terramantis's Monster Hunter 3 (tri-) (Wii) review

Deep Hack'n Slash gameplay best suited for online with friends.

“Monster Hunter Tri” is an action oriented RPG from developers CAPCOM made exclusively for the Nintendo Wii. The Monster Hunter franchise is supposedly bigger than hop-scotch and heroin in Asia. So, I decided to see what all the hubbub was about. Some pretty unique RPG elements and fun action is weakened by flubs which make Monster Hunter Tri a fairly great triumph coupled with some flaws that could’ve otherwise easily been rectified to make an overall tighter gaming experience. In spite Monster Hunter’s gaming elements that are subpar the game is still quite entertaining. Let’s look at all the characteristics of Monster Hunter Tri that make the game somewhat monotonous yet still fun, involving, and addictive.

The simple score breakdown of “Monster Hunter Tri (3)” is like so…

Graphics/Character Performance and Animation – 8.5/10

Fun Factor – 8.5/10

Story – 6/10

Controls- 7/10

User Interfacing – 7/10

Learning Curve – SLOW, unavoidable (offline), and very lengthy, but also very informative

Sound – 10/10

Value - 7/10

Total – 7.7 / 10

Monster Hunter Tri really has that Asian RPG feel. You know what I mean. Things like little creature-mascot-like characters, two-handed weapons that would really require four hands to wield, exacerbated cartoony character emotions, and really dry hokey humor and dialogue are what give the game that all-too familiar Japanese feeling.

I have to hand it to Capcom though because they’ve made a visually stunning game for the Nintendo Wii. You’ve all probably heard this saying before; “for a Wii game” it looks really great. Well that would be directly true to how I feel about Monster Hunter Tri, but it just simply looks great period. The fact that it is on the Wii just makes it all the more impressive.

If only some of the HUD could be toggled on/off.

It is too bad though that the game’s heads-up display is cluttered with too much information and it is unalterable. The health and stamina bars go all the way across the top and when you’re in a party with others their names and status go down the left side of the screen. Also, when you're in an online group chat will show in the bottom left. Thankfully though the chat box will fade after roughly 20 seconds of inactivity. Your inventory is down at the bottom right and the game’s map for the environments feels like it takes up WAY too much room in the top right-hand of the screen. I really only felt as though 1/3 of the screen was not obscured by some sort of HUD. The stuffed-full HUD can take away from the game’s otherwise fantastic visuals and environments.

If the HUD could be toggled then none of this would be obscured.

The environments look fantastic and take you all over the land to find monsters to hunt. You might go to the glacier ridden rivers of the frozen tundra, the sunny peaks of a grassy valley, the feeding grounds of a bone-lair in a pitch black cave, or visit some lava fissures with a scalding atmosphere of a newly forming volcanic island. All of these environments are lively, feel organic, and feel true to life with detail of which you can tell each one was given great care. The attention to detail and sense of sincerity in each landscape’s crafting can be seen through elements like the cascading water streams that fall from above you at the entrance of the flooded jungle map or in the way some underwater segments feel true-to-life with misty effects obscuring your screen and a waterbed filled with lifelike seaweeds, underwater creatures, and decrepit old wood that has fallen into their depths. Every different landscape is simply easy on the eyes and a pleasure to gaze upon. To depart for these different landscapes you will need to first familiarize yourself with the game’s main hub – the fishing village. This village acts as your means of storage, save and sleeping quarters, a meeting place for quest givers, and a way to get supplies via farming, vendors, or through a smith.

At first you may be intrigued by the game’s appealing look, the semi-active fishing village, and its inhabitance, but shortly thereafter you’ll realize that much of the story is bland and the villagers have nothing important to say and A LOT of it. Simply, NPC dialogue is “there” and it’s there too often with seldom importance.

The dialogue often reflects a strange and an inconsistent mentality. For example, the game more often than not gives off vibes that feels juvenile or simply aimed at younger people. From the sound played every time after each resource is gathered that chimes like a Jack-in-the-box to the goofy way your character MUST flex after ingesting a consumable or the cartoonish way they run when a large monster is near. The game frequently feels immature. This is also often displayed with that hokey, dry humor I mentioned through dialogue. An example of this is when you’re talking to one of those mascot-like cat characters and they repeatedly make wordings that are bad puns related to language and cats. One cat character might say things like “my culinary meowgic” or “Purrtake of my dishes” all the while giving off a seemingly childish mentality with very adolescent jokes. Shortly after though, the same cat might say thing like “ze” this and “ze” that or “ze world” and then you think “wait…is the cat supposed to be a French cat”? Sure enough seconds later the cat is saying “oui oui” (which sounds like “we we” phonetically in English and means “yes yes”) and only a sentence after that it is saying things like meowrci (French for “merci” or “thank you” in English). My point is that the mentality the game is often exuding (youthful, cartoonish, and silly) does not consistently come close to reflect their target audience because it is hard to decipher who that audience is. If the game gives a child-like vibe and persona through an NPC’s characteristics and dialogue then why does it suddenly begin to reference a completely different language that a young person will surely not understand the relation?

This also ties-in with a problem with the dialogue in general. NPCs more often than not have absolutely nothing important to say…and A LOT of it. One NPC might go through five or six paragraphs before anything relevant is said. This is not as noticeable in the beginning as you are semi interested in this new world and you may want to learn about the NPCs and the characters that inhabit it, but after you’ve talked to that person before and reviled the game’s far too often anti-climactic dialogue all you want to do is get to the damn merchant’s shop interface to sell or buy goods, but the game may continually make you go through the same pointless set of six paragraphs over and over each time you want to talk to a specific NPC.

The uninspiring narrative is a reflection of these fumbled persona hitches and tedium found within the dialogue itself.

Moga Village

The overarching narrative of Monster Hunter Tri is simple and is basically just a bland vehicle to blindly drive the game’s good action. A sea monster called the Lagiacrus seems to be correlated to or causing devastating earthquakes affecting a quaint harbor fishing village. You’re a newly arriving adventurer and you’re interested in joining a guild that heirs professionals to hunt and kill, or sometimes capture monsters. After proving some of your worth by gathering a little resources and fixing up the fishing village a bit you’re underway to becoming a full-fledged hunter of monsters. That’s about it. You won’t find out plot points along the way, interesting characters, or any sort of story structure. Monster Hunter Tri is NOT a game to be played because of story.

The game’s quests and missions are even more-so of a mediocre experience and they feel like one huge series of side quests. Too much time is spent gathering resources and doing other mundane quest of the sort. You might need to gather mushrooms and bring them to a chest, carry a heavy fire rocks to a chest, gather monster guts and bring them to a chest, gather ore and bring it to a chest, or they might even get so creative as to take the delivery chest out of a quest and simply end the mission once you’ve killed “X” amount of whatever animal they want dead. The icing on the cake of awful side-quests is a series of quests where you simply sit around for 5 minutes and wait for a note to show up in one chest then walk it 5 feet to a differently colored chest to deliver it. The random miscellaneous quests that are not about hunting monsters are mind numbingly cliché and never bring anything new to the RPG quest table you have not seen one thousand times before if you’ve ever set foot in an online massive multiplayer RPG.

My conclusion of the overall presentation of that game is that it has strangely familiar Japanese RPG oddities mixed with bad dialogue, the same run-of-the-mill fetch quests used over and over and over, a shallow and weak main narrative, and the game’s vacant sense in its’ consistent targeted audience-type all come together to make the storyline and goings-on of the world of Monster Hunter Tri’s character and NPC interactions a juggling act of disappointments, enjoyments, fumbles, and a simple lack of care or sense of motivation to continue your journey. Your only true incentive to continue killing monsters is the allure of new gear and weapons and pretty damn good combat, but I’ll get to the gear and combat in a minute.

So, that is mostly why the game’s score for the story suffered a lot and the repetitive and bland nature of the side-quests dragged down the value of the overall game which in turn can weigh on a game’s fun factor.

Let’s put aside Monster Hunter’s shortcomings from its’ storytelling aspect, inconsistent theme and mentality, and it’s uninteresting side-quests and focus on what actually makes the game’s score jump much farther up in rank – the combat, gameplay, and hunting monsters. Let’s face it, it is much easier to get by in the video game world with a game that has great gameplay and a weak story compared to the other way around. Thankfully Monster Hunter’s best personalities are its monsters and the way you go about tracking and combating them is great fun and pretty fantastic, and in a game called “Monster Hunter” hunting monsters sounds like the most important part to me. So, it is a great quality that CAPCOM obviously made their best efforts in these areas.

Monsters are huge and a delight to track and fight and their behaviors seem very realistic. From the way a Qurupeco echoes like a siren to call for aid to the way an herbivore will cower in a corner when a large predator is near, the game really captures a sense in authenticity from the way these strange surreal creatures act, react, and interact with one another and you. A monster’s behaviors may vary from encounter to encounter depending on the strengths and weaknesses of each individual monster and you have to adapt to those strengths and weaknesses as well and exploit them to topple these great monstrosities. Some examples, one creature might be covered in hardened lava rock and it can shake rocks off its’ skin which it can then slam its’ chin down to make the rocks explode. For an encounter like this you’ll need some good fire-resistant gear and probably a large hammer because slashing weapons won’t feel as effective against it. Another example of a different creature-type is a wyvern called the “Rathian” which flies about and slams to the ground, has poisonous talons, breathes fire, roars in a shockwave to stun, and does a lot of deadly tail swiping. I’ve found that a large, far reaching lance coupled with the blocking power of its shield works best as you can block any attack I just mentioned and the lance reaches far and high to hit the great winged beast. Now, to take down these monsters and get these suitable weapons and armor-types for each fight you’re going to need to kill monsters and craft equipment and weapons after defeating them by skinning them for materials unique to each individual monster.

The equipment that will define your character is spread across 7 different items slots; weapon, head, chest, gloves, leggings, belt, and a talisman. The gear system can get pretty in-depth because later on you will have gear with open sockets which you can then craft and fill your armor with decorations (works like gems going in armor in most RPGs). So, decorations and an armor’s bonuses and weaknesses are ultimately what define your character because your actual character themselves will NEVER level up as in traditional RPG and get health increments, stat boosts, and talent tree points. In Monster Hunter only gear and weapons get better over time which makes your character more powerful as you progress.

The weapons of Monster Hunter are varied in capability and their strengths and weaknesses also help define your combat style each time you venture out. There are 7 different weapon types to fill your weapon slot and each with its’ own set of attacks and methods of engagement; like the Sword’n Shield, Two-handed Sword, Hammer, Lance and Tower Shield, Switch-Axe, Long Sword, and a Bow Gun. Each weapon has features that make it ideal for different situations like, the hammer is surprisingly mobile and has great damage output but cannot block, the Lance is medium-high damage and has the best blocking abilities but is slow moving, and the switch-axe can easily be toggled between an axe and a two-handed great sword but unlike the normal two-handed sword the button to switch between the two weapon forms is where the blocking capability is for the two-handed sword so it cannot block but has a larger and more powerful move-set.

The combination of a variety in monsters and the different weapons and gear help keep the game’s combat fresh and entertaining for a long time. Combat is a series of different circumstances that lead to some interesting combat situations and keep you on your feet. There is a learning curve here (especially when learning a new weapon) as it may take some time to weigh the benefits of a new weapon’s attack animations and choosing when is a good time to manage your hunter and their equipment during combat is extremely important to victory. You need to decide when is the best time to safely go through the game’s frequent, absurdly long, and necessary animations to be a long-living and useful part of combat. Very often you’ll need to sharpen your weapon to maximize its potency, drink health potions to restore hit-points, eat food to restore your stamina gauge, and use other items and abilities of the sort to be an effective hunter. Besides combat’s situational measurement of weighing benefit to risk ratio it has some faults in its handling apart from the wildly long attack and recovery animations.

Perplexing controls and attack animations can hinder the overall combat experience. The absence of a lock-on mechanic is strongly noticed and the ability to only attack in a straight line is simply ridiculous. One may argue that the game being void of a lock-on mechanic can make it more realistic. Okay, say I give that to you and say no lock-on function makes it more realistic. The simple fact is that the ability to only attack in a straight line is EXTREMELY unrealistic. I will give you an example of this combat misstep. With the sword and shield once you start hitting your attack button you go straight and move forward with your attacks and it can take an insanely long time to finish your attack combo’s animations. You might simply pass by what you intended to hit because you can’t turn during an attack and maybe your aim was off by a bit or you may hit the first two times but the third and fourth parts of the combo make you miss the creature by full body lengths and you’re simply waiting for your character to finish their attack animation so they can stop wildly swinging at air and face the monster once again. You’ll find yourself trying to spam your evasive roll button just with the hopes that it will end your attack animation because sometimes it can. The game being void of a lock-on mechanic is fine over time once you get a better handle on different weapons and their attack animations, but the inability to alter your attack combo’s route is simply silly. If I was in combat with a monster and I hit it quickly and the creature began to move I would surely turn toward it and swing in its direction…I doubt I would feel absolutely compelled to finish my current attack and be unable to deviate from my current path. This makes combat, at times, feel robotic and not nearly as organic and realistic as many of the game’s other features tend to get right.

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The game's maps not supporting a seamless world can also make combat take a few hits on the fun. The game’s map is broken into usually 10-12 sections and you hunt monsters across these sections. Well, when you are on the verge of a section and enter the next portion of the map a frequent and sometimes lengthy load time will be seen. These don’t break game immersion too badly, but sometimes they can be infuriating because as soon as you’re finished loading to the next section the monster you were in pursuit of maybe slamming into you or nailing you with a fireball before you’ve even regained control of your character making it impossible at times to avoid taking what would have possibly been unnecessary damage. If the game was seamless at least I would get the chance to try and avoid the creature’s attack and if I was hit I would be my fault and not a faulty game mechanic.

Overall though, combat is pretty great. It just needs a bit of fine tuning.

Co-op: No Local multi-player, but online adds a lot to the monster hunting experience. The game surprisingly feels very similar to a paid MMO. With things like hunting events that change every other day and the game supports Wii speak and keyboard chat which make communication between players easy. Chatting with people online is as easy as plugging in a USB keyboard into the back of your Wii and typing and most people seem to opt for the typed communication route as well. Joining with friends is not quite as easy, but after familiarizing yourself with the system it is not so construed. Oh yeah, and it’s FREE to play online. So take everything I just said about how great some aspects of the game are and forget all of the aspects I said were bad because online doesn’t even really attempt a story so those short comings are vacant and playing with friend makes this game a blast. Also, the online monster hunting adds three monsters that cannot be found anywhere else in the single-player game, whereas the single-player game only has one monster not found in the online mode. Monster Hunter is obviously trying to put an emphasis on the online co-op and they should because it is simply a ton of fun.

Value: a lot of content and online can be extremely fun, but with the lack of a narrative and with all of the activities feeling a bit meaningless or fruitless with little-to-no sense of impact on the world around you the game can feel a bit hollow. A plentiful amount of potential content is not a telltale sign of a rich experience.

On the other hand, this value is increased if you have online and especially if you have some friends that can get online. Though the online’s side-quest are still the exact same boring time-filler, it is a great time taking on towering monsters with a buddy.

============================ALL IN ALL===============================

Broken down, Monster Hunter Tri is a “glass cannon” of RPGs. Some of the qualities the game exhibits ring true very loudly in the tone of what an RPG should have like; gear from head to toe, unique weapons, crafting, TONS of materials, and thought provoking combat situations that can keep you on your feet from one encounter to the next, but some RPG elements the game tries to attempt are shattered or extremely unsatisfactory. Some of these unsatisfactory elements are a shallow and weak story, mundane, uneventful, and repetitive side-quests, and hiccups in an otherwise consistently good combat system. And this is the tale of Monster Hunter Tri in general because it has strangely deep combat and gear systems that emphasize great RPG qualities, but ultimately falls flat in other aspects that make role-playing games what they are.

All in all, Capcom’s Monster Hunter Tri swings and misses on some key elements that make an RPG an RPG, but also, moving aside those issues, the aspects that make this an ACTION role-playing game really shine through. The game’s story is extremely weak and the overall structure of missions can make the game feel as though it is one large series of side-quests culminating in nothing truly important, but a fantastic loot and gear system instead of a meaningful story use a “carrot on a stick” method of gameplay to keep gamers interested if the shallow story can’t. Dangling gear and weapons in front of the player is a fairly good incentive to continue on because thankfully the combat is very satisfying and bringing down great beasts is ultimately great fun (even more-so online with friends).

In the end, Monster Hunter 3 is a fantastic game that has some awesome action and fairy tight and precise combat. Hunting a strange creature can really make you feel like you’re a stalker of great monstrosities and felling a beast and wearing them as armor is oh-so satisfying. Online is where it is at, playing with friends is a blast, and a classic controller feels like an absolute necessity. If you can’t get online with your Wii you might just want to give the game a rent first. This game is something like 15$ now at most retailers and is a must-own for anyone who thinks they can get into some challenging combat and gearing-out a hunter in the latest creature hide with some friends online. This could honestly be the first time in a VERY long time I was truly sincere in saying I was happy I own a Wii.

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