Monster Hunter Tri is the latest installment of the incredibly popular (in Japan) game series Monster Hunter. In the game, players hunt dangerous monsters roaming across the world for fame and glory, using weapons and monster-specific strategy. The game works as if the players were hunting in real life, requiring knowledge of the monsters' behaviors, ecosystems, and proper takedown methods.
Tri is the first game in the series for the current generation of consoles, sporting full online play without Friend Codes or monthly fees (outside Japan), a completely redesigned and more complex ecosystem and AI, and was given a full blown marketing campaign by Nintendo to help make the series as popular in the West as it is in Japan.
Once the player has created a character, they are brought into a village where they can purchase weapons and items, and choose to go on quests. The main game takes place in a vast overworld divided into sections where monsters live and thrive. Each section is divided into numbered areas for easier navigation and loading.
The farther the players venture into the world, the more hostile the world and creatures become. Players will have to team up with others if they want to survive and come back with the prize.
The game is based around missions called "Quests". These quests can come in three different forms:
- Hunting, where the basic concept is to beat a particular monster into submission.
- Capturing, where rather than slaying the monster, the player captures it.
- Gathering, where the player is tasked with collecting various items, such as ores, herbs, treasures, and even monster eggs. In many cases, the items gathered can aid in later hunts.
There are seven (nine, if each type of bowgun is differentiated) weapon types in Tri, each with distinct strengths and weaknesses:
- Sword and Shield, AKA SnS - With the ability to block, shield bash, using items while a blade is unsheathed and attack speed offset the lowest base damage of any melee weapon. Good for inflicting status ailments and elemental damage due to the large number of connecting hits compared to other weapons.
- Great Sword - Long range and high damage make this a popular choice among more experienced hunters. Very limited mobility makes it tricky for newer players, though the ability to block mitigates this somewhat. Features a 3 level charge-up attack.
- Long Sword - A large sword similar to a Japanese katana. They allow more mobility than great swords, but have no blocking ability. They become stronger with consecutive strikes, and feature a unique "Spirit Gauge" that, when filled, allows use of a special combo or spirit attack. Every time the "Spirit Combo" is used the gauge changes colour indicating a change in attack power. It progresses from white to yellow to red, the gauge will revert back to white after a set amount of time, along with the loss of the damage boost.
- Lance - A very long lance combined with a tower shield, providing the most defensive setup available. A charging attack, numerous thrusts, and a strong shield attack highlight its offensive capabilities. Fairly difficult to use.
- Hammer - The most offensively slanted type, hammers have no block but the highest raw damage of all the weapons. In addition to standard swings, players can charge a spin-attack, which has high damage potential, but leaves the player open to attack. It's easiest to stun monsters with this weapon type.
- Switch Axe - New to the series with Tri, the Switch Axe handles like a long sword when in axe mode, and at the press of a button switches to a great sword. It has a unique combo that swings the axe in an X pattern, continually draining stamina.
- Bowguns - They come in light, medium (new to Tri), and heavy. Players can attack either in a first-person mode or on the fly, shooting "from the hip". The light bowguns are fast but deal lower damage, while the heavier bowguns are slower but more damaging. There are also different types of ammo, some make use of elemental attacks, others act like shotguns or bombs, others also inflict status ailments.
Capcom, thanks to using their own dedicated servers separate from Nintendo's online system, has made it so that players will not have to use Friend Codes to play this MMO. This service is provided with a monthly charge to players in the Japanese region. However, to increase the game's popularity in the West, Nintendo has suggested to Capcom to waive the monthly fee in the Western market - thus the American and European versions of the game have full free online play.
Online play consists of up to 4 player teams, each from the same region. The players are able to communicate with each other using Wii Speak, on-screen keyboard or USB-keyboard. The lobby system is in the form of a city, where players can meet each other using street address as servers to organize a hunt. Since Capcom hosts different servers between the US and EU versions, US gamers are not able to play with their EU counterparts, and vice versa.
Other than simply going out into the world and hunting, players can also play "Arm Wrestling" with each other, and decorate their houses with items and furnishings and allowing other players to visit their home.
DLC Quests have also been made available for download, in addition to those already included in the disc.
The Monster Hunter series was previously a PlayStation exclusive franchise, with its games appearing on PS2 and PSP. The series was one of the most popular titles for those systems in Japan, and the highly anticipated third installment was expected to debut on Sony's PS3.
However, the surprise hit of the Wii as well as poor sales of the PS3 during the console's debut caused Capcom to reconsider the game's release. To take advantage of the exponentially bigger audience of Nintendo's system, Capcom decided to bring the third installment of the series exclusively to the Wii.
As for the decision to bring it to the Wii, I think there were many. I think it’s fair to say that CJ wanted to bring one of its premier franchises (possibly THE premier franchise when you look at the Japanese market) to the broader audience that the Wii represents. At least, that’s one of many variables that pushed it in that direction."
The decision paid off, and Monster Hunter Tri became Japan's best selling Wii third party game ever made. Since the game is a traditional gamepad controller game, the new Classic Controller Pro was chosen to be bundled with the game on all markets. The new controller was designed by the team making the game, and marks the first time Nintendo approached a third-party game company to help develop one of their hardware products.
The game caught the Zelda team's attention over at Nintendo. Iwata reported that they were scared of Monster Hunter Tri's visuals and were seriously impressed by how the game looked, pressuring them into making Skyward Sword's visuals better to be graphically competitive.
For the look and design of the game, the director wanted the game to feel as if the world players hunted in were as interesting as the monsters themselves, calling it "Hunting in a Theme Park".
The game launched with incredible fanfare in Japan, selling over 1.1 million copies, making it the most successful third party game on the system. In the west, Nintendo gave it a big marketing campaign, featuring commercials parodying 'manly' shows, and then saying they are kids games compared to Monster Hunter 3. The tagline "There's Hunters, and then there's Monster Hunters", became a small internet meme. But news of it's success on the Western market is still unknown, as sales charts were vague for this game.
Famitsu gave the game a 40/40, making it the eleventh game to get the perfect score in the magazine's 20 year history, and the third given to a Wii game. Eurogamer and Nintendo Power gave the game a 9 out of 10, praising it's gameplay and the ease of newcomers to get into the very complicated gameplay. IGN, IGN UK, and IGN Australia gave the game an 8.8, 9.3, and 9.5, respectively, calling the game "hugely satisfying to play." Gamespot gave the game an 8, the highest rating given to the series by the website, saying it was a great game.