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Monster Hunter Tri Did Not Give Me A Disease

So why do so many North Americans seem to want to avoid Capcom's freakishly popular online series?

Stab these things! Then skin them for crafting supplies! 
Stab these things! Then skin them for crafting supplies! 
You know, if you're the sort of person that has played a lot of Monster Hunter, there's really nothing I can tell you about the 20 minutes or so I spent with a demo of the North American version of the game that you don't already know from hearing about the Japanese version. But I can say that it didn't scar me up or kick me in the stomach or anything like that.

Earlier installments in the series, particularly the original PS2 version, were apparently known to scratch out the eyes of its North American players, most of which are still staring blankly at the online configuration screens and trying to piece them together in a way that makes sense to someone who, like, has actually used the Internet before. Around that time, Monster Hunter sort became a symbol around these parts for "man, online games developed in Japan feel like they were made by people who have never used the Internet before."

It sounds like Capcom's latest thrust, Monster Hunter Tri, might actually be up to modern standards. In fact, it might even surpass the modern Wii standard, since it doesn't rely on the regular Wii friend code system. You can name your characters and communicate with each other by name, or via a six-digit hunter ID that's, well, shorter than the regular Wii codes, at least. But the biggest point in Monster Hunter Tri's favor is that online play will be free here in North America, and the game will support the long-neglected WiiSpeak, too. So no paying a monthly fee for a four-player online game--which, if I may editorialize for a moment, has always been totally crazy--and you can talk to your friends while you do so. These two things might be enough to tip the scales for some of you. Like you, I've been wondering what the fuss is all about with the MH series. After seeing the lines for this game back at Tokyo Game Show a couple of years ago, it felt like I was missing out on something. Maybe we're all missing out on something.

Of course, my actual play time with the game didn't necessarily make me want to run right out and buy a Classic Controller Pro and, well, find my WiiSpeak. I went on a couple of hunting quests, and the action feels a little clunky, like, well, a PS2 game might have felt. Of course, this is the first time I've touched anything related to Monster Hunter in two years, so maybe I'm missing out? Or maybe I'm right in thinking that the game needs some form of lock-on targeting to prevent me from constantly missing the monsters I'm attempting to hunt.

Either way, it looks pretty solid for a Wii game and, sure enough, by the end of my time with the game, I was missing a lot less than I was at the beginning. But it left me wondering if Monster Hunter would ever properly catch on in North America, or if it's always going to be one of those "big in Japan" things that doesn't hit nearly as hard here in the States. For as clunky as some of it felt, I started to see the appeal of stalking prey around multiple areas and watching it closely for feedback about its health and other important status cues.

Capcom seems determined to do its part to educate the American audience. As of March 8, a retail demo disc will be released to GameStop locations to let people check out two single-player quests. The final game will be released on April 20, both on its own and as a bundle with the black Classic Controller Plus, which feels like a pretty well-designed piece of hardware from my time with it. It certainly feels better than the "non-Pro" edition, anyway.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+