Title: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Platform: 3DS (also on Wii U)
Bottom Line: Epic monsters and lighthearted humor make this game a keeper for sure.
For those who don't know, in North America, Monster Hunter is considered another hack and slash game. But in Japan, Monster Hunter is a religion. It's as popular as Mario and Pokemon. How popular is it? Monster Hunter Portable 3rd for the PSP sold over FOUR MILLION copies in its first week of sales.
But how does Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate fare here in North America? This reviewer thinks the game stacks up greatly, to the point of being one of the better reasons to own a 3DS now. Hunting monsters has never been this great, especially on a handheld device.
The game's plot is pretty simple: you hunt monsters. That's a big shock, right? The game's entire point is hunting these giant and dangerous monsters. Some of which seem like giant dinosaurs, others like mythical creatures. The game makes you take on quests to hunt monsters, gather resources, make equipment, and other stuff. Of course, the game's real enjoyment comes from killing the indigenous wildlife and wearing it as a hat. The gameplay is solid and enjoyable, even if it does seem sort of like a button masher at times. Each hunt feels like it's own little game, making you think about how to approach each monster, making sure you have the right weapon, etc.
Graphically, the game is nice. It looks just slightly better than the Wii version. That being said, it does seem to have some issues. Parts of the game seem to be less polished than others, and human character models seem to have almost a Gamecube-like quality to them. However, this can be overlooked as the game has almost no focus on humans. The monsters are the main focus of the game, and they look great. Some of which even look more polished and refined, and they really pop out in 3D. The game takes pride in its giant environments and even more giant beasts, and it's all beautiful. The 3D does have its drawbacks, though, as sometimes you can cause the 3D to hurt your eyes pretty easily (and I'm lucky enough to have near perfect vision, so this shouldn't happen). You can simply get the camera caught between the inside of a dead monster's model and the outside, causing it to seem like you have your eyes on each side of it's head. With the 3D on, this can be incredibly painful. Another problem is when a monster lets out a roar, it causes a typical sonic-wave visual effect. With the 3D on, the effect seems somewhat broken and glitchy, as the effect simply starts and stops. Without the 3D on, it actually seems like the effect works and causes you to think "Oh crap, that monster's angry."
Luckily, a few visual issues don't detract from the game. Monster Hunter keeps drawing you back in with more monsters and more equipment to work up. Whether you like the slow and insanely powerful Great Sword, the quick and nimble Dual Blades, the sniping Bowgun or the deadly Hammer, there's a weapon here for you and you'll quickly fall in love with it. Hunting monsters gets you more and more weapons to make, and you can easily become a hoarder for these weapons. Each weapon is different. Some have special properties, some have elemental attacks, some are just straight up powerful, and each one is different and more or less effective against a different monster. Monsters like the dragon Rathalos (special Azure version pictured in the boxart above) are horribly weak to lightning damage, but fire damage will make them laugh at you. The system of choosing the right weapon versus the right monster is like picking the right move against your opponent in Pokemon.
The best part of all is the multiplayer aspect. Fighting monsters on your own is great, but fighting monsters with your friends is the best part of the game. The game builds friendships faster than Mario Party can destroy them, which is really saying something. The online portion is completely separate from the offline quests, too, meaning you can't just have your friends come in and help on a monster you can't seem to beat. It adds depth as well as a motivation to train and power yourself up.
The only major problems I have with the game are the poor 3D effects, and a difficulty problem. Monster Hunter is not something you can just pick up and play a few rounds of. It requires a ton of hard work and dedication to get anywhere. For the first half if the game, the monsters are actually rather easy if you know what you're doing. However, after that, Tri's quests end and the new Ultimate quests kick in. The difficulty spike there is a freaking cliff. As a veteran Monster Hunter player, I had insane amounts of trouble beating some of the quests, some of which even expect you to fight THREE MONSTERS AT ONCE with NO bonus to the time limit (most quests only give you one at a time with a time limit of 50 minutes, which is often just barely enough time). On top of that, the controls can be somewhat difficult without a Circle Pad Pro to help, but that's relatively minor and the game is in no way unplayable without it.
Monster Hunter is a game that sells like hotcakes in Japan, and one can see why. I just need to get my hands on the Wii U version too so we can all hunt together.
+Tight visuals make the world seem large and monsters seem intimidating
+Awesome collectables including special weapons and armor
+Great multiplayer that encourages cooperation
+All DLC is free
-3D effects tend to fall flat and sometimes even hurt your eyes
-Easily becomes ridiculously hard once the new content kicks in
-New content takes forever to unlock