Monster Hunter Tri made it’s impact on the Nintendo Wii back in 2009. Back then, I did check out the game, but was a bit overwhelmed and shelved the game to my own backlog due to the onslaught of other titles that were releasing at the same time. Yeah, I know this is one of the most popular franchises in the industry (or at least in Japan), but the game itself seemed like such a time sink that it felt intimidating to just jump on in. Capcom however have a lot of reasons to continue their support, and have now released Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U.
With new items, areas, monsters, and modes, Monster Hunter has never been more convenient than in it’s more compact version on the 3DS, but the same rules are still in full effect – leaving players with an even meatier experience. Does the 3DS version prove itself as a heavy hitter for the platform’s library, or is it just an upgraded port that was released just for the sake of it? Let’s find out.
Monster Hunter as a franchise is in many ways comparable to the Elder Scrolls series in terms of narrative. There is one overall plot, but that is not where the focus lies as the entire game is broken down into hundreds of quests. There is a main quest of sorts that suits its role as an overall objective decently, but I personally got more out of the mass amount interaction and exploration from the quests compared to the story.
For those interested, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate places the player immediately into the shoes of a Monster Hunter for hire. There have been massive earthquakes shaking up the citizens, and a giant foe seems to be at the root of the problem. In a locale filled with large and deadly foes already, this is not the only part of the game you will be concentrating on. Whether it be a fetch quest, fishing, or a standard hunt, the amount of people to interact with and things to do never seem to run dry. Thankfully, every personality comes to life in full form, allowing the player to quickly grow attached to their own surroundings. Throughout the game, every face and name you come across becomes more and more familiar, as everyone serves some type of role that ties one quest to the next. Your own hunter – well, he (or she) is at the center of it all, ready to take that next epic adventure at the drop of a hat.
Those hoping for one sole storyline are probably not going to find what they are looking for within Ultimate due to the emphasis on tackling quests, but the amount of atmosphere and charming dialogue leaves a lot to the imagination, allowing the player to carve out their own legacy in a fully realized world. Sure, you will be hunting creatures of all kinds, but it will be your own perspective of these events that build your character – and that level of personalization is where the true enjoyment of this title and the franchise in general can be found.
If you have played Monster Hunter Tri, you probably know what to expect from Ultimate as even though there are a lot of extra features – the same elements of gameplay still sit at the core. I was a bit concerned about the 3DS version when I first heard of this “Ultimate” adaptation, as the Wii, even with it’s own disadvantages – seemed much stronger than any portable, and the thought of putting an even greater production on display had me thinking that corners would be cut to get everything to fit. We as gamers know how these ports usually work by experience, and usually – the results are very underwhelming. Well, I can easily say that the 3DS has swatted away all of my doubt, as Monster Hunter 3 may just be the largest experience in terms of scale that we have seen to date for the platform, running just as smoothly as Tri while still carrying the weight of everything new.
If you are unfamiliar with the way this game plays, here is a brief breakdown. The player’s character interacts with the many residents of villages, camps, and towns and are assigned quests. During a quest, you must journey to a specific location with the appropriate supplies, and complete your objective. As I mentioned a bit earlier, these quests range from catching a specific type of fish, gathering food or hunting down and killing one or more of the many beasts throughout the game. Sure, it gets a lot deeper and varied than that, but those concepts are the most prominent during the game, and luckily – there are more than enough tools to be found, bought, or crafted that make your new life as a Monster Hunter a bit easier.
Even though it carries a lot of RPG elements, Monster Hunter 3 does not have a leveling system based on experience. Just finished off the Great Jaggi? Well, you won’t be getting a level boost because of it. Instead of leveling through progression, players are awarded with resources that can be used to increase their strength, defense, and wallet size. Each area has plenty of materials that can be farmed by just passing through, mining, or fishing, and every monster you encounter will drop precious materials that can be made into something more useful. This means that no matter what, collecting resources is your ultimate priority. Once back in a village, all of your loot can be sold for cash to buy new weaponry and armor – as well as tools like herbs to ensure your next trek is a safe one. These resources can also be combined via the blacksmith, creating a new blade, bow, helmet, ect. The range of items seems infinite at times, but each carry their own merits to make every experience different from the next.
So how is the combat, you ask? Well, that is a broad question for any Monster Hunter title, and MH3U is no exception. All controls have been mapped to the 3DS wonderfully, allowing for quick and fluid movement with the circle pad. Your attacks can be executed by tapping the face buttons, and the player’s inventory and menus can all be accessed via the touchscreen at the bottom. While these controls all feel solid, there is one minor mechanic that most are going to have to consider before picking up the 3DS version. This game handles from a third person perspective, so the camera is probably the only issue most are going to have.
The sold separately Circle Pad Pro is the best option, as it lets the player swing the camera behind them at all times with great ease. I personally used a 3DS XL for this review, and haven’t yet got that attachment. Thankfully, Capcom have put forth extra effort when it comes to controlling that pesky camera angle without begging the player to buy the right stick. For starters, the D-Pad is one of your choices and while moving your thumb down a bit to adjust can be a bit to get used to, it does work well enough to not cause much of a problem. Those wanting to use the other hand for camera control will probably be more interested in the touchscreen D-Pad. Yes, you heard that right. There is a decently sized D-Pad on the side of the screen, and just by rubbing your little paw against it, the camera will focus on the appropriate direction. I honestly ended up using a bit of both worlds here, as hectic combat will have you running around the map and drawing out weapons and items on the fly, so for myself – having the option to utilize two different sides of the platform at once to get a grip on perspective became natural after a few hours in. I know that may seem hard to believe due to the lengthy explanation, but trust me – no console to handheld port comes with more care to the consumer than Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate.
When on the field with an enemy, there are two different stances that can be switched to at the tap of a button. The first is the obvious one, which is the unarmed stance. Only while unarmed can you collect loot from your kills, fish, and sprint. The armed stance is all about fighting, and that mechanic is based around what weapon you have equipped at any given moment. At the start of the game, one of every weapon type can be found in your own personal chest. There is a great reason for this, as every weapon has a completely different feel from the next, and it definitely takes practice to master a blade or bow before you can go out and successfully hunt a beast. Smaller weapons like dual blades or knives allow for much quicker attacks, but come at the cost of power. Larger weapons like the kitana or sword however pack a massive punch, but leave the player open to attack due to the weight and loss of speed. No one weapon is forced however, so it is up to you to craft your own playstyle. Do you want to have to rely on defenses and properly timed attacks to have a powerful edge in combat, or would you rather get as much offense in as possible before taking a moment to regain stamina? It’s all your choice, and just like the deep inventory system, learning how everything connects into the battle that lies ahead is what makes the rewards of winning (or simply “getting it”) is what makes these encounters so epic.
Much like the camera system, just about everything in MH3U can be customized to the player’s liking. The touchscreen does this to the largest degree, allowing you to put options that would normally be accessed through a menu onto the touch screen for easy and quick access. It’s a small touch, but you would be surprised how much mapping that screen out can assist as the challenge and strategy needed to survive rises. At the beginning of the game, the player can also customize their own hero by changing up hair, facial features, and clothing. There isn’t a lot to character creation compared to other RPGs, but most shouldn’t have a problem of making their own hunter look unique.
Multiplayer is also a large part of the core product – even though it’s not incredibly pushed on the player. The 3DS version features local co-op, allowing for other players to join in on quests within range. I only had the opportunity to try this feature a couple of times, but from what I played, everything seemed to play smoothly for both parties involved. Multiplayer quests feature a great jump in challenge, but come as an added bonus to those who go in solo. Unfortunately, the online features of the Wii U are absent in this version, but Streetpass and Spotpass do enough to make up for that shortcoming. When the player Spotpasses by an enabled location, “event” and added standard quests will become available, furthering the number of adventures to be had by a good number (and over time that is going to grow as these events are held). Streetpassing other players automatically swaps Guild Cards between two 3DS systems and allows you to see all of the information from the Streetpassed player’s cartridge, which again is a small feature, but a nice addition to include to this portable version.
Visuals and Audio
Bar none – not one 3DS game to date can compare to the scope of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. All eight locations are stunning, featuring detailed environments that feel alive as you trek through every area of the map. Imagine you are running through an open field, birds are flying over you, and a pack of small creatures are slowly making their way to a drinking spot up ahead. That is the kind of spectacle on display here, and that is only a part of what makes up the complete package. Just seeing a large monster, whether it be underwater or on land – is an exciting experience every time. Sure, you may not be as surprised during a second encounter, but the detail put into the monsters make each battle memorable, and the realistic animations and clever AI mannerisms give these foes a life of their own. All of that said, I will say I wasn’t blown away by the 3D gimmickry applied. It can be neat to see a big battle in 3D, but remember – this is a 3rd person perspective where a lot of camera work is involved, and all of that movement just doesn’t look too pretty in 3D due to the “sweet spots” and blurs that come with the enhancement. Of course playing the game with the 3D off takes nothing away from the visual experience, as that feature is more of a supplemental addition than something mandatory.
The first time I stepped out on a quest, I was greeted by this blaring tune. You remember Jurassic Park, and how the music made that particular world feel so much larger due to the power put behind it? Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate has all of those qualities behind it’s soundtrack, and uses it’s melodies to set the mood for every area you approach. Not too long after the introduction of an area, the music cuts off and lets the player then take in all of their surroundings with sound effects. Birds chirping in the background, the clank of your armor as it bounces on your shoulders. Those details and more come together to bring out this rich world in full form, and the quality of the audio simply oozes out of the pores of this cartridge as you make your little way throughout the game.
I went into Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate a bit inexperienced. Yeah, I had played past entries before, but I didn’t give the series enough time to be understood. Well, Japan and all of you other Monster Hunter fans across the globe, I now get your passion. MH3U is a deep and strategical RPG, where every aspect of your own journey matters. As the game rises in challenge, you must equip yourself to rise with it – and that is what makes the combat, collecting, and exploration just as rewarding as it is addictive. I know I mentioned that Resident Evil Revelations was a surprise to see on the 3DS last year, but even that doesn’t hold a candle to the sheer size of this title – that still manages to carry it’s weight well with all of the features involved. For fans of the franchise, you should already be playing this game as I write this as the great amount of extra content, features, and quests within the Ultimate Edition easily give enough of a reason to go back in. For those new to the franchise, you should know that it isn’t an easy task to just head into this game unprepared, but the rewards for taking in everything that Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate has to offer are just far to great to pass up.