The Hunt is On!
Monster Hunter Tri is Capcom’s latest attempt to get western audiences interested in their wildly popular MMO-light franchise where you can play with up to 3 others at a time to hack away at some monsters, gather resources, or one of a few other quests that will help you along the way becoming the greatest Monster Hunter in the land. The game utilizes almost everything the Wii has to offer in terms of graphics, gameplay, and in terms of online support, which rivals Mario Kart in terms of its’ robustness.
Monster Hunter Tri does have an offline mode, and while the online mode is important, your character(s) can switch back and forth between the two to gain advantages in other. It mainly helps your offline progression, but keeping up a strong character on both sides of the table is key to powering up most of your weapons and equipment. In the offline portion of the game, you are a nameless hunter who comes to a shore village on an island where a gigantic sea monster has been causing earthquakes, wrecking havoc on the village. Your ultimate goal is to surely defeat this mighty sea beast and save the villagers. While the story isn’t exactly deep or moving, the goal of facing the biggest and toughest monster in the land is something that’s there to help drive you towards the game.
Before starting the game however, though is one of those in-depth character creators that always turn out just right so you look angry enough for the job at hand. After you get into the game, you can get to your goal by first rebuilding the village through a somewhat lengthy and needed tutorial, which will help get you on your feet about what the game is. Then by doing various quests involving killing monsters and gathering resources, you can buy and further upgrade your armor and equipment to help you take down some of the tougher opponents the game has to offer. While some of the lesser beasts will usually take you less than 30 seconds to kill, the large beasts can take upwards of 40 minutes to kill as you chase them down across the map and fight off the many minions that they summon to get in your way. These fights are what make Monster Hunter enjoyable and frustrating at the same time.
While it is extremely enjoyable to take down these huge beasts, especially with friends, the combat is stiff and largely imprecise. The game lacks a lock-on feature, and while this is necessary online so you can avoid where your friends are attacking, offline it seems like a slap in the face since you have to predict where monsters are going to be half the time. The smaller monsters, while easier to miss because of their size, do not move around a whole lot in comparison to the larger monsters which move around constantly and flee from time to time to other areas. Don’t worry though, as the damage you dealt them in one area carries over for the rest of the mission until they are dead or your time limit is up.
Quests have time limits in Monster Hunter, and for the most part don’t come into play unless you are unprepared or have a weak online party. You fail quests by not beating them in the time limit, as well as dying three times on a single quest, online included. This can get frustrating online since three deaths are for the entire party. So if you don’t die at all, and one of your friends dies three times, you’ve failed the Quest. When you complete a quest, you have a small amount of time to gather extra resources from the surrounding area, including larger monsters which end quests immediately. This part of Monster Hunter can get tedious because you only get one resource per gather, meaning you’ll have to hit A two to four times to get every resource from a beast or bug or stone. However, you sort of become immune to this after a lot of playtime.
Monster Hunter Tri has a wide variety of control schemes involving the Wii Remote, the Nunchuck and the Classic Controller. I’d say the Classic Controller is the preferred method of playing this game, but it doesn’t exactly utilize the entire controller. It feels like playing a PSP game on the Wii, but with a second analog stick for camera control. With this method you can also get information on monsters by pulling out your Hunter’s Guide and pointing the Wii Remote at the screen and holding A+B. You can map this to the d-pad, but it just feels better using the Wii Remote, but overall it’s lousy.
What isn’t lousy is the game’s online support. While in Japan the game had no Wii Speak support and required players to pay for online, western audiences do not have to put up with this as we pay no monthly fees and have Wii Speak support as well as USB keyboard support for the on-screen chat. The game doesn’t use the Wii’s traditional friend code system, but instead using Capcom’s random integer generator ID system consisting of a combination of six letters and numbers to register friends. You can also register friends by inputting their file name, but keep in mind punctuation counts here. Once you get into a server of Monster Hunter, you join a city and then a gate to play. You can warp to where your friends are if you need to as the game gives you that feature.
Once you start playing, the game is virtually lag free. Wii Speak is a nice bonus they added for the game, and while it’s not as good as a personalized headset, Capcom tried to give players as much opportunity to communicate with others as humanly possible. Playing online is the most enjoyable part of Monster Hunter because not only do larger enemies become that much easier, you get to find out some strategies other players are using that will have you somewhat interested to try other weapons and equipment setups.
While Monster Hunter does have its’ problems, it’s clear Capcom tried their best to put everything they could into this game to make Wii owners buy it. While there are restrictions on how the Wii works, Capcom circumvented them to the best of their abilities to provide a genuinely good online experience. Monster Hunter Tri’s combat system may not be great, but it’s still enjoyable to hack at stuff until they go down, even by yourself; it sort of has the style of No More Heroes going for it. While the story isn’t crazy and it doesn’t have attitude, it is purely a joy to play.