Review by discoinferno84
Down by the village green...
Moga Village has seen better days. Its a pathetic shadow of its former self; the once-bustling fishing town has been reduced to little more than a couple of rickety docks and straw huts. The rest was ravaged by a recent series of earthquakes. The few remaining survivors blame the Lagiacrus, a huge sea monster seen lurking in the depths offshore. Killing the beast seems like an obvious solution, but actually doing it is something else entirely. Theres no one left in town brave or capable enough to tackle the creature head-on. Instead, the Hunters Guild sent a new, untested (and apparently gullible) warrior into the fray. Armed with nothing but your instincts and a bunch of mediocre weaponry, youve got to find a way to slay the monster and survive long enough to become a professional hunter.
Its easier said than done. Unlike most game protagonists, you dont stand a chance on your own. Aside from the weapons and armor, all youve got is the ability to run and perform rolling dodge both of which are limited to a gradually-decreasing stamina gauge and assistance of a couple of unlockable sidekicks. The key to surviving isnt necessarily how strong you are, but how well youre prepared. There are hundreds of minor items and objects to collect, each with their own specific purpose in your crusade. The game demonstrates it in early missions, which focus on wandering through the woods and gathering a bunch of seemingly useless mushrooms, iron ore, and raw meat. Its a bland, tedious, and repetitive experience that appears completely unnecessary at first. The payoff for all those hours of menial tasks is an understanding of the importance of items and other gameplay basics. Nearly every object you acquire can be combined into something better. Certain plants can create potions and health boosters, meat can be cooked, bugs and metals are forged into new weapons and armor, etc. While you can only carry a set number of items at a time, theres more than enough storage space at your base camp. A considerable portion of your quest will be spent acquiring items and stocking up a varied inventory.
It seems almost counterintuitive at first. The game is called Monster Hunter, yet it focuses on item collecting. It can be frustrating for players that just want to dive into the combat and slay everything in sight. Actually, youre free to do just that; you can leave the village and get lost in Moga Woods at a whim. It wont take long to realize what a stupid mistake that is, though. One of the early missions actually forces you to encounter the Lagiacrus the plot-designated final boss before you have the opportunity to gain better weapons or even the layout of the over-world. You could try to kill it and survive a few seconds if youre lucky. Instead, youll likely run away as fast as possible (frequently stumbling due to stamina loss), cower in your tent, and suffer a twinge of paranoia every time you leave. Even minor enemies can be deadly if youre not careful. The missions in the first half of the game provide you with a map and other essential items, and its possible to get through most your quest without doing hours of extra farming. But considering how ridiculously difficult and frustrating that can be, youll eventually have to give in and deal with the horrendously slow pacing. The game tries to alleviate the boredom by letting you rebuild Moga Villages item trading business and grow your own crops, but those only become useful after several hours have sunken in.
The tedium is balanced out by the fun and challenge of hunting monsters. The majority of the quests focus on killing a single large beast, or a series of them on higher difficulty levels. Youll be whisked away into the wilderness (alternate locales include a rainforest, desert, mountains, tundra, and volcano) armed with only whatever you had the foresight to bring. Since you dont know where your target is, youll have to explore each sectioned area of the map. Youll know the monsters when you see them: House-sized behemoths glaring down at you with eyes the size of dinner plates. Scaly abominations with rows of razor-sharp teeth and flesh harder than steel. Dragons large enough to accidentally step on you. Theres no time to stare. Youve got a couple of seconds to throw a paintball to mark the monsters location on the onscreen map you remembered to bring some, right? - before the thing charges. If this is your first time facing a particular beast, youll probably get mauled. Youre given three lives per quest, so you have to make them count. If you blindly rush into battle, you wont last five minutes. Each monster not only has certain kinds of attacks, but also clues as to which ones itll use. You have to pay attention to how your target moves; if you see it gearing up to rush forward, youll have to know how fast and the direction in which you need to dodge. If your timing just a little off, youll get hit and lose a good chunk of your health. But if youre skilled enough, you can get through even the toughest battles unscathed. Youll have plenty of practice. What begins as a simple quest to save a village will eventually span across hundreds of hours and countless, ever-increasingly difficult missions. Eventually, the Lagiacrus will be the least of your worries.
Your success also depends on individual play style and the equipment used. While you can wield only a single weapon at a time, each one has its own combos and abilities. Youll start off with a standard sword and shield, but you can switch to the far larger (but much slower) great swords, or sacrifice attack range and blocking ability for the quick-paced dual blades. Thats aside from the variety of long swords, lances, and hammers. If you prefer keeping instant death at a distance, theres an assortment of bows and guns as well. There are more exotic weapons, like sword/axe hybrids, and the combined piercing and pyrotechnics of the gunlances. If you obtain the right parts usually from the corpses of whatever monsters youve conquered you can upgrade for more attack power, elemental-based damage, and overall sharpness. Considering how weapons dull with each use, understanding their effectiveness is important. That also goes for the armor sets; each piece offers its own stat boost and can even unlock additional combat abilities. If you pay attention to what youre wearing, you can find ways to negate status effects, consume food faster, reduce stamina depletion, etc. Excessive item usage yields similar results, but its nowhere near as efficient. Regardless of the method, the sheer depth and variety of features ensures theres an approach suited for you.
That doesnt mean the mechanics are perfect, though. Some of the enemies hit boxes arent placed perfectly to scale, which can lead to cheap hits. If youre accustomed to fast-paced and responsive gameplay, youll despise how slow your character reacts. Even if an oncoming attack is telegraphed, they can be difficult if not outright impossible to avoid if youre in the middle of your own attack animations. Your most dangerous foe isnt a monster; its the camera. You can rotate the view around your character with the analog stick and adjust the angle with the directional pad, but its awkward when youre trying to do both with a single thumb. Theres a way to map the angle controls to the touch screen, but its even more clunky and unreliable. Instead, youll end up using the monster lock-on feature to keep your bearings. Just a quick tap of the shoulder button gets your target front and center which is disorienting when the camera swings behind some foliage or rocky outcroppings. Fighting underwater is ridiculously difficult because you swim in whatever direction the camera is facing; you have to constantly fight with and reorient the camera. Locking onto a target is utterly useless because aquatic monsters can swim directly above or below you, often too fast for the camera to keep up. Its slightly more manageable after some practice (and the addition of the Circle Pad Pro attachment), but it never stops being needlessly aggravating.
The most glaring flaw, however, lies with the multiplayer. If youve got a Wii U and its version of Monster Hunter, its possible to transfer your game saves to the console and take your fights online. But if you only have a 3DS, your multiplayer experience will be limited to local co-op quests. The lack of dedicated online features is a huge oversight; they give handheld games the longevity they so desperately need. Theres a reason why titles like Pokemon and Mario Kart are so popular; they allow players to interact and keep the gameplay fresh and exciting. This missing element is especially jarring when you consider Monster Hunters design; the huge maps, variety of monsters, and ridiculous amounts of customization are all key facets of the MMORPG genre. Its as if Capcom created a MMORPG without understanding what made such games fun. The only solace Wii U-less gamers get is a steady stream of downloadable missions and extra items. Combined with the mountain of content already available, itll take several hundred hours to complete every last quest. Had the online functionality been implemented better, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate could have been one of the greatest handheld games of its generation.
But its not. Its got a lot of great things going for it, but there are a few nasty flaws that bring it down. The basic gameplay is excellent; theres nothing more thrilling than facing down a fire-breathing dragon with only a sword and your wits. All those near-misses, the challenge of learning the attack patterns, and the satisfaction of finally slaying a seemingly unstoppable monster its surprisingly addictive. The sheer amount of weapons, armor, and abilities add tons of variety to the adventure. However, the unreliable control scheme especially the atrocious underwater mechanics make for an inconsistent and frustrating experience. You should be fighting monsters, not the camera. If you prefer something with a faster pace and more accessibility, the numerous hours of item farming and the steep learning curve wont be appealing. Even if you do approach the game with the right mindset, the lack of an online multiplayer is a disappointment. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a fine game, but not as good as its name implies.
Product Release: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (US, 03/19/13)
Got Your Own Opinion?
Submit a review and let your voice be heard.