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If you ever lived in Japan, chances are that you heard of a little series called Monster Hunter by Capcom. It is Japan’s #1 game on the PSP and other gaming devices because of the multiplayer aspect on the go. Another reason it is way popular is the addiction of gathering thousands of pieces of loot, overcoming the odds against large monsters whether if you are alone or with a maximum of three other players, and customizing your character with armor and weapon sets. The major reason Monster Hunter never caught on at the states is the difference in systems being played. The Japanese gaming scene is more driven by the handhelds compared to consoles, while it is the other way around here at the states. In addition, console iterations haven’t gotten what makes Monster Hunter the series it is in Japan until now. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is the best iteration of the series and it couldn't be a better time to see why Japan loves it too much.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is the Wii’s Monster Hunter 3 Tri, but with more content such as new weapons, harder quests online, and new monsters to defeat. The story for the single player side remains the same as you’re a new hunter in Moga Village defending it from the monsters that are trying to destroy it. It is not much, but the story isn't the main reason you’re playing Monster Hunter. It is the challenge of slaying numerous monsters that seem intimidating at first glance, but still doable with the right equipment. The multiplayer side of the game is a whole different beast, which I will get on later.
Some of the main problems with the Monster Hunter series is how long it takes to get started and not having instant gratification right away compared to most of today’s games. This game is a grind from beginning to end (if there is an end) so it helps if you have a mindset of playing a MMORPG since you will be collecting loot and repeating certain tasks multiple times to get what you want. The first eight to twelve hours of this game is a litmus test whether you’re addicted to what it offers or not. Once you passed that “test,” then the game opens up and you’ll be facing large monster after large monster. That was certainly the case with me personally and after that mark I just mentioned, I realized why it is Japan’s #1 franchise.
Another factor with this franchise that may be daunting to newcomers is not knowing everything it offers. Honestly, I still feel like I haven’t reached that point after 70 hours, but this is also why you need to have a MMORPG-like mentality playing Monster Hunter. Considering that I never play MMORPGs, I never thought I would pay so much attention to stats, percentages, and numbers for monsters, loot pickups, armor sets, and weapons ever until now with this game. It is one of those games you can not stop thinking about and once you see the payoffs after overcoming the odds against the monsters it throws at you, it is one of the most satisfying moments in all of gaming.
Monster Hunter’s combat is also another reason why the series has never caught on here at the states, but with the recent success of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls the past couple of years, perhaps there is an audience after all for these types of games. It does not matter which weapon you use in Ultimate, whether it is a great sword, hammer, lance, or a bow, you have to commit to your attacks against these large monsters. This is not a game where you mash button combinations like you can in character action games, where doing so in Monster Hunter can lead into getting hit and dying a lot. Personally, it has been a while since I've play a game where I actually have to analyze boss patterns knowing when to attack or not, whether they are almost dead due how it is acting since they don’t have a health bar on the display screen. Each weapon feels like its own game as well. In other words, playing the game with a long sword or a bowgun are two completely different experiences in terms of playstyle. Monster Hunter is all about playing with calculated precision than just going nuts and if you like playing that way, then this game will keep you busy for a long time.
Item management is one of the most important things to learn along with the combat. Not being properly prepared for a certain monster or an area because you are missing some potions to heal yourself, dealing with hot or cold temperatures, and weapon sharpness, the result will often be a failure for the quest, but they can be played multiple times. Your pouch also has limited space, so maintaining a balance of healing items and loot are key to success. The loot percentages also factor into facing these monsters multiple times because Monster Hunter is not about being one and done before moving on to the next one. Most of the time, these monsters and areas won’t drop the specific loot that you want and you have to keep facing them over again until it happens. In a nutshell, grinding it out for items in Monster Hunter is filled with repetition, but the rewards are truly worth it once you’re able to complete an armor set or forging a powerful weapon.
While the single player portion of Monster Hunter is lengthy in its own way as you can spend more than a hundred hours completing low and high rank quests, the multiplayer portion increases the replay value tenfold with more challenging quests and the ability to defeat these monsters with three other people online. Multiplayer takes place at a port in Moga Village and players can join lobbies that are divided up by skill and region. Creating rooms in these lobbies can be password protected if you want specific friends to join in on the hunt. As the old saying goes with online games, it is better playing with friends you actually know than random players and it is indeed the case with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. It is one of the better online co-op experiences I had in a long time and it is as equally as satisfying slaying a difficult monster with friends. Communication between players can be done either by the in-game chat, a headset, or the Wii U gamepad's microphone. Other than joining with other Wii U players, 3DS players can also hunt with the Wii U folks online and your character can be transferred back and forth between the two versions if you like continuing the game on the go.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate does not take full advantage of the Wii U’s graphical power, but it does look significantly better than the Wii original. The monster designs are great throughout the game from dinosaur looking creatures, electric dragons, and more. The camera can be a bit of an issue, especially during the more intense battles where you can’t see your character for a second or not having the correct angle for your attacks when the perfect opportunity comes. The armor and weapon designs are also cool as well with swords that only make sense for a Monster Hunter game. In typical Capcom fashion, the text can be really small to see on the screen, so hopefully that is fixed in a future patch. What is coming later this month is Off TV support and this is a game that is meant for it whenever you like multitasking. The soundtrack and minimal voice acting, which is mostly grunts, are fine for the most part too.
With better online functionality and being the most accessible entry yet in the franchise, there could not be a better time to hop on Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate whether if you’re a newcomer or veteran to the series. Sure, it takes about eight to dozen hours to get going, but once you get past that point and know you’re in it from the long haul, the game does opens up and you’ll be slaying large monsters with ease assuming you are accustomed to its combat system. Monster Hunter definitely feels like a MMORPG in some aspects like knowing stats, percentages, and collecting loot for hundreds of hours, but still feels like a console action RPG at heart with combat that requires calculated precision. The online experience is the one of the best things the Wii U has got going so far in its young life span. Monster Hunter is not meant for everyone, but it is one of the best Wii U games to get right now.