Hands-on Preview: Monster Hunter Tri (Nintendo Wii)

I have a strong appreciation for Monster Hunter as a series for a number of different reasons. The game world and design elements are outstanding, the gameplay, though frustrating at first, is great once you learn it, and frankly, it’s a whole lot of fun slaying giant monsters with my friends. As such, when Capcom sent us a demo of Monster Hunter Tri to test out, Alex didn’t even need to ask who wanted to test it out, he just gave it to me and asked me to check it out for the site. Truth be told, I’ve been anticipating the game since it was announced that the game would offer Classic Controller support, as I was more than a little worried about the idea of using the Wiimote and Nunchuck to play the game, and the fact that the game comes with an upgraded Classic Controller only makes the package better. Frankly, I’ve been waiting for a console release of a Monster Hunter game in the US for a while, as we were unfortunately denied the PS2 releases of Monster Hunter 2 and its expansion packs. The PSP Monster Hunter Freedom games are great, don’t get me wrong, but I was hoping for something I could play online without it being a pain, as well as something I could play on my TV without adapter cables and massive visual quality loss.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I couldn’t get the demo into my Wii fast enough. Let’s take a look and see if my excitement was well founded.

The demo allows you to take on one of two missions, both of which are Slaying Missions, because who wants to take on a gathering mission in a demo? The missions showcase several of the new monster types in Monster Hunter Tri, between the two new giant monsters you’re tasked with taking down and the various smaller monsters you’ll see running about as you look around the area. The demo is pretty much meant to be a hand-holding experience for new players, as it makes things a good bit easier from the get-go. The giant monsters you’re attempting to destroy show up on the map without being painted, for example, and you’re given a whole lot of healing and stamina boosting items as well as battle-oriented consumables that you’re unlikely to have when you start off. The demo also has you choose a pre-made character based on their load-out, such as the fast-striking but weak damage Sword and Shield, the heavy damage but rather slow Long Sword, and multiple types of Bowguns for ranged combat, thus allowing you to test out the weaponry available if you’re totally new to Monster Hunter. For those who have spent a good amount of time with the PS2 and PSP games, the demo also allows you to play with the Switch Axe, an axe that can transform into a sword and vice-versa, allowing for some nasty damage when used right, as well as some new bullet types for gunners, so even if you’re a veteran the demo gives you a little taste of what to expect with the upcoming release.

I immediately jumped in with the Light Bowgun preset, because I’m a gunner above all else, and went to work.

The good news for fans of the older games is that the Classic Controller controls are excellent, by all indications. The button layout is the same as it is on the PSP games, and the buttons and triggers serve the exact same functions, making the controls easy to adjust to. If you’re more of a fan of the PS2’s control style, where the right stick dictated attack actions, you’re in luck, because Monster Hunter Tri also allows for that sort of play as well. The game can also be played with the Wiimote and Nunchuck, if you hate yourself, and the demo even included full explanations on how the Wiimote controls worked. Of the three control schemes, the button controls felt the most useful and intuitive of the lot, though this may be because I’m used to the PSP control scheme above all else. The stick controls mainly play a factor if you’re using melee weapons, as you attack by using the right stick instead of pressing buttons, and while this isn’t terribly intuitive, it works well enough to be usable. For Bowgun users, the stick controls amount to “Press Up to draw your weapon, press Down to reload”, and as such they are no more or less useful than the button controls, frankly. The Wiimote and Nunchuck controls are about as good as could be expected, and in all fairness, the controls with the Bowguns are actually not too bad. With melee weapons, however, the controls can become very weird, with twisting and turning the Wiimote playing a part in nearly every weapon style, and while these controls are functional if you have no other method available to you and they’re not as bad as one would expect, this control scheme is not at all the best way to play the game. Of course, Monster Hunter Tri comes complete with an upgraded Classic Controller in the box, so it’s fairly apparent Capcom knew this going in, and bless them for that.

After jumping into the first Slaying Mission, I opted to putter around for a bit and play with the weapons to see how the controls responded, and overall, I was impressed. The various Bowguns allow for first and third person aiming, and the melee weapons work as they did in Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, so anyone who is a fan of the older weaponry will be happy that, so far anyway, nothing has been changed or nerfed. For those who haven’t seen it yet, the Switch Axe is an interesting heavy weapon that switches between a heavy axe and a medium-heavy blade, depending on the needs of the moment. The sword mode has a limited amount of use, as you’ll have to reload it after so many strikes, similar to how one would reload the Gunlance, but instead of allowing for ranged damage it instead allows for heavy close range damage that appears to have some sort of elemental affinity. In short: the Switch Axe looks like it’s going to be an interesting weapon class, but it’s probably going to appeal strictly to Longsword and Greatsword users, as the weapon itself is very slow in both forms. The environment supplied in the demo basically felt like your typical starting hunting ground, though it was a good bit more water-centric than one would normally expect. On the plus side, this allowed me to test out the swimming mechanics, and they work surprisingly well. Swimming itself is easy enough to control, and characters can fight monsters underwater in much the same way they fight them on land. I will note here that the swimming controls are somewhat better when using the right stick to look around instead of using it for combat. Also, the underwater dodge seems like it could possibly be less useful than dodging on land, though at this time it’s hard to tell, since I wasn’t able to engage either of the monsters in the demo underwater. We’ll have to see.

And on that note, let’s talk about the monster hunting itself.

There are two Slaying missions against two different “big” monsters, the first of which being meant as an introduction to Monster Hunter, the second being meant as a real challenge for the player. The first mission introduces the Jaggi monster class, which looks to be a replacement for the Velicoprey from the prior games. The Jaggi are small lizards that go down easily in battle, much like the Velicoprey, and much like the Velicoprey, their leader, the Great Jaggi, isn’t so much of a pushover. The Great Jaggi hits like a train and uses some moves fans will recognize, like the shoulder tackle of the Plesioth, but he’s a whole new threat despite the borrowing of old tricks. His most annoying trick is that he calls for help, which summons several Jaggi to the area to harass you, which won’t be a big problem for groups of hunters, but as a solo battle this was a bit of a problem to deal with. Still, felling the beast wasn’t too much of a hassle, and this serves as a good introduction to the world of Monster Hunter for those who’ve not had the chance to play it.

The second Slaying mission pits you against a new giant monster, the Qurupeco. At first glance, Qurupeco looks to be another Yian Kut Ku clone, but he’s a good bit different. He has an arcing projectile and some leaping attacks like Kut Ku, but also has an interesting attack where he bangs his wings together, then jumps at you as explosions launch from in front of him for big damage. Yikes. Further, he can imitate the call of the Great Jaggi and summon Jaggi to fight you on his behalf, which just seems kind of mean somehow. This Slaying mission would have benefited greatly from multiple player support, as between the twenty minute time limit, the constant harassment from the Jaggi, the need to learn how Qurupeco worked, and oh yes, the fact that a Great Jaggi was wandering around the hunting ground, well, I couldn’t pull it off with my Bowgun. The mission was by no means impossible, however, and with a little more practice or some help by way of some other hunters joining up, this would have been doable without too much effort.

Monster Hunter Tri is looking very promising so far, and looks like it’ll be a winner when it comes out in a few weeks. We here at Diehard GameFAN should have a review for you shortly after release, so keep your eyes out for it, and until then, I’m off to go practice a bit more.

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