Monster Hunter Tri Review
Available on: Nintendo Wii
Monster Hunter has hit the next-gen era, but not necessarily on the console you would expect. Back in October 2007 when it was announced to be a Wii exclusive, it drew a raised eyebrow at a somewhat puzzling decision. Many were expecting Tri to follow on from its Playstation 2 roots and head (naturally) to the Playstation 3. Nonetheless, here is the third instalment of the hugely popular RPG-lite come action game, on a system that has yet to see an online game as big as Monster Hunter.
STORY: Moga Village has been tormented by a mysterious creature and it is up to you, the newly recruited hunter to rid the village of this threat and restore peace to this quaint fishing village.
That’s pretty much your lot. The story is delivered within the in-game text, and a few abbreviated cut scenes introducing new areas and monsters, but the story is not what you play the Monster Hunter franchise for.
GRAPHICS: Whilst the Wii may not come across as a powerhouse in visual fidelity, it must be said, that Monster Hunter Tri does look exceptional bearing in mind the platform it is on. Each area has its own themes tied along with it. Whether it is Moga Woods lush forest setting compared to the Flooded Forests gloomy dank rain soaked atmosphere. It does well to give you diverse ‘arenas’ for you to battle in. A special mention must go to how the individual creatures look and behave. Each has their own behavioural patterns and characteristics in battle.
You get a feel on how they react the long the battle goes on, as they’ll be visually slow in their movements and attacks, or more dramatically, they’ll be limping on the verge of death.
SOUND: Naturally, with a vast array of creatures that inhabit the locations, it’s important that each and every one has distinct roars and growls, again it doesn’t disappoint. With time you will learn to recognise a Rathalos roar compared to the ear piercing Diablos screech. And if you so happen to be in the neighbouring area outside of the battle, you can hear the roars and whelps of the creature being attacked upon by your fellow hunters, which is a nice touch.
GAMEPLAY: The world of Tri is split between offline and online, with the online content outweighing the offline counterpart by some margin. You could say that the offline section feels more like your training wheels that ease you into online swing of things.
It’s hard to recommend if you have no intention of playing online, as you will miss out on quite a lot of content. Mainly online specific monsters, weapons, armour and events to name but a few. You’re not alone in your quest either. The seaside locale of Moga Village acts as a hub for all your Hunter needs. You can find the Village Sweetheart (from which you can initiate quests) the Wyverian Artisan, who will forge weapons and armour, providing you have the sufficient materials and the Argosy Captain, who will frequently visit to bring in rare items from his travels. Not long after you’re established you will get the ability to send a small fleet of fishing boats to search for treasure, rare materials or, you know fish.
There’s also a farm (which is essential online) as it serves to provide you opportunities to grow anything from herbs and honey to bugs. Of course, sending out boats and farming valuable shrubbery doesn’t come free. You need ‘resource points’ which are essentially the ‘points’ system you earn from defeating monsters within the offline ‘free roam’ mode. Naturally, the bigger the monster you defeat, the larger amount of ‘resource points’ you attain.
The main structure of Monster Hunter lies in quests. Whether it’s simple fetch quests involving gathering specific mushroom/ coral stones, to eventually battling behemoths which the series is accustomed to. In a nutshell, that is your game right there. It can be said that the quest variety is well, lacking variety. As the main themes seem to be either gathering, transporting or killing/ capturing various monsters that traverse the four areas.
New to Tri is the ability to fight underwater. Personally I forever loath underwater sections, as they take me out of my comfort zone, in terms of manipulating a character within an alien environment, but I must say, it has been done adequately. It’s still not perfect, but it’s a lot more controllable than first feared.
The main draw are the quests where you take on the Goliaths, with most hunts on average taking anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes, and depending on how skilled you are (or the team you are with) it could end dramatically short or last nearly the full 50 minute time limit.
Tactical nous and relevant player skills are no doubt an absolute must in terms of how to effectively tackle these beasts.
What governs your progress within Monster Hunter: Tri is not how many levels you’ve gained. It’s the weaponry and armour you’ve crafted from the monsters you have slain. Though in the online portion to some degree it does need you to be at a certain level, as you have to be ‘Hunter Rank: 31’ to gain the ability to hunt slightly stronger monsters than you’re used to. In turn that gives you materials only available online.
(For this review, the majority of my time has been spent using the Wii classic controller. The nunchuk and remote is a viable alternative to use. However, using the classic controller is pretty much the optimum scheme to use)
Now for the first time in its series, you can now control the camera using the ‘right analog stick’ with the various attacks mapped out on the face buttons. Veteran Monster Hunters fear not, as the control scheme from the Playstation 2 version remains (labelled Classic Control scheme 2) which uses the second analog stick to perform the attacks instead, with the digital pad to control the camera. The problem with this for some players is that you would have to adopt the ‘claw’ technique, which meant placing your left index finger over the directional pad to control the camera whilst simultaneously moving your character. This proved problematic for some as its quite uncomfortable for long stretches at a time.
One note should be mentioned that using the Classic Control scheme 1 some of the move properties for certain weapons are changed, more specifically the Lance and Long sword. As with the Lance you cannot perform a counter attack from idle as you have to initiate a block or straight/ upward thrust before you can counter.
With the Long sword, the side moving slash cannot be initiated from idle as well, as you have to initiate a move before you can side slash.
The way that the Monster Hunter Franchise controls has always divided people. Some say that it’s archaic and others just say “that’s just Monster Hunter, it’s the way it is” and I’m inclined to agree with the latter. You have to pick and chose moments to line yourself up properly to throw that unsheathed charged attack, or deciding whether a regular slash will do. Otherwise assigning an auto-lock to the target eliminates the risk reward aspect of executing a perfectly timed attack.
ONLINE: Here is where the meat of the game lies. You and three other players can team up and battle away to your heart’s content.
A major coup for the online portion is that for the EU/USA servers, online participation is free. Unlike our Japanese counterparts who have to buy 30/60/90 day passes for the privilege. The unwieldy friend code system has been dropped in favour of Capcom’s Hunter ID, where you just send a message to the recipient with your Hunter ID, and the person can either accept or decline it. Simple.
Though there are some minor gripes that attach themselves to the online portion. Mainly spotty connection issues, which are exacerbated when you reach the end of the quest, only to carve that Rathalos plate that you’ve been wanting since the dawn of time, and then ‘error 11688’ pops up, which reverts back to pre-quest status… happy chap I am not.
Whilst online systems have come on leaps and bounds, with Xbox Live/ Playstation Network integrating chat within games, it’s a strange feeling when the most effective way of communicating to your fellow hunters is by using the in-game keyboard, or if you have one hooked up, a USB keyboard. This by far is the easiest way to chat to your fellow hunters.
Wii Speak is supported however, the mere fact that all the games I’ve participated in online, not a single voice was to be heard. Also jarring is the fact that you cannot send in-game messages to players in your friends list that are currently on a quest, or offline. It is quite bizarre that there is no option to invite friends to your lobby, as you have to manually send them a message (providing they’re not currently within a quest) and hope they ‘warp to’ you.
Aside from these draconian online communication issues, the online aspect of Tri is wonderful when it all gels together. For example, you can have a Hammer user going to attack the head (to knock the creature out unconscious) then a double team consisting of Great and Long sword players attempting to slice the tail off, whilst we have a gunner either supplying status affecting shots (such as paralyse or poison) or just barraging the target with regular shots.
It’s truly a satisfying co-op experience once everything gets going.
LONGEVITY: The vast bulk of time will no doubt be ploughed into the online quests, however it wasn’t until around 100 hours into the single player campaign that I felt it was right to leave the single player behind totally and divert my attention to online only play.
The main aspect that keeps the game alive is the loot system, you can constantly hunt specific creatures to build up your arsenal and then go out on more hunts to complete other sets of equipment. It’s an endless cycle (which some might consider an obsession) to keep on collecting various trinkets.
That’s the beauty of it, even with the large amount of time invested, I still have yet to complete my ‘end game’ weapons let alone armours. With constantly ongoing events, and a still vibrant online community ever willing to help you on your hunts, it’s still got some legs yet.
VERDICT: My overriding thoughts are extremely positive. The fact that Capcom gave the western audience free online access is a major factor in determining their goal in wanting the Monster Hunter franchise to really take off and I would say it’s the ideal hardware platform to delve into the franchise if you were hesitant before.
The (excessive) amounts of hours that have already been plunged into this title is testament to its addictiveness, in terms of general loot hoarding, weapon/ armour upgrading and last of all, teaming up with the random masses of the online community to hunt whatever Capcom can throw at you.
Those even with a passing interest in the Monster Hunter franchise may want to dip your toes further into the water, as this is such a time sink it’s not even funny. Currently my game clock is hovering at the 562 hour mark, and quite frankly I’ve hardly attained what I conceive to be all the elite weapons or armours. It’s just fun going around with a group of three online players and basically wailing on the monster into submission, so you can get those precious carves to create or upgrade your equipment. Or just generally help people out in their various quests.
Therein lies the meat of Monster Hunter Tri. A terribly addictive personality in the form of loot gathering, blended together with great online play (although it does contain some niggles) and expertly designed monsters to battle, each with their own attack patterns, nuances and characteristics to take into consideration.
There are some Monster Hunter purists who’ll say that it lacks many of the weapons and monsters from previous iterations. But there is no denying that whilst it may have been toned down in terms of overall difficulty to attract a newer audience, it has done its job for me personally in gaining new fans to the series.