ll knock you through to that area itself. The swimming controls work well, but some may find them overwhelming. Underwater areas tend to occasionally have invisible walls preventing you from swimming somewhere you think you’ll be more able to dodge monster attacks (though thankfully monsters also have to deal with those invisible walls, so you won’t end up unable to hit them). The music, while great, can eventually get a bit stale, as it’s usually the same track for each of the hunting areas, with a few tracks specific to certain monsters. And, of course, nobody likes being so close to upgrading or making a new piece of gear and being forced to hunt a monster several times in succession trying to get that one last, super-rare part.

 

All these flaws are part of the game, and while they don’t ruin it, they could certainly be improved for future installments. All told, this game is still a fantastic way to pass the time, and easily one of the best games on the 3DS and Wii U both. You can look forward to hundreds or even thousands of hours of content before reaching the extent of everything the game has to offer, and you can play with your friends to make things even more fun. It is for these reasons that I give Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate a 95/100.

Now go get it already and join me on my hunts, either online with the Wii U version, or at SPSD events with the 3DS version, or both using the data transfer app!

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