Monster Hunter Tri
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 04/20/10
After a poor start on the consoles in the US, the Monster Hunter franchise managed to build up a fairly large cult fanbase on the Sony PSP with the series, thanks to positive word of mouth and a dramatic expansion of the game as the sequels rolled out. Despite some highly negative critical reception and a fanbase that epitomizes the phrase “unwarranted self importance”Â, the games have managed to impress based solely on their consistent quality, challenge and concept, so the announcement of a new console release for the series in the US was a welcome one for fans. After an initial announcement of a PS3 release, Capcom shocked many people with a follow up that the release would actually be coming out for the Wii. Dubbed Monster Hunter Tri, the game was expected to take the traditional Monster Hunter experience and add to it dramatically. Between the new monster types, new zones, underwater battles, dark locale exploration and new weapons and customization options, Monster Hunter Tri was looking to be everything fans were hoping for while also making a strong case for new players to jump on board. While the series has a history of being inaccessible to new players unless they’re willing to invest the time in learning the mechanics, the ability to jump online once again without having to play around with Xlink and a wireless access point made the game the group experience it was meant to be, which helps mitigate the frustration somewhat when friends can help you slaughter everything you see. The good news is that Monster Hunter Tri is a solid sequel and well worth acquiring for fans and new players alike, as it does a lot of things very, very well. The bad news, however, is that in many respects, the game feels like a step backwards, both due to decisions made by Capcom and by the system the game is hosted on.
There’s not too much of a story to Monster Hunter Tri, as there isn’t with its predecessors. You’re a hunter who has been summoned to the local town to perform various missions for the locals, be it repairing the broken hunting camp, restoring the local farm, gathering resources or ruining everything you see. Your ultimate goal is to ruin the local horrible monster in charge, the Lagiacrus, which has apparently been disrupting fishing voyages and causing all sorts of problems for the locals, which will dominate the majority of your time with the single player mode. The story is very basic, but the game more or less casts you as the big hunter in town, as before, and as such, the game world revolves around you and your exploits. NPC’s will comment on your larger exploits, compliment you on big tasks you’ve completed, and offer you big upgrades as you advance in the story, both through the main town and the city, which acts as the guild hall in this game, so even though the story is kind of small-scale, the game makes a big effort to keep you involved by, in essence, making everyone be in awe of you whenever you accomplish awesome stuff. So, as before, the story isn’t great, but the way the game tells the story by making you the conquering hero of the land is pretty awesome all around.
Monster Hunter Tri doesn’t quite look as impressive on the Wii as its predecessors did on the PSP, partly because the Wii has better looking games available and partly because the game basically looks a better looking version of the PSP games. This is by no means to say that the game looks bad, because that is absolutely not the case, but it simply doesn’t have the wow factor of its predecessors. The character animations are still fluid and feature large amounts of detail, the various monstrosities are mostly completely redone and still manage to be as awe inspiring and terrifying as ever, and the game environments are lively and well-detailed. The new monsters are mostly as epic and impressive as those that have come before, though some designs are less original than others (Barioth looks a bit like Tigrex, for instance). On the plus side, almost all of the content here is all new, as only a handful of wyverns and such are repeated from prior Monster Hunter games, so you won’t be stuck thinking “This looks familiar…”Â too often. The audio is still pretty impressive, with some solid and well orchestrated musical tracks and some outstanding sound effects. The monster effects in particular are still powerful, and when a monster discovers you for the first time, their roar is something you’ll come to fear, for many reasons. There’s also a smattering of voice acting here and there, though it’s mostly gibberish, and it still sounds fine for what it is.
If you’re a long time fan of the Monster Hunter series, or you’ve read my Monster Hunter Freedom Unite review, you can skip the next four paragraphs. For new players, Monster Hunter games revolve around three specific types of locations: the town you live in, where you prepare for missions and improve your gear, the gathering location (in this case the city), where you organize group hunts, and the hunting grounds, where you hunt monsters of various shapes and sizes, as well as hunt for materials and consumables to aid your hunts. The town itself is essentially where you’ll spend your time prepping yourself, and there are numerous things to do around town. Your house allows you to review various documents you acquire, manage your inventory and equipment, and save your game. You also have a kitchen set up in town, which can be staffed with Felynes, semi-sentient cat creatures who can cook up meals for you that might give you some nice stat boosts… if they don’t poison you in the process. The town square contains your item and weapon shops, where you can buy new gear, build new equipment from component parts, upgrade weapons, and attach stat-improving gems to said equipment to improve your stats. You can also talk to the local quest giver (in this case, a representative of the hunting guild) to take on new quests and the other town residents to gain useful information. There’s also a farm where you can plant seeds, scavenge for useful items and insects, and other odd things.
When you’re ready to take on a mission, you’ll to take on some hunting. When you talk to whoever is assigning the mission you’re looking to take, they’ll give you a list of different choices, each of which with different objectives. Some missions might want you to capture or kill a specific beast or series of beasts, others might want you to find or catch specific flora and fauna, and others still might just allow you to go forage for materials and items to use in your hunting quests. Once you’ve been assigned a mission in town, you just go out and take it on, but in the City, you can invite friends or strangers to go on missions with you over the internet. Your friends can all jump into the same City and can take missions you post on the mission board for them to accept, and you can bring up to four players into any mission, which you’ll definitely want to do whenever possible, as some missions are pretty much begging for assistance.
Once you’re out in the field, that’s when the fun begins. Now, let’s get this out of the way up-front: there are a whole lot of things you can do while out on the hunt, including fishing, mining, bug catching, foraging, and cooking or mixing up goods as needed. All of these things you can do are useful and worthwhile, and after a while, you’ll start doing them as if they were second nature in many circumstances. But most of the time, this is not what your purpose in the hunting grounds will be. No, most of the time, your purpose in the hunting grounds will be to find a large, angry monstrosity and subsequently end it by using whatever tools happen to be at your disposal at the moment. The first few hours you spend playing will be spent learning how to use the different weapons to see what’s best for you. There are several different types of weapons in the game, from long swords to sword and shield combos to bowguns and arbalests to lances and beyond, each of which plays differently from the next, and knowing what works best on what monster and what you like most will be a big part of the fun of your first few hours in the hunting ground. The game allows you to play with either the Wiimote and Nunchuck combination or the Classic controller, either with the old PS2 Monster Hunter play style of using the right stick for attacks or the modern PSP Monster Hunter Freedom style of using the buttons for attacks. Your character can walk and run about the world with the analog stick, interact with things, dive around to dodge attacks and use items from your inventory, with the control style dictating what buttons are used to do this. Different weapons have different combat specific controls, which are further influenced by the control setup, so while a melee weapon assigns the button to attack with the Classic Controller, it might assign the Up direction on the right stick to that attack when using the stick controls, and might assign a wrist twist and a button press to the same attack with the Wiimote and Nunchuck.
At first, you’ll be facing down against smaller monsters like the raptor-like Jaggi and Baggi families, the lizard-like Ludroth, the insectoid Altaroths and Bnahabara, and other smaller threats, but as you adjust to the experience you’ll find yourself facing down against gigantic, multiple-story tall monstrosities, and it’s here where the real fun and challenge of the experience comes in. The game, assuming you’re going in order and not just jumping in with friends against whatever they pick, will start you off with the large raptor leader Great Jaggi and a large bird-like monstrosity dubbed Qurupero, and from there the monsters only become more ferocious. You’ll find yourself hunting monstrosities of all shapes, sizes and designs, like Barioth, a dragon/saber-toothed tiger/bat hybrid that can cover large distances with his leaps, can hover and hurts like crazy, Gobul, a huge fish monster that can hide underground and suck you in with massive damaging attacks, Barroth, a burrowing stone monstrosity that can chase you down and coat you in mud before smashing you into the air, and returning favorites Rathlos and Rathian, male and female dragons who are fast, agile and spit fire like crazy, among many, many others. It’s here that the major appeal of the game comes in. Fighting these monstrosities starts off simply enough, and against something like Great Jaggi you can just lump on him until he drops and collect the spoils of victory, but as you progress you’ll find that simply running into battle is not a successful strategy for victory against monsters like Lagiacrus and that more careful planning is required. Fortunately you have plenty of strategic options available to you, from exploiting the lay of the land by climbing cliffs and goading monsters into charging head first into walls, to using pit traps to capture monsters so you can knock them out or carve them up, to using bombs to hurt monsters and bait to lure them into traps and beyond. You can approach any mission any number of different ways, which makes each mission an adventure by itself, and the satisfaction that comes from outsmarting something ten times your size is… gratifying.
So, for everyone who knows the above already, welcome back! Let’s talk about what Monster Hunter Tri does different.
Fans of the Felyne Companions from the prior game will be pleased to know that this mechanic has returned, in the form of Cha Cha, a Shakalaka who decides to help you out after you rescue him from being eaten by monsters in the single player campaign. While Cha Cha will level up as the Felynes do, he primarily levels up in battle and as such cannot be trained by the prior methods. However, Cha Cha has a few different useful additions worth noting. First off, you can influence his abilities and behavior by changing his Mask, which will give him added abilities and dictate whether he attacks, supports, or a combination of the two as needed. As the Masks level up, they’ll change his statistics somewhat and allow him to equip additional skills which he can use to assist you out in the field, whether he is smacking monsters or dancing to buff you out, making Mask acquisition and leveling an important part of his development. The town development and resource point gathering mechanics have also dramatically changed in new and interesting ways. Before, you’d essentially have to look for resources in regular missions or Treasure Missions in order to earn resource points, dubbed Pokke Points back then, which you could then dump into your farm and such in order to level everything up. Now, you can do these things, or you can simply walk outside of town and gather resources without taking on a mission at all. In this case, EVERYTHING you do can contribute to your resource points, from killing monsters to gathering necessities and beyond, making grinding to improve yourself profitable in numerous ways. Of course, as a result, anything that would normally require resource points to upgrade now also requires resource points AND items you can forage to be upgraded in some form or fashion, but this balances out the upgrading mechanic somewhat, as it means you won’t simply spend a few hours grinding to max out your farm before moving on with your day.
Then there’s the brand new swimming gameplay. Many of the zones you’ll traverse are partially or entirely filled with water, and your hunter is now equipped to deal with these zones, as you can now swim around from place to place as needed. Aside from opening up new ways to forage and new places to explore, this also expands the combat mechanics somewhat, as several monster types can exist on both land and water or exclusively underwater. The basic mechanics are similar, but weapons can behave differently underwater, movement and dodging can now be done in more directions, and some items are simply unusable while submerged, making appropriate planning a must. You’ll also have to monitor your air, as when it depletes, you’ll take damage from being underwater. This isn’t so bad, as there are hidden air pockets underwater, most water zones allow you to surface to breathe, and there are all sorts of items that can be used to breath underwater, but it’s an added challenge all the same. Some small but noticeable additions also round out the experience somewhat, like the ability to run around in dark environments with a torch held aloft as you search for resources or other exits, the fact that areas you can gather from now highlight that this is an option, along with what you’ll need, and other small but interesting changes. There are also several new maps, new monsters, new weapons, new equipable items and new mechanics for old weapons, such as how bowguns now consist of three separate parts which can be mixed and matched to customize the right bowgun for you.
The core game offers, quite literally, hundreds of hours of play and replay value, between the large variety of quests to take on and monsters to slay, for both one and multiple players. Aside from the off and online play, there’s also the ability to jump into Arena play, where you can fight alone or with a friend in split-screen mode against giant monsters for fun rewards, and since your friend can install their character on their WiiMote to bring it over, this makes things as simple as possible for maximum entertainment while slaying giant things. There is a large amount of gear to find and build, items to use, and other worthwhile things to work with, and with the large amount of new and existing content in the game, you’ll have a lot of things to experiment with. The game lacks the import option of its predecessors, for obvious reasons, but you’ll be starting on even footing with other players and your friends if you jump on board now, if nothing else. Monster Hunter Tri also offers full online support for up to four players at one time without having to rig up an alternate solution, which is fantastic for those who don’t want to figure how wireless access points and XLink work. The game is also fully compatible with WiiSpeak, so you can talk to friends while you’re playing, though if you don’t have it, you can also used automated responses and such to communicate if you need to.
Before we move on to the less positive elements of the game, I’d like to take a moment to address both the new Classic Controller released around this point and the WiiSpeak, since this is the first opportunity I’m having to experience both. The new Classic Controller is outstanding in every possible respect, as it’s as responsive as the original but actually FEELS like a controller instead of a plastic disc with buttons. For twenty dollars it’s a worthwhile investment, and if you’re planning to pick up Monster Hunter Tri, doubly so. WiiSpeak, on the other hand, is atrocious, and while that is absolutely no fault of Capcom’s, it bears mentioning that you’re pretty much going to hate using it at any point during your time playing the game. Having to hear the other person’s voice through your TV speakers while talking to them means that you’re going to be getting a weird echo effect whenever you talk unless you hook up headphones or mute the TV (which defeats the purpose), and unless you tape the mic to your chest you’re going to have to shout or sit on top of the TV to make yourself understandable. But don’t take MY word for it; ask J. Rose and Shawn P.C., who after the first time we all played together decided to communicate through Xbox Live when playing online instead of ever having to deal with this mess again. Just so you know.
Now, as has been noted previously, Monster Hunter as a series has something of a steep learning curve, and you’ll be expected to spend a good few hours learning how your character’s abilities, the different weapons and armor skills, and the various items all work together, on top of what time will be spent learning the different monsters and how they can end your adventures in a hurry. If you’re not looking to spend a good amount of time learning the ins and outs of a game, Monster Hunter as a series is probably not for you. You will also spend a not insignificant amount of time out in the fields grinding certain monsters or locations looking for specific items to build specific gear, not unlike something like a World of Warcraft, minus the monthly fee, and while that’s not a terrible idea as it rewards persistence and that sort of thing, it’s frustrating in many respects fighting, I don’t know, Rathlos for the twentieth time because he refuses to drop a Ruby, and impatient players will tire of this eventually. There are several control mechanics that will be unintuitive to new players as well, and while veteran players will either understand why things are the way they are or will at least accept them, new players may find it annoying that there’s no lock on, or that if a gigantic monster hits you, you will go flying and rolling around like a doll because you didn’t roll out of the way in time.
Monster Hunter Tri also brings its own unique failings to the table as well, unfortunately. For one, while the WiiMote and Nunchuck controls are about as good as they were going to possibly be given the circumstances, they’re honestly not very good overall. If you managed to acquire the combo that came with a Classic Controller, you’re very lucky, because the game is frustrating to play without it. Assuming you can work with this or you have acquired said controller, if you’re a returning Monster Hunter fan, you’ll most likely be less than impressed with the lack of content the game has to offer. While the new game mechanics are great, half of the weapons have been stripped from the game and the game lacks a lot of the monster variety and mission upgrades the prior games offered. It’s understandable that G-Rank quests and old maps and such aren’t included, to a point, as it makes for a selling point for sequels, but why strip out weaponry? Bows, gunlances, dual swords, and hunting horns have been excised entirely, and only the Switchaxe has been added, and while that’s a fine enough weapon, it’s not going to appease fans of the other weapons. Finally, it also really doesn’t help that the weapon construction mechanics have become absurd in some respects. For example, if you’re a fan of the Longsword, forget about using it for the first several hours, as there won’t be one available to you for a good while, which is just belligerent on multiple levels. The new bowgun design system, while interesting, also leaves a lot to be desired. The light and heavy bowguns work well enough, to be certain, but there are like three light bowguns in the game and the medium bowguns make no sense, as some can be run around with as if they were a light bowgun while others slow you down to a crawl. If I can assemble a medium bowgun out of a light frame, a heavy barrel and a heavy stock that is more usable than the default medium bowgun, that probably isn’t a good thing, guys.
To say that Monster Hunter Tri is not a good sequel would be unfair, as it offers a lot of interesting upgrades and changes to the systems of the series that are worth playing through, and the game still offers a great and in-depth experience all around, but in a few respects it’s as problematic as its predecessors, while in others it could have stood for some additions and additional work. The game is still well presented in all respects, the gameplay is still as solid and satisfying as ever, there’s still a lot of content to see and lots to do, and there’s plenty of reasons to play and replay the game for hours upon hours. The addition of simple to access online play and offline team slaying for friends to participate in is great, and the numerous gameplay additions are generally pretty cool all around. There’s something of a steep learning curve to the entire franchise, certainly, it can take a good amount of grinding to accomplish certain things, absolutely, and the control mechanics can be odd for players to learn, definitely, but this in and of itself doesn’t hurt the game as much as you’d think. The somewhat unfriendly WiiMote and Nunchuck Controls, lack of content in prior games and odd weapon release and functionality issues, on the other hand, can somewhat taint what it an otherwise excellent game. Ultimately, if you’re willing to commit some time and patience to learning how the game works, willing to pick up a Classic Controller, and willing to accept that some content has been removed from the sequel, Monster Hunter Tri is a fantastic addition to the franchise and well worth picking up for fans and otherwise, but if you can’t, you might want to wait for Monster Hunter Tri G, because it’s pretty obviously coming.
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME.
Short Attention Span Summary:
While Monster Hunter Tri isn’t as impressive as its PSP predecessors, it’s pretty much the best console release of a Monster Hunter game to date and is well worth picking up if you’re a fan or have been interested for a while. The concept is as solid as eversolid, the audio and video presentation is very good overall, the gameplay is varied and compliments the experience nicely, and hey, killing gigantic monsters is still mighty fun. There’s plenty of new content in this release to appease old fans, and new fans will find that there’s a ton of play and replay value to the game, both alone or with friends. The game takes some getting used to and some time spent learning the mechanics, it requires some patience and a decent amount of grinding to unlock the coolest stuff, the WiiMote and Nunchuck controls stink, there’s a good bit of missing content from the prior games that should have been included, and the weapon access and design mechanics can be frustrating, but all in all, the game is good enough to be worth the effort. If you’re looking for a challenging game for your Wii that you can play alone or with friends, Monster Hunter Tri is well worth the investment, and while it’s not everything it could have been, new fans and old will still find something to enjoy about it.