Monster Hunter games have been around now for almost 10 years since the release of the original Monster Hunter on the PS2 back in 2004. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is the latest game in the series which is available on Nintendo Wii U and 3DS – I’ve been playing the 3DS version for this review.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is essentially a re-release of Monster Hunter Tri which was released for Nintendo Wii in 2009. Fans need not worry though as this isn’t just a lazy release – there are plenty of reasons to pick it up. In addition to the core Monster Hunter Tri experience the developers have expanded the content with a ton more quests, new weapons and more monsters to hunt and slay. The Wii U version looks much nicer with upgraded graphics but the 3D effect on the 3DS is impressive.
Before you begin the game you get to create your own character. It’s fairly basic but you get to choose your name, sex and look. Then it’s off to the single-player hub of Moga Village to learn the game. Here you can speak to various characters, save your progress, purchase and craft new items or travel to other areas of the world.
The game takes many hours before you really get into it and veteran Monster Hunter fans will be frustrated by the slow start and be itching to get going. For new players (of which I am one) the slow start is needed to teach you everything you need to know. As informative as the initial content is, I found it quite a slog to get through with too much reading and not a lot of excitement.
The controls take a bit of getting used to and the lack of dual-sticks on the 3DS makes camera control clumsy. I also found underwater sections very disorienting and near impossible at times on the 3DS. To do well in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate you need to spend a lot of time experimenting and learning. You become better through practice and by upgrading your gear.
During combat you need to learn to take into account things like when to attack and when to dodge. Each weapon performs differently, such as taking longer to swing or where it is most effective. If you’re struggling with a particular monster you’re probably taking the wrong approach. When you do fail a quest the penalty is that the reward lowers each time. Before you head out for another attempt it’s important to analyse your previous try to work out what went wrong and what you need to do differently.
Fortunately it’s well worth persevering with as once you get further into the game it becomes heaps of fun and insanely addictive. As you move towards your first encounter with one of the larger monsters both the tension and excitement builds. Fighting monsters is made harder by the lack of health bars for them. It’s not always obvious how close to success you are and you must rely on visual cues such as damage or how a monster changes its movement to make a best guess.
A nice touch is that the layouts of the user interface on the 3DS touch screen (or Wii U GamePad) can be customised to your liking. When off hunting the areas are divided up into small numbered areas. When you reach the edge of an area there is small wait while the game loads in the next one.
Monster hunting is lots of fun but hard work on your own so it’s advisable (and encouraged) to team-up with friends. The 3DS version doesn’t feature online play but you can play with friends via local Wi-Fi. It’s also possible to have someone playing on the Wii U while up to three others play on 3DS. Wii U players have an extra option where they can also join fellow monster hunters online. If you have the game on both formats you can also download a character transfer app allowing you to continue your progress on the other format.
When playing with friends it’s possible to bring a lot more strategy to a battle. It takes good communication and everyone working together to succeed but it’s more fun in a group and just as satisfying.
Another cool feature of the 3DS is its StreetPass integration which allows you to trade guild cards with fellow monster hunters. This allows hunters you trade with to appear in the multiplayer tavern where you can send them off on quests. On Wii U this feature is available by swapping cards online.
If you’re prepared to put the effort in you’ll find Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s certainly not for everyone and can be daunting for newcomers but those with enough time and patience will have a blast. With hundreds of hours of content, and more on the way, players should be hunting monsters until Monster Hunter 4 arrives.