REVIEWS -- Monster Hunter Tri -- Wii
There are hunters, and then there are Monster Hunters
by Mike Sicliano
Fun factor: Fun
Worth to: Buy
This installment of Monster Hunter is not only the best in the franchise, itís easily one of the best games on the Wii.
A quaint fishing village is unceremoniously attacked by a creature of immense proportions. This event creates a stir among the townsfolk, their lives turned upside down as the attack has left the village crippled: sea-faring ventures are brought to a halt, farms are sent into disarray, and the general economic structure of the village is thrown completely out of balance. Then, along comes a spry, amateur fighter, looking to make a big name amongst fellow hunters. Hearing the tale of this legendary creature -- the Lagiacrus -- that has wrought such havoc, this warrior sets out to be the one who finally bring it to its knees, and with its defeat or capture, reap all of the spoils that come with being a renowned Monster Hunter.
The premise is basic and largely swept aside throughout most of the game, but it merely serves as a stepping stone to launch the player into the world of Monster Hunter with some justification for seeking out and slaying these massive creatures. Donít let the simplicity of the plot fool you, however, because contained within Monster Hunter is a depth of gameplay to explore, unparalleled by many titles of this generation and certainly more than anything else found on the Wii.
Your adventure begins with a modest character creation that gives you very minor choices in appearance. Youíll assign a name, designate a gender, and then pick out of a handful of clothing options and other physical features. There are no classes to choose from in the game, but Iíll go into that in more detail a little bit later.
Once the game begins, youíre literally thrust into the world of Monster Hunter after being presented the situation at hand. Your job is to find, and slay, the great Lagiacrus, a sea dragon that roams the outskirts of the village. But you canít expect to kill it right away, can you? That would be nonsense. So you undertake many quests given by the village initially, and later a designated NPC for quests. Each quest will reward you a plethora of spoils, and with this youíll be able to craft stronger and better equipment, improving your chances in combat and getting you one step closer to felling the beast.
In addition to improving your characterís strength, youíll also be tasked with rebuilding the village back to its former glory. Doing this entails acquiring certain resources from the outside world or harvested from enemies, as well as a designated currency known as ďResourcesĒ (which is separate from your actual currency, Zenny). Resources are gathered from either killing enemies during free hunts -- when you are not on any quest but simply exploring the woods and gathering materials -- or by trading in certain rare items to one of the village folk.
Youíll gain access to three boats as you progress through the game which you can dispatch in one of three locations: fishing grounds, hunting grounds, or treasure grounds. The spoils returned from these trips are items which can then be traded in for Resources.
The path to glory goes through battle
The main aspect of the game is, of course, the hunting. And as I said, youíll be spending a large percentage of your time doing just that. It wonít consume your entire life, as there is certainly the need to go out and harvest materials for crafting, but because battles themselves can sometimes get so intense and take quite a bit of effort to overcome, youíll be spending a good twenty to thirty minutes per fight. And thatís okay, because even though all quests are timed, youíre given fifty minutes to complete them and are allowed three deaths per quest before you have to forfeit and try again. Youíll lose all of the items youíve consumed during that time, but perhaps you might have gained the knowledge or a strategy to use on the next attempt. You can also abandon a quest at any time, which will bring you back to the village pre-acceptance of that quest and return back all of the items you used, but also take away anything you might have gained.
Quests are largely designed to get you accustomed to the area in which youíll be traveling, to familiarize you with the enemies around, and simply to allow you the opportunity to gather materials. For the most part you shouldnít have terrible difficulty with them. That is until one of the quests calls for the hunt or capture of one of the gameís many greater monsters. These are sometimes just larger versions of the enemies youíll find throughout the game, but many of them are completely original and newly designed creatures specific to Monster Hunter Tri. The Lagiacrus, which is the gameís cover mascot, is one such monster, and one youíll not encounter until much later in the game, well after youíve grown comfortable with everything.
For those new to the franchise, Monster Hunter Tri will likely cause a bit of early concern. Be warned that there is a definite learning curve for fresh-faced players. Lack of a lock on and the sometimes finicky camera might seem a nuisance at first, but the former actually proves to be a great asset in your hunts and the latter is something that youíll simply get used to, and especially more so if youíre using the classic controller pro.
Weapons handle as you might expect and have varying degrees of weight and effectiveness, meaning a great sword or a hammer will swing much more slowly than a simple sword and shield. Itís best to get comfortable with at least two or three different weapon types so that you can adapt to any given situation when you need to. Youíre only able to carry one armor set and one weapon with you at all times, but your home has a storage bin with a huge amount of space where you can leave all of your crafting supplies, extra baggage, and the like. Equipment (armor and weapons) are kept in the same bin but in entirely separate sections than every other item, so thereís little risk of ever running out of storage space.
I mentioned there are no classes earlier, and that is partially true. In theory there are two classes: Blademaster and Gunner. Neither varies too greatly from each other, except that the Gunner uses bowguns and the Blademaster uses every other melee weapon (this includes great sword, sword and shield, hammer, lance, longsword, and a switch axe, a new weapon to the series capable of switching between axe and sword formations). This is not something you select for your character, either. The game just designates you one or the other depending on the weapon you are currently wielding. This is important to take note of, however, because some armor sets are specific to class, while others can be worn by either.
Likewise, armor sets will offer varying types of passive skills: an increase to health, an increase to stamina, greater effect with restorative items, etc. The amount of skills in the game is incredibly vast, and some of those, like armor, are specific to each class. The Precision skill will not work for a Blademaster, and the Sharpener skill will not work for a Gunner. This allows for a small bit of diversity in play styles but isnít enough of a separation that forces you to play one way or the other. You can always return to your base and swap equipment sets virtually any time you want when not on a quest.
Thereís also the element of item synthesis. And along with this, armor and weapon forging. All of the materials you gather in the game -- whether itís simply from running around and harvesting herbs, mushrooms, insects, or when you slay a giant beast and carve its hide -- can be used to create more powerful products. The common materials that are harvested from the world are generally used to make potions and other consumables for battle, while the stuff gained from monsters and as rewards for quest completion can be used at the blacksmith to upgrade weapons and forge new armor. There is an armor set specific to every major monster in the game, including a few extra sets for other circumstances. This is one of the most important aspects of the game, because itís the primary way in which your character grows.
There are no levels or experience gained from killing monsters. Instead the game relies on your own personal level of experience and development as a fighter. Youíll simply upgrade your equipment to give yourself a better chance at survival, but never will your character physically become stronger (unless of course itís through the aid of consumable supplements). Itís absolutely possible to go through the game wearing only one of the few early armor sets in the game because what you want to focus on most are the skills the armor sets give. The defense can always be improved through items known as Armor Spheres, but itís the skills that will give you the edge you need in combat. That, combined with your own development as a player, is what will determine whether you sink or swim in Monster Hunter.
And I canít talk about the combat of Monster Hunter without mentioning the online aspect. This is, far and away, the absolute best handled experienced by a developer and most enjoyable online experience as a player from any Wii game. Capcom has literally done away with the necessity for friend codes and created a system of servers and realms very much like Phantasy Star Online. Players will pick a server, and from that server a realm. They will then enter a hub world and will have access to join any games currently in progress, or start a new game of their own. You can also save friends to a roster list whenever you meet them to make continued playing much more accessible.
Characters from the single-player campaign are completely usable in the online component, and anything you do in either mode will save and carry over into the other. Games can hold a total of four players, which is just the perfect amount necessary for taking down some of the gameís biggest, most ferocious monsters. And while characters transgress modes, quests do not. The quests are similar in assignments (kill X amount of Y, gather Z materials, etc.), but completing that quest online will not complete the quest for you offline, and vice versa.
The mode is not without some faults, however. Though the lag is certainly on the low-end, each player seems to exist in his or her own game-world when out on a quest. What I mean is when youíre out in the woods, or desert, or wherever it is youíre doing, youíll find a lot of the local wildlife roaming around. Where they are in your game is completely different to where they are in someone elseís. In essence, each of your games generates its own small monsters. Luckily this is not the case for the larger monsters, as youíll all see and attack the same exact one. I can try to guess the reasoning behind this, and thatís simply to give each player the opportunity to kill those animals and harvest the materials for themselves rather than having someone else kill them all and hoard everything. Going by that logic, it sounds like a good idea, but itís just very odd when youíre playing and your teammate starts attacking the air.
There is local offline co-op but this is limited to split screen arena modes where you can only pick from pre-made characters and fight larger monsters together with up to one other person. Itís fun every once in a while, but to get the full effect of Monster Hunter, youíll want to jump online and get in a game with three others and just start going crazy.
I also just want to briefly mention that Monster Hunter Tri is the first game in the series to feature underwater combat, and the result is a mostly enjoyable experience. Combat is handled somewhat differently underwater, as the camera plays a much bigger role in positioning yourself with respect to the monster. Itís also much more difficult than land-based combat, as is expected, but the reward for slaying a mighty sea beast is certainly as gratifying as youíd expect.
Monsters with million-dollar smiles
Weíve all heard the phrase before. ďWow, that game looks good... for the Wii.Ē Apparently there seems to be some stigma attached to the Wiiís hardware that prevents games from looking good, or at least inhibits peopleís ability to acknowledge when a game looks good. Yes, the hardware is limited, but it is not totally incapable. Capcom proves that you can make a game -- on the Wii -- look absolutely fantastic. The monster animations are fluid and realistic, character animations in combat are exactly what you might imagine if you were using that particular weapon. The landscapes offer a wonderful variety and are all pleasing to look at. Reports have even surfaced recently that state Nintendo feels pressured for the development of the next Zelda game on the Wii, because Monster Hunter Tri looks so good.
The sound department is a little less on the impressive side, but is by no means disappointing. Thereís no full voice acting, but characters will occasionally whip up a single word greeting or farewell in conversation. Sound effects are quirky and charming, especially the little melody that plays when youíre out in the field and cooking up a piece of raw meat to regain stamina. The music is befitting of the atmosphere and each location contains a nice little theme to hunt to. What really impresses most about the sound are the distinctive calls of each monster and the battle music that amps up when youíve been spotted by one of the major creatures. This creates a perfect sense of tension as you begin your grand encounter.
Monster Hunter Tri is an achievement not just as a testament to what can be done on the Wii by third-party developers, but as an evolution in the franchise. This is the most accessible version of Monster Hunterís storied history, but also retains the spirit that makes it such a thrill for the hardcore gamer. Offering the best of both worlds, Monster Hunter Tri is unconditionally a must-have game for Wii owners.
Pros: Combat is a blast whether alone or online with others; the online itself is the best experience on the Wii; monster and character animations are excellent; visuals and sound are admirable; encourages players to adapt to the difficulty.
Cons: Grinding for materials and items, and equipment creation becomes a bit of a chore; best experience is had with the classic controller pro, as motion controls can prove frustrating; very steep learning curve for new players.
Release Date: April 6, 2010
Review Date: 13-05-2010
Numbers of Players: 1-2
Players Online: 2-4
Notes: Wi-Fi, Classic Controller PRO Support, Nunchuk Support, Voice Support
The visuals are a testament to what the Wii is capable of. Not only do the locations look fantastic, the character and monster animations behave as realistically as you'd imagine.
The best mechanical experience of any Monster Hunter game with the most improvement made. Combat is breathless and exhilarating, albeit rough to get used to for newcomers.
Absolutely one of the finest games on the Wii and the best online experience to be had on the console to date. Capcom proves that a wholesome and deep adventure can be had on Nintendo's family-friendly platform.
Sound effects are delightful and the music overall fitting, but not too spectacular.
The single-player experience should last roughly 30 hours, but that number is likely to quadruple if you take into consideration the incredible depth of the online play and armor crafting.