I must offer my apologies to all.
The Editor wanted to publish this review about 3 weeks ago and I guess I could have thrown together a half-hearted write up based on a couple of hours gameplay cobbled with opinions from the internet (much like some other local reviews from high profile reviewers). But I just couldn’t.
You see, after playing Monster Hunter Tri for a short while I absolutely hated it. I was quite prepared to turn it off, sit at my computer and write quite possibly my most scathing game review yet. And with over 4000 game reviews under my belt, I’ve written some shockers.
But then I looked at some of the scores that the game was pulling in - 90%, 95% and wondered what the hell I was missing. What were these people seeing in Monster Hunter Tri that I wasn’t?
The answer was revealed after a hefty investment of time. As with other games in Capcom’s Monster Hunter series, to get the maximum enjoyment out of the game you need to have no life whatsoever. So, at the detriment to several other major recent releases, I decided to give Monster Hunter Tri a fair trial.
For veterans of the Monster Hunter series, this will appear all too familiar. Nothing in the core gameplay has been tampered with, you still slaughter roaming beasts in real time and collect items to use for weapons and skill upgrades. However the visuals have been improved as has the camera controls and more notably the online experience. Let’s not forget the Classic Controller option, but more on that later.
Firstly you are treated to some really nice opening cinematics involving beasts of various kinds being chased and eaten by bigger beasts and them in turn being preyed upon by even bigger beasts and so on. It’s impressively done and I couldn’t help but take a glance at the box just to double check that it was actually a Wii game I was playing.
The game doesn’t exactly have an epic storyline to match the depth of the gameplay, but it does have one in which a sea monster called Lagiacrus, which you do see in the opening scenes, is terrorising life in a fishing village. Seeming as you’re the Monster Hunter, or are at least training to be one, it is up to you to kill the gigantic thing. And that my friends, it about the A to Z of it. Such a shallow plot that will literally take you dozens upon dozens of hours to complete.
If the last couple of sentences made you think “I’m not sure I can be bothered with that”, then DO NOT play Monster Hunter Tri. This is definitely not the game for you. There is no pick up and play appeal and it’s not a game you can throw on for a quick blast while dinner is cooking. The battles are repetitive, the difficulty often insane and the manual forging of weapons and armour along with pre-battle fit-outs that require some serous planning. Some boss battles take 30 to 40 minutes to complete and the game sometimes forces you to repeat them numerous times just to harvest the materials you need to defeat even bigger enemies. It’s absolutely gruelling, but in its mind-numbing and blister-forming intensity comes the ultimate feeling of satisfaction knowing that all the pre-planning and observation of the enemy has paid off with each victory. You feel like you’ve earned the spoils of victory rather than simply button mashing or holding down a button long enough to outlast an enemy.
Planning becomes essential when you get past the initial easy herbivorous beasts. When your foe begins to fight back or sees you as the prey, the difficulty takes a serious leap. So you need to study the enemy first, then get back to the village and choose your weapons, armour, potions and other provision wisely. Where will you be fighting? In the desert? Underwater? Your provisions will need to reflect this. Is it going to be a long battle? You’ll need extra sustenance and whetstones to keep your blade edge keen. Will you need paintballs to track fast moving prey? Will you need tranquilizers if you plan to capture the beast alive? Getting the itinerary just right means the difference between success and failure.
While I mention the underwater battles, there thankfully isn’t too many of them. Negotiating the new Z axis takes some getting used to and can be disorientating at best. While they do look impressive, it’s always an extra relief when these underwater stints are over with.
There is a solitary village which serves as the hub for all quests. It is here you will do all your weapon forging, trading, purchasing, farming and upgrading. While this might seem confining to some, it’s actually a blessing in its convenience as it allows you to concentrate on gathering the resources you need to progress. You will converse with a lot of NPC’s in and around this village and sit through hours of dialogue just to get to the point where you can trade with them. Thankfully, a lot of the dialogue is refreshingly witty and the characters mildly interesting.
To help you in your battles you are eventually aided by an AI controlled side-kick named Cha-Cha – just as you were in Monster Hunter Freedom Unite on the PSP. You can customise Cha-Cha with a selection of moves and abilities. Of course you can’t use him to do all the work while you hang back at the village spading on the wenches, but he does come in handy as a distraction to the more taxing enemies and can also heal you during battle.
When you’ve exhausted all that the single player experience has to offer, or simply tired of it, Monster Hunter Tri has a two-player split screen mode which the Wii handles surprisingly well. Working together to take town towering foe in Arena Mode brings a whole new dynamic to the game and this is carried on through to the online experience where up to four players can join up in quests that differ from the offline game.
The game doesn’t require Wii Friend Codes for online multiplayer, instead there is a stand-alone system in place that includes public spaces where you can socialise via Wii Speak, text messages and emoticons to build a friends list in which you can monitor their online status and even go directly to them mid-game to join in the fray. It works remarkably well and if you can get some like-minded friends into a regular hunting party then it can add hundreds of hours to an already epic game.
You are able to join in random games, but in my experience you often end up with players just doing their own thing and using multiplayer to level up their character with the unique multiplayer offerings that NPC vendors have in this mode.
The game can be played with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, but the button layout proves to be a massive hindrance to playing the game successfully. Capcom obviously realised this and released a Classic Controller Pro bundle. Trust me when I say that using this black, lightweight standard console controller is the ONLY way to play Monster Hunter Tri. It plugs directly into the Nunchuk port on your Wii Remote and is as responsive as any wired controller.
So after pouring some long hours into Monster Hunter Tri, I have a whole new respect for the series. It has a hardcore following, especially in Japan and Europe, and it’s easy to see why with the popularity of MMORPG games. While this is not an MMO, the sheer time commitment required to get the most from the game is on a par with the WoW’s of this world.
If you have the patience, then Monster Hunter Tri delivers the kind of gaming satisfaction that very few others can.