Review by dolphinmage

Reviewed: 03/18/14

Ludroths and Barioths and Arzuros--Oh my!

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is the final upgrade to Monster Hunter Tri, originally released on the Wii. The Monster Hunter series is known for its intense, action-packed fights against boss monsters, allowing you the opportunity to carve from those monsters to get better equipment to face stronger monsters. The Monster Hunter games are deeply rewarding, but also incredibly time consuming. Since Monster Hunter 3U marks my third entry into the series—having previously played Monster Hunter Tri and Monster Hunter Freedom Unite—I am far from inexperienced. However, this review will also take new players into consideration, so it should be useful to judge the quality of the game for new and veteran players alike.

A Threat to the Village:
There is not much of a story to be found in Monster Hunter 3U. You create a male or female hunter through a bare bones character customization process who then shows up at a small fishing village just after a huge earthquake. It is determined that a large sea monster is the cause of the recent earthquakes and it is your hunter’s job to kill said beastie. Since the creature is far out of your league at the beginning, you’ll have to cut your teeth on weaker foes and work your way to the top.

The plot doesn’t stray too far from its premise, but the characters in the village have amusing personalities and dialogue, even if most of them don’t even have a proper name. The game doesn’t suffer from lack of a plot; in fact, a strong focus on story would just keep you from your primary objective: fighting large monsters and winning supplies for better equipment.

Before you can fight the worst of the worst, there are a lot of preparations to be made. The game starts out with a friendly tutorial section to help even the greenest of hunters learn what is necessary to become a master hunter. To make this even easier, you are given a free hunt area called the Moga Woods, located adjacent to the Moga Village. Here you can hunt creatures for Resources—points used for various purposes in Moga Village—and you can also gather supplies such as herbs, mushrooms, and carves from small and large monsters without fear of death. If you lose all your health in the Moga Woods, you are just carted—via a pack of friendly felines—to your base camp tucked away in a corner of the woods. It’s very handy when you just want to gather basic supplies or practice your fighting abilities.

Your first time in the woods is also the best time to get used to the controls. The touch screen can be customized to include whatever you’d like, as long as you can fit it. This feature is a welcome one as it allows you to clear some of the clutter off the top screen, giving you some much needed space to see what you are doing. Unless you buy the circle pad pro accessory, you will also be sticking the virtual d-pad on the bottom screen to allow you to control your camera more easily. It’s a bit clunky, but it serves its purpose. Combined with the option to center the camera on your monster at the push of a button, these controls work well enough. The rest of the attack controls and item cycling also works well, but it does take some getting used to. This feels like a game that can never have enough buttons, especially since swimming becomes rather awkward with the virtual d-pad. It’s fairly easy to adapt to the control scheme, but I can’t help feeling that the 3ds isn’t entirely up to the task of such an action intensive game.

Back in the village, there are many places that can help you prepare for a difficult mission. The blacksmith will take the materials you’ve gathered from foraging or killing monsters and turn them into better weapons, armor, or decorations—which can be affixed to weapon or armor slots to grant you additional skills. Junior will give you village requests to upgrade various parts of the village or give you new masks for your eventual companions as well as convert materials or kills from the Moga Woods into resources. The fishmonger can send her captains to look for fish and other treasures at the cost of resources. The farm will take your resources to grow plants, bugs, mushrooms, or honey as long as you have a sample of what you want them to grow. The restaurant will give you bonuses to health, stamina, and other stats or skills to power you up for your next mission. The item shop sells potions, bombs, nets, mining axes, monster information booklets and various other supplies to help you during your missions.

The box in your house will let you cycle through equipment and items with ease. You can set up multiple weapon and armor combinations and register them for quick access. You can combine different items to create even better ones and all the combinations you’ve made are noted in your menu in case you forget how you’ve made something at a later time. You can also draw a limited amount of items from your box to take with you for a mission.

In short, there are many tools for you in the village that can help you prepare for a mission and ensure your best success on that mission. There isn’t really any glaring omission here as the game provides you everything you might need, and all parts work together well as a whole. Once you are done with all your preparations, it’s time to visit the guild sweetheart to set up your mission.

The Hunt:
The mission list is easy to understand and is set up in tiers, forcing you to start at the easiest missions before fighting a mandatory urgent mission that will allow you access to the next set of missions. It is not required to do all the missions available to gain access to more, but without a guide, you really won’t know which ones are necessary and which ones can be ignored. You are forced to start with low rank missions before working your way up to high rank. The village missions will not give you access to G rank—the hardest difficulty—but you can do all multiplayer missions by yourself through the port.

It is unfortunate that veteran players were not given the option to bypass most of the low rank content, as any experienced hunter will have absolutely no trouble with those missions. It does become a bit of a slog to get through the easiest missions for any who know what they are doing, but at least it won’t take too long for those players to breeze through that content to get to the more challenging parts. For new players, there is a gradual incline in difficulty with the occasional spikes at certain monsters. It should ease those players in just fine and allow ample time to learn to play well before hitting high rank.

All low rank missions start you off in the base camp and give you some additional tools in the blue box. There is also a bed here to restore health, and this is where you will be dropped off by the medic felines if you lose all your hp. “Cart” three times and the mission ends; each time saps a chunk off the monetary reward earned for completing the mission.

Once you’ve grabbed what you need, you’ll have to find your target. Each map is split up into smaller numbered sections. While there are some load times when transitioning between each section, they are moderate. Even so, you will be seeing these load times a lot, especially if you lose track of the monster very often. You can use paint balls directly on the monster to make it appear on your map, but those will wear off, so expect to spend a lot of your 50 minute time limit searching for the monster until you learn its favorite spots.

The monsters have mostly unique move sets, though there is a lot of carry over between monsters of the same general type. Learning their moves and knowing when to dodge and when to attack is integral regardless of which weapon you are using. These monsters will hit hard, but good equipment can go a long way to mitigate damage. Even so, this is largely a skill-based game, so learning how to play well is necessary to progress. Fortunately, the monsters will run low on stamina, barring access to their better moves and slowing them down. Sometimes, they will even find a place to sleep to recover lost health or search for food to recover lost stamina. On the other hand, they will also get angry, lending them the strength to move faster and use more deadly moves. Since the monsters don’t have visible hit bars—and they do have a vast amount of health whether you see it or not—your main way to determine how weak they are is to watch their actions. The monsters feel very realistic because of this focus on having them act in a believable way. This makes the fights incredibly exciting and ensures that even when you fight the same monster multiple times, each fight will feel somewhat unique.

To add further variety to the fights are the multitude of weapons you can use. Each one of the twelve different weapon types must be equipped before the mission starts and cannot be changed during that mission. They all have a unique feel to them that can drastically affect how you approach the battle. To add further depth, weapons might have an elemental type to take advantage of elemental weaknesses or might have a negative status to inflict on the monster. Bladed weapons have sharpness that must be replenished when the edge dulls—marked by an indicator on your screen—and bowguns require ammo to be effective. Regardless of whether you focus on one or two weapons and must deal with monsters that are difficult to fight with those weapons, or focus on many weapons and must learn how to use them all effectively, there is a lot of depth to this system.

Should you succeed in defeating the monster, you will earn mission bonuses of monster parts among other items. Capturing the monsters can be trickier but often increases your chance to get rarer items. This leads to one of the most satisfying and most frustrating parts of the game. Some monster drops are incredibly rare. You might get lucky and get that particular drop you need in one shot, or you might not see it in twenty. This can become really annoying when you are looking for certain items to finish off that weapon or that piece of armor you really want.

You’re Not Alone:
While every mission can be done solo, over half of the missions take place in the multiplayer port of Tanzia. Once you connect there, you can join up to three other players in local multiplayer missions. The missions play out the same, but the option to take them in multiplayer can add a new dimension to the fights. The players all share the continues though, so carting three times between all players ends the mission. Since G-rank is only available in the port missions, it is clear these super hard missions were meant to be tackled with a group. Even so, they are still doable on your own, but the extra hp given to the monsters in multiplayer missions can really strain the edge of your 50 minute time limit.

If possible, playing the game in multiplayer is incredibly enjoyable and can break up the tedium of doing mostly the same missions twice—once in single player and once again in multiplayer—however, since the multiplayer does not allow online, most players will unfortunately not have that option. I’ve played the game with one other hunter, and while you can get in each other’s way if you are not skilled enough, the game definitely felt more fun to play in this way.

A Life-like World:
The graphics in this game look beautiful on the 3ds. The environments and monsters both look very realistic, including a great lighting effect for the monsters. It helps add to your immersion, and it is one of the best uses of realistic graphics I’ve seen on the 3ds.

My only real complain with the visuals comes from text boxes. The font used for all the writing is a little odd. Sometimes it looks fine, but other times it has a blurry, double effect. I figure this has something to do with the way that the 3d is used for this game, since I didn’t notice it as much on the rare instances I played with the 3d on. That combined with the small text can make it difficult to read, especially if you aren’t playing on a 3ds xl.

Cry of the Wild:
The music in this game is very fitting and adds to the intensity of large monster fights, while remaining ambient the rest of the time. The monsters have unique themes, and many of them fit the monster very well.

The sound effects are also well done. The monster roars are terrifying and the random noises made by various creatures really helps the world feel alive. There are lots of cute exclamations by characters in town even though there is no actual voice acting, and you are given a decent variety of vocal choices for your hunter character. Even the sounds made by weapons hitting stone or flesh seem at least passable.

No End in Sight:
Monster Hunter games are very long and Monster Hunter 3U is no exception. Even if you are very skilled and can get through missions quickly without stopping to create many equipment pieces, you’ll still easily top 100 hours in this game. You’ll probably easily top 200 hours. If you are taking your time, creating many varieties of weapons and armor, fighting every mission, or if you are struggling to defeat various large monsters, your playtime will be even longer. Basically, this is not a game that can be completed quickly, and the pacing reflects that. Everything takes a long time to do, but when you are playing it won’t feel that way. This is a game where you look back on how long you’ve played and wonder how your clock climbed that high. This is great for some people, but could easily be a problem for those who want fast satisfaction.

Will You Take Up the Hunt?
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is most definitely not a game for everyone. It takes time to learn the skill necessary to do well in this game, and collecting monster parts can be tedious when you aren’t getting the ones you need. However, it is also an immensely satisfying game in a sea of modern titles that are intent on holding your hand. It will be a long road to becoming a skilled hunter, but for those who are interested in trying, it is a worthwhile endeavor.

Rating: 8

Product Release: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (US, 03/19/13)

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