GAME NAME: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
PLATFORM(S): Wii U
GENRE(S): Action, Adventure
RELEASE DATE(S): 22 March 2013
So there I was, fresh out of Health Potions and staring down an enraged Barroth, angry smoke streaming from its dark nostrils after being on the receiving end of my Switch Axe for the better part of the last 20 minutes. With thudding feet he charges straight at me, the earth quietly rumbling under his weight. A well-timed bit of evasion helps me dodge the attack, placing me behind it and giving me just enough time for two heavy slashes – the first severing its tail while the second serves as a death stroke. Once I’ve carved my spoils I return to Moga Village to replenish stocks and do it all over again – my sweet Barroth Armor set is very nearly complete.
Monster Hunter afficionados will be very familiar with this tiered combat approach of the franchise – working your way towards a specific goal and once victorious, formulating a strategy for the next big bad to kill. The game should come with a warning label: May Cause Severe Addiction, and those who’ve managed to persevere through the tutorial section of the game – where equal emphasis is placed on the mundane and the exciting – will immediately agree. It’s that rare game that manages to convey the triumph of victory with a real sense of accomplishment.
MH3U is essentially a tweaked version of Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii. Sporting HD visuals and a slew of new monsters to conquer, this is the definitive version of the game released for both the Wii U and 3DS, with the option for you to transfer your save game back and forth between the two platforms using the Data Transfer Tool – something that works exceptionally well.
For those unfamiliar with the world of Monster Hunter, the title very succinctly spells it out for you. You’re a hunter hunting monsters. Everything in the game – from foraging for ingredients to make things like potions or traps from a massive list of possible combinations, to salvaging pieces of slain monsters to forge new weapons and armor – is carefully constructed to support the overall theme of monster hunting. Story is kept to a bare minimum with the player essentially tasked to find out what’s causing small tremors in the earth now disrupting the tranquil Moga Village (which also acts as your offline hub) but even with no conventional narrative thread, MH3U boasts some of the wittiest, well-written banter in gaming today. From the Village Chief to the Guild Clerk to your offline AI sidekicks and the Neko’s (means “Cat”), your progress is constantly commented on with candour and wink-in-the-eye nudges that will often have you chuckling.
There’s just such an awful lot of game to MH3U. Not hindered by the usual narrative crutches that so many AAA games rely on these days of scripted interactive cut-scenes or quick-time-events, MH3U is all about pure unadulterated gameplay and if you’re planning to reach G Rank and play with the big boys online, there’s literally hundreds of hours of content on offer here. When you’ve slain your first Lagiacrus after about 20 hours of game time, you can’t help but feel proud of your accomplishment while also realising that you’ve literally just scratched the tip of the iceberg. Online multiplayer sees you managing Guild Quests from Tanzia Port where you and a group of friends can tackle beasties together online, all the while increasing your Hunter Rank (HR), and the game also makes it easy for newcomers starting out with 1-star quests to test their mettle. The online multiplayer works wonderfully and searching through the lobbies for a specific type of quest is intuitive and user friendly, with clear voice chat enabled through the Wii U Gamepad. It’s where you’ll possibly spend most of your time, but the game is playable and can be finished solo as well if you’re so inclined, with the help of two AI controlled side-kicks that become available as you progress through the game.
The various monsters are also incredibly well designed, and the way these monsters move, sound and behave is part of what draws you into a world that seems alien yet believable at the same time. Damage a monster enough and it will start limping away to another area to lick its wounds or sleep to try and regenerate its health. The monsters are intimidating, aggressive and imposing, each with their own unique attack patterns and weaknesses to exploit, and part of prepping for these fights is deciding on which weapon and armor set would be best for the scenario.
MH3U is a beast of a game. It’s a game that asks you to think for yourself, to invest that little bit of extra effort at the start to get to grips with the mechanics and flow of the game, and in return you’ll be rewarded with a rich, fulfilling experience that you’ll constantly find yourself mulling about, where the best stories and memories are formed with a team of fellow hunters with one unifying goal in mind – hunting monsters.