Quick Look: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

Monster Hunter? That's one of those jump in and play games, right? Done.

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David Vs. Goliath

One of Capcom's most popular franchises, Monster Hunter, has never caught on outside of Japan. Why? Why not? Patrick spent more than a dozen hours trying to figure it out. Here's what he found.

The bell rings, the warriors gather, and the horn blows. It’s time for The Hunt.

These three have been tasked--nay, chosen--with tracking down a deadly Qurupeco. This bird-like beast doesn’t look all that dangerous, but when it puffs its chest and streaks of fire emerge from its feet before it sets off on a sprint, even the most seasoned swordsman (or axeman or hornsman) runs the other way.

And that’s to say nothing about when it calls for help. Whatever you do, don’t let it call for help.

Don’t.

Each heads in a different direction. It’s not clear where the Qurupeco might be hiding. If you’re (un)fortunate enough to stumble upon the beast, it’s easy to signal the others. Minutes go by. The Qurupeco is nowhere to be found. Every location has been searched, and it’s nothing but jaggis. An uneasy quiet falls over the group, a mixture of tension, frustration, and anxiety.

“Soon,” the leader assures the group.

Like clockwork, the Qurupeco swoops from the sky, and it has begun. The Hunt is on. A seasoned warrior is instructing the two relative newcomers, mercenaries ready to prove themselves. One of them is me. The Hunt is not to be taken lightly, as death--okay, fainting--is around every corner. Unfortunately, even this seasoned warrior has aged, and the Qurupeco quickly seizes control of the battle. In a critical daze, the Qurupeco begins to scream. The group rushes towards the creature, weapons drawn--but it is too late.

The wyvern has been called. It has no business being here, and it does not care. The wyvern’s only interested is charring the flesh of those who’ve invaded the territory of the monsters, and he makes the job that much harder. Attack, block, dodge, heal, run, run, run, scream into microphone, die, respawn, run.

The Qurupeco eventually shows exhaustion. It drools, it breathes deep, it limps, and soon leaves the field of battle. We have, as newcomers often do, forgotten to tag the creature, which would allow us to track it. It disappears into the blue. A frantic chase ensues, the brave warriors seeking their golden prize, the wyvern snapping and swooping whenever it chooses. An hour into the struggle, and the conflict seems lost. In this case, beast would triumph over man. Whenever the Qurupeco was near death, it would find a way to escape, nurture its wounds, and recover. And still, that damn wyvern would not leave us alone.

Then, we caught it by surprise. One of us did, anyway. Our leader. All items exhausted, with no more deaths at our disposal, a well-timed strike had killed the Qurupeco. The beast was slain. We had won.

That’s just one of the early battles in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. Your story will vary.

There’s a little truth to every myth, but it doesn’t mean those myths aren't still full of lies.

So goes the belief that Capcom’s Monster Hunter is an impenetrable game, a series that often invokes eyerolls, sighs, and a quick utterance of “oh, Japan.” I was part of that chorus, one of the players perpetuating the myth. When early copies of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for Wii U and 3DS showed up at the Giant Bomb offices, Brad tossed them in my direction. I purposely left them there, and let it stare back at me. Ever since XCOM: Enemy Unknown and ZombiU opened my eyes to gameplay experiences that I'd previously shied away from, I've gone down a windy road of games outside of my comfort zone.

Monster Hunter had become my Moby Dick.

So goes the belief that Capcom’s Monster Hunter is an impenetrable game, a series that often invokes eyerolls, sighs, and a quick utterance of “oh, Japan.”

If I can conquer Monster Hunter--and by conquer, I mean understand--I can do anything. Maybe even Dark Souls.

The endgame of putting Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate into my Nintendo devices wasn’t to fall in love with Capcom’s creation, but to like or dislike it on my own terms. I didn't like Etrian Odyssen IV, after all, but I could rattle of why it's interesting. Rather than make broad assumptions about why people may or may not find themselves spending hundreds of hours hunting seemingly harmless animals, I wanted to know for myself, and come back with a report. That report might disappoint the very real number of Monster Hunter aficionados in Giant Bomb’s community, but I could come back and articulate a list of reasons why it didn't click.

That didn’t happen.

15 hours with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate later, I’ve been to the mountaintop. It’s pretty amazing.

Monster Hunter is best thought of as Boss Battle: The Video Game. About eight hours into my Monster Hunter vision quest, I hopped online with 8-4’s Mark MacDonald and Polygon’s Phil Kollar. At that point, I was still playing the game as an intellectual curiosity, and was fast approaching a moment where I’d have to resign myself to moving on. Instead, what occurred over the next hour may as well have been a perfectly orchestrated viral campaign to showcase one's ideal first experience playing Monster Hunter. We spent 60 minutes in a tug-of-war with the aforementioned Qurupeco. It ended with fist pumping.

Everything that happens in Monster Hunter that doesn't involve actually fighting monsters--trapping, farming, forging, upgrading, gardening, sailing, etc.--is in service of the next boss battle. Monster Hunter’s downtime is better described as preparation. What looks like (and, let's be honest, is) hours of busywork also acts as the calm before the storm, much needed quiet time before the rush of adrenaline sure to course through one’s veins during The Hunt. If every moment of Monster Hunter moved at the same pace as fighting a Great Jaggi or a Qurupeco (both early major monster encounters), it would be too much.

The stories that come out of these battles are not scripted, it’s experiential. It changes based who you’re playing with, the weapons equipped, and the many, many things that can and do go wrong. You know, like a wyvern suddenly showing up. It’s wildly different than how most games safely guide us through the big moments, and make sure we all enjoy them. Monster Hunter is full of frustrating escapades and extreme disappointment. The reason it’s a thrill to win is because you’re more likely to lose.

It’s easy to make a statement like that when I’ve made it over the hump, though. It’s not an easy hump. Monster Hunter is, years later, still full of dumb bullshit. I’m not sure if Capcom Japan gave up on the West, Capcom USA realized it lost the fight, or everyone’s just moved on and hopes Dragon's Dogma makes it all work. Whatever the case, despite being the millionth entry in the franchise, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate does itself no favors. The game never explains itself in a satisfactory manner, and I spent most of my early hours with FAQs and video guides open on an iPad. The common advice from any experienced Monster Hunter player is to team up with a mentor to guide one through the early hours, solely because the game is lazily obtuse. It makes me inclined to laugh at how Capcom pretends each new Monster Hunter is going to be the one that breaks through to the Western audience because “well, golly, we’ve really tried this time.” No, you haven’t. Functional multiplayer is not the reason Monster Hunter hasn’t taken off here, it’s because each new entry in the series pretends you’ve been playing since the start.

That said, there are some basic tips I'd give to newcomers:

  • Find a mentor, somehow who will play with you through the opening quests. It won't take you 10 hours with someone who knows what they're doing.
  • Stick with the sword and shield, especially if you're new to games with animation priority.
  • Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is built upon Monster Hunter Tri, a game that's been mined by its fans. Don't feel bad looking at a FAQ, especially if you forget what a monster looks like.
  • This guide for newcomers is actually completely worth paying money for.
  • No, you're not stupid for not being able to figure out how to trap your first monster.
  • When in doubt, remember it's a multiplayer game. Play online with friends and strangers.

Maybe Monster Hunter 4 will be different. That it’s only been announced for 3DS is discouraging, as these games deserve to be experienced on the big screen. Knowing Capcom and Monster Hunter, the Wii U version is in development, and it’ll roll out for diehard fans, who will buy yet another copy that has just enough additions to make it seem worth it. That’s meant mostly in jest. I poke fun because it seems pretty true, and I say this as someone that now knowingly enjoys a Monster Hunter game, and looks forward to spending dozens of hours digging deeper into the monster catalog. Having done that, I can now comprehend some of Capcom's own lack of respect for its audience. At the very least, it's knowingly exploitative of its biggest fans.

My aggravation stems from trying to recommend Monster Hunter to people with preconceived notions about it, much of it fully justified. Asking someone to sacrifice ten hours of their life with a frustrating learning curve that might not pay off, especially if their job doesn’t involve playing games for a living, is much to ask. Monster Hunter asks too much of its newcomers, even if the reward is great. I hope Capcom recognizes this gap. Monster Hunter could be really big over here. Capcom has to actually try next time, though.

As for me, as soon as I’ve seen the story of Columbia to its end, it’s back to The Hunt. Join me?

Patrick Klepek on Google+
194 Comments
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Edited by Zornack

I can't wait until you play Dark Souls. If you managed to get through Monster Hunter's issues then you should have no problem with Dark Soul's less-than-favorable parts and be able to quickly find enjoyment in the combat, which is fantastic.

Posted by Mijati

Just a shame that this is a Nintendo Exclusive. I'd love to play this on a console but I don't own a Wii U and don't want to play it on my 3DS.

Wasn't there meant to be an Xbox 360 Monster Hunter game at some point? What happened to that?

Edited by Morbid_Coffee

@mijati: It's PC/360 only in Japan. There are ways around it to play the PC version, but it's a massive headache and not worth the time for what's basically an MMO version of Freedom Unite for the PSP.

I totally want to hear Patrick's reactions to high/G rank now if he ever gets to that. That's where the fun part of Monster Hunter begins.

Posted by Hurricrane

I'm so happy someone of prominence took up MH. I really love it, you get a ton of content for the price and it's a lot of fun.

Posted by Tekimoto

As a guy who has tried time and time again to try and get people to try Monster Hunter, I'm glad to see someone give it a shot and really articulate what makes the games awesome. Hopefully this will help drag more people into the series.

Monster Hunter Frontier in the States maybe? /wishful thinking

Edited by Ketchupp

"The The Hunt" and halfway though your Qurupeco story you're suddenly in the group?

Posted by theanticitizen

I'll play once I get a Wii U, which may be soonish

Edited by MachoFantastico

Part of me thinks I'd love Monster Hunter, but Capcom's lack of any interest to make it more approachable (least without a mentor) is very off putting. It's as if they just don't care, though as you rightly pointed out, maybe they're happy with just having the established crowd buy their games instead of putting in the effort to try and make it more welcoming to new players.

Also, it's a shame it's just Nintendo only. Dare I say that somewhat hurts it's appeal in the West where Nintendo isn't the dominate console like it is in Japan. Guess that goes to show Capcom's intended crowd through and through. Quite interested to see you play Dark Souls Patrick, how about streaming it? :)

Posted by Ravelle

@zornack said:

I can't wait until you play Dark Souls. If you managed to get through Monster Hunter's issues then you should have no problem with Dark Soul's less-than-favorable parts and be able to quickly find enjoyment in the combat, which is fantastic.

The combat is Dark Souls is perfect, it's the camera that gets weird when you have your back against a wall in small rooms and is actually what causes most of frustrating deaths.

Posted by Zeik

Part of me thinks I'd love Monster Hunter, but Capcom's lack of any interest to make it more approachable (least without a mentor) is very off putting. It's as if they just don't care, though as you rightly pointed out, maybe they're happy with just having the established crowd buy their games instead of putting in the effort to try and make it more welcoming to new players.

I actually disagree with Patrick on that. I found Monster Hunter Tri to be much more approachable than its predecessors. Maybe they could have done more, but I felt like they did make an effort to make the series easier to digest with that game.

I got into the series with that game and I did not rely on a mentor. There's some trial and error involved, but no more than the Souls games. (In fact, probably less.)

Edited by Phatmac

Wish I had a Wii U to play it. :(

Edited by Strychnine

Because they won't release it in America multi-platform. If I had a game company, there is no way on Earth that I would deny my company additional revenue streams. If you only release a game in your country, you'll only receive the revenue from your country. If you release it to the world, you get revenue from the planet.

Posted by JayCee

Damn, Scoops is getting is Literary on with this.

Posted by NoelVeiga

I tried. I tried my best in the PSP days. A bunch of people got into it and would play for about an hour daily, just enough to complete one or two missions. I joined.

It... didn't work. It's not the combat, the combat is fine, and the notion of a game made out of huge bosses that you need to read for tells is interesting to me. It's not even the preparation, I like the notion of strategizing as a single player game and executing as a co-op experience.

It's the execution of the metagame. It's the undecipherable hundreds of near-identical icons, the obscure crafting, the need to walk to places to access fundamental actions, the disjointed map, the abstract nature of the quests, that are entirely out of context, next to the slavish, inconvenient sense of place.

But I also see why it's big. If you're inclined to power through those things, or if you actively like them, there's a ton of game there, and it's consistently designed with the purpose of executing on what it is. I'm just pretty sure I don't like what it is.

Edited by FuriousJodo

I'd totally buy it if I could get it on 360. As it is I have no interest in a 3DS or WiiU as platforms, so until they bring it to something else I won't be messing with it.

Posted by Gordo789

Good on you Patrick for trying new things. I'm about 35 hours deep into MH3U on the Wii U right now. It's my first Monster Hunter, and I'm loving every second of it. As a Demon's / Dark Souls veteran, I can tell you that those games are a lot less impenetrable up front in terms of the amount of information you're going to need to process. The gameplay, however, is much more difficult. Where early monsters in MH3U will bat you around for a while before you die, many of the bosses in the Souls games will just kill you outright in a hit or two.

Edited by golguin

The Dark Souls live stream is coming soon right Patrick?

Since you're going to play on the PC I'd assume plenty of members would be willing to hook you up with Humanity or any gear you want.

Since you like fast weapons I'd suggest a short sword, rapier, or a katana. There are weapons in each category that hit a bit harder, move a bit slower, or have a particular attack animation.

Posted by MikeNIke76

After hearing Patrick talk up Monster Hunter I decided to give it ago. I was a bit worried about the ramp up, but I ended up having a fairly easy time getting into the game. I think the secret sauce was starting the game from scratch with another newbie. We ended up skipping the long/dumb tutorial section and jumped straight to multiplayer. From there, we aimlessly wandered the map until we ran into a giant bear thingy. After a really long fight we managed to take the monster down on our first go and had an awesome time doing it.

Unfortunately, having this kind of experience takes a big investment (for me it was having a wii u, 3ds, and a copy of the game for each). That being said, playing this way let me skip a lot of the tedium and go straight to the "good" part of the game.

Edited by Sir_Belf

Once you step over that big hump with MH, trust me, you can never go back. I've been a Hunter since Freedom 1 on the psp and loved every title released since. I'm glad you're spending some proper time this Patrick. Just wish the other guys would see it the way you do too.

Posted by Zeik

@noelveiga: A lot of those things are actually where I think Tri did a good job improving upon. I couldn't get into the PSP versions either, they were incredibly overwhelming and they did a poor job telling you what anything did. Tri felt like it did a better job actually giving that information to the player, not the least of which because you could actually check just about every single icon and item and ability and get a description of exactly what it did. One of the best features of that game IMO.

Posted by Maedhros925

I'm playing through Dark Souls again for the second time. It's still great, but I can't help wishing that I could play it for the first time all over again. I'll never again experience that same sense of exploration and achievement that you get your first time through the game, when everything is new and unknown. It's a oft-repeated phrase, but Patrick I'm jealous that you can still have that experience of playing Dark Souls for the very first time. All I can ask is that you share your experience with us when it happens.

Posted by Veektarius

I was hoping for some different insights than were provided by Patrick already via Quick Look & Bombcast. This seems like filler.

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Edited by Flappybat

An hour for a Quropeco? In a game with a 50 minute time limit? :P Get rid of those iron weapons!

Edited by Elitespy

If you are serious about the whole join you part, I could guide ya through some of the quests if you were up to it. Some of those higher ranking monsters can be a bitch.

Edited by yoshimitz707

@gordo789: Well, they made the early monsters a lot easier in this one compared to Tri which really does help newcomers ease in a bit better. But once you get to G Rank, stuff is even harder than it was in Tri.

Edited by Maedhros925

@ravelle: I agree; the only time I get frustrated with Dark Souls is when the camera freaks out in tight spaces. The Centipede Demon fight is a prime example. Those are the only deaths that feel cheap and unearned. For all other deaths, I can say "yep, that one's on me, I fucked up".

Posted by NoelVeiga

@zeik: I was meaning to ask if any of those things had gotten better over time. If I ever get to buying a WiiU I might give this one a try. Maybe wait for the next one in line.

That's the other thing, right? I never felt any urgency in figuring MH out, because there's always more MH coming at some point in the future.

Posted by prestonhedges

Or maybe it just isn't well-advertised enough over here. I didn't even know about it until the gaming press decided to start talking about this pretty standard-looking dungeon crawler like it's the deepest game in the world.

Edited by Duxa

@mijati: It doesnt have to be. The game is basically the same with every iteration (different monsters/areas, but gameplay is the same). I am currently playing through MH: Freedom on PSP...

You do have the following as an option to play Monster Hunter: PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii, Wii U, 3DS, Dolphin Emulator on PC.

Edited by jakkblades

You make it sound pretty fun. But I only have a 3DS, and Mark McDonald recommended not starting with the 3DS game before playing the Wii U game. And buying a Wii U ain't gonna happen.

Edited by Gordo789

@gordo789: Well, they made the early monsters a lot easier in this one compared to Tri which really does help newcomers ease in a bit better. But once you get to G Rank, stuff is even harder than it was in Tri.

Oh really? I'm only Hunter Rank 2 right now, so I don't know what the high rank stuff is like. I've heard there's quite the difficulty spike though. Either way, I'm excited to see what the game can throw at me.

Edited by Duxa

@jakkblades: They are the same game on 3ds and WiiU... you dont gain or lose anything by playing either one... also you can play Monster Hunter on PS2, PSP, PS3 and PC dolphin emulator if you want.. they are all basically the same game... in fact MH Freedom Unite for PSP is considered to be the biggest/most content MH game.

Edited by xxDrAiNxx

People play these games in NA? lol !

Posted by Duxa

Hey @patrickklepek thanks for recommending that guide.. I gave them my $9 :)

Also, perhaps you should do a video or two playing through a the 1 star quests and talking about the game mechanics, to teach those that may be are interested in getting into the game? Kind of like an informal tutorial?

I am currently playing through MH: Freedom on PSP and am loving it!

Edited by mrfluke

it’s back to The Hunt. Join me?

@patrickklepek would have been good if you added your wiiu and 3ds friend information behind that statement. :p

other than that, nice write up, i like the "flow" and the "tone" of this piece.

the monster hunter "structure" to me seems ready to truly shine next gen.

ill jump on when deep down becomes a full game, other than that ill stick with dark souls.

Online
Posted by SpaceJamLunchbox

Yes. You've got three players in Ohio that'd love to help you anytime.

Edited by Teaspoon83

Making it more accessible how though? I believe the beginning does a good job of posting a quest that then explains a new part of the hunting/gathering/capturing.

The crafting may seem overwhelming and where to find the various ingredients but this is where you either strike out on your own to find out which is awesome when you figure it out, look at FAQS, or get involved with the community.

My first MH, but already taking up all my free time.

Edited by Waffley

Dragon's Dogma definitely seemed like Capcom's push for MH in the west, or perhaps they were testing the waters of the console market. They stripped down a few of the key Monster Hunter elements such as the massive crafting system or even the tedious material hunting, but applied new layers onto the combat and world.

What's really interesting to me is that this push ended up creating a fairly different but surprisingly successful franchise for Capcom. For some reason however, they still don't see that if they did incorporate denser loot elements and other things from Monster Hunter it would be even more successful. Time after time it is proven that if you create an intricate crafting system that is also not mandatory or otherwise overwhelming to your average player, you please the people who look for that type of system in a video game while not offending players who are only invested in the story or environment.

Oh and I also can't wait for Patrick to give in and play Dark Souls. Hopefully he latches onto the surprising amount of backstory for the characters and world. It's almost mind-blowing to play through the game and experiecnce the numerous theories and lore pieces about Solaire/Gwyn/Lautrec/Pygmy/everyone else.

Posted by GaspoweR

Man, "Trick Tricky Scoops" Klepek is continuing to go down this Japanese games vision quest/rabbit hole and I'm loving the features so far. I have not played any of the games (999,VLR,MH3) yet but for now I'm content with enjoying the features that have come out on this site.

Posted by Jawshua
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Posted by murse2008

Good article.

Posted by Slaegar

It really bugs me how many people say "I don't want it because its not on X (usually xbox)". Its not just about Monster Hunter, I've seen people say it about MMOs. What are they going to do when the next consoles come out? "I'm not buying Halo 5 because its not on the 360".

A lot of people into Monster Hunter went out and bought Wii U's JUST for MH3U. Hardcore Monster Hunters can easily sink 500 hours into a single game in the series, making a console purchase for it rather easy. Being a pretty casual hunter I put 100 hours into Monster Hunter Tri, bringing a lot of love back to a very under used console.

That said, I'm playing MH3U on the 3DS since I already had one of those. I'm hoping X-Link Kai will someday work for the 3DS or I might grow some local friends who like the game.

@duxa said:

in fact MH Freedom Unite for PSP is considered to be the biggest/most content MH game.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is actually supposed to have almost as much content as Freedom Unite with most of it being more varied.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Wait, what the hell? Why is the Quick Look at the top? That's not even a feature of any kind.

Posted by SpicyRichter

Well written article man, I'm glad someone is willing to experiment there!

Edited by GrumpyAtheist

So, Patrick, when does the Dark Souls Endurance Run start?

Posted by MonkeyKing1969

Here is what Capcom should do, split off a new franchise Set up a deal where Capcom pays to have an American or European company do their own "take" on the 'hunting of big monsters' idea. They are encouraged to incorporate as much of the current game as they want (or toss it all)...and yet mostly encouraged to develop their own play mechanics, rules, and game play.

The end result would be a new franchise, it might even appeal to some traditional Monster Hunter players, but it would be its own thing with it own brand. They don't have to kill or change the Japanese game that has caught on, but I think fresh eyes and a western outlook could produce something new and viable.

Edited by JackSukeru

Hey Pat, here's a couple of handy tips for you in case you ever decide to play Dark Souls!

  • Don't use a shield, they are useless and will only weigh you down, slowing your attacks, get a good off-hand weapon instead.
  • Pyromancy is similarly useless as most enemies have strong fire resistance and quite a few types will just absorb the hits instead, powering up their defences.
  • The majority of NPCs in the game drop better stuff than they sell and drops less stuff as time goes on, thus they are more useful dead than alive. Kill any NPC you come across without hesitation or remorse, even those that you might mistake for regular enemies.
  • Fire Keeper Soul is a very useful item that will give you 5 Humanity when you use it. Since you want a lot of Humanity on you at all times it is best to use it immediately once you get it.
  • There has been this long standing myth that you can get weapons from cutting off the tails of dragons, you can even find it in a lot of the Wikis on the web. A lot of people have wasted their time trying to do this but it has been proven to just have been a misunderstanding when someone confused Dark Souls with Monster Hunter.
  • Nobody knows what the "poise" stat does so don't bother, heck I've seen a lot of people with high poise standing around trying to figure it out while being pummeled by enemies and not even reacting to their hits, their devotion is really staggering.
  • Don't bother trying to figure out what you want to be in the early goings. Soon you will be drowning in souls to put into every stat anyway so any sort of plan will eventually be useless.

Hope this helps!

XOXOXO Jack

Posted by happymeowmeow

Vinny seems to be on the edge of getting into this; tip him over, get some video of you two playing multiplayer, bam, world class content.

I got into Monster Hunter on the psp, and then really got into it on the Wii with Tri, but I'm also waiting for fundamental changes that would make it much more accessible and, well, a better game.

@patrickklepek Have you heard of Waking Mars? It's a game that came out last year on iOS, has a PC and Mac version now. Surprised it never got any coverage on Giantbomb and in the spirit of trying new games you should check it out. It's a 2d platformer where you have to cultivate an alien ecosystem to progress in the game. Very heavy on story progression an exploration. One of the things I like about it is it's a SciFi story that isn't afraid to lean on the science. Not very long either, about 6 hours? probably less if you don't get the different endings.

Posted by Bollard

Fantastic article Klepek! So glad you gave MoHun a chance.

With regards to sticking with Sword and Shield, ehhhh, I've heard some people say Dual Blades is a better option. But definitely experiment, some of the weapons are super cool.

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