Monster Hunter never had much of a storyline but in the latest title for the Wii, "Monster Hunter Tri (3)" tells of how you arrive at the village of Moga as a hunter, a small village situated between the sea and dense forests. Lately, they've been having a lot of earthquakes and think the great sea monster Ragiakuls is responsible.
You start off the game very much like any Monster Hunter game by creating your character. Once that's ready, you're forced to run through a a few short tutorial quests which I'm not too much of a fan of but in this case, I think it's fair enough since it's the new Wii controls. While you can wag the Wiimote about to attack, you'll be glad to know you can use the buttons to attack and dodge too I'm sure.
The downside about using the Wiimote and nunchuk combo is that you have to slide your hand down to the '1' button to use items and that can be pretty slow in the mist of the hectic battles. It probably would have been better if they let you hold Z and press the up or down button on the d-pad instead. You can also end up swinging your weapon by mistake but fortunately you can turn the Wiimote motion sensor completely off.
When MH3 was announced for the Wii, I was hoping it would mean better aiming with the long range weapons but unfortunately, you still have to use the nun-chuk's joystick to aim. I guess this is to make it fair for people who choose to use a gamepad and I'm sure most people will be using one.
The main cycle of the game hasn't changed much. You go about completing quests which involve collecting items or, hunting monsters then scavenge material from their corpses to build better equipment and repeat. Different pieces of armour contain different skill points that give you extra skills for that little more edge on the more ferocious monsters that can kill you in one hit. There's a health bar and a stamina bar, the latter you have to keep up by eating food and allows you to pull off special skills (different to each weapon) or defend. The fun part is that there are different parts of the monsters you can damage such as their tail, heads, claws and beak. It takes some very good timing to destroy the parts and surviving at the same time.
Those who played the earlier games on the PSP and PS2 or at least tried them will know how frustrating the controls feel at first with a manual camera and no lock on but if you give it time, you'll know it's best left this way for reasons I mentioned above. It's no different in this third title - Your timing must be good knowing where and when to attack instead of relying on equipment or levels.
The good news is most of the improvements from the second game has been brought over namely, incremental upgrades to your equipment so you have the option to save up little material or lots at a time for better equipment. There's also the convenient farm so you don't have to go around travelling around the entire maps for raw materials but this time, you have to earn it first by helping collect materials to unlock the different sections of it. Unfortunately, they seem to have done away with the mining section which means you have to go on quests to hunt for them and finding the materials to create traps isn't so simple any more either.
So what's the main changes since the last PSP outing?
Well, in the prequels you had to buy books to learn about monsters but you can now point the Wiimote at a monster then drag them as an icon into a the "Hunter's Notebook" to learn about them. The notebook can be used for recording the materials that you need for new equipment too which is handy compared to writing them down and it sounds when you collect the material you recorded down. It also has a handy preset list of combinations and a ship drops by the town for trading goods now and then.
You can also bring torches into dark caves and you can now swim! The controls are kind of awkward underwater however. Instead of swimming in the direction you turn your character to face, you have to adjust the camera first.
New monsters kind of have similar attack patterns to the old but with the different appearances, they're still fun to fight and still have the odd new moves too such as suddenly rolling onto their sides to try and crush you. Some old monsters such as Diablos are back too but have some new moves up their claws. Sub goals also gives extra rewards.
Bowguns are now built in three parts which makes them easier to customise but the hunting horn and dual wields are now gone. You do get to build a battle axe and all weapons aren't available for building right at the start until you work your way up the ranks.
In this Japanese version of the game, there is a subscription fee to play online. Capcom was generous enough to give players 20 days free trial for this Japanese version of the game and from what I've played so far, it's been very smooth. It's enough time to finish all the online quests if you're with the right people but if you want to play longer you have to pay for some Wii Points and, the amount they charge is similar to MMORPG's monthly subscription fees. Fortunately for the Western release, it will be free to play online!
There's plenty of servers, each one supporting up to 2000 players and you'll find there's more than ten times that many people playing at off-peak hours! Once you pick a server to play on, you reach the town gate and there's a whole list of towns created by players about what they want to do. Parties are still limited to four but there's up to 10 people wandering around at a time.
However, the flow of the game goes pretty much the same. The interesting thing is people can chat using either the onscreen keyboard or plug in a USB one. I used the former and unfortunately, the onscreen keyboard doesn't support pointing the Wiimote so it's very slow to type with. It doesn't help messages are limited to 15 double-byte characters (i.e. 30 characters if using English) but hopefully this will all be sorted out in the English version even though it will support Wii Speak.
On the bright side, you do have slots for setting phrases that will be used a lot such as, "Time to trap it!"
Nintendo's FCs aren't used and players can simply send invites to each other to ask for permission to add to their friends list. You can then jump to the same area as them if there happens to be room on that server, letting you check if they're in the middle of a quest or not beforehand. Works great.
It seems Capcom decided to make jumping up "Hunter Ranks" harder because no longer can you simply do key quests. You have to actually spend time gaining HR points before you can start the next batch of quests now. There's even some equipment and furniture for your home that you can collect only via online mode so as you can see, the developers are trying hard to keep players playing and paying for their online service after the first 20 free days!
You can also play on split screen with another player on the same Wii but unfortunately, you can only take part in a time attack mode with preset gear instead of using what you earned from the solo quests.
I think it's needless to say this is one of the games that show off what the Wii is capable of if not the best and, it's no wonder that Nintendo themselves took note at what Capcom managed to achieve here.
Right off from the start, the seaside village of Moga is filled with life letting you wander around, bathed in moonlight with shooting stars falling in the background during the night while in the day, there's the cloth swaying in the light breeze and calm waters. Areas are filled with swaying vegetation, clouds floating across the skies, butterflies flapping around the flower patches and weather effects such as snow.
There's many exotic and familiar variety of destructible environments - volcanic, swamps, underwater - All coupled with some brilliant sound effects. If you happen to be close to an area where your team is already fighting, you can hear them!
There's a new nice day and night cycle going on which actually affects the creatures in the game such as spawning more insects.
Even though you start off fighting a lot of familiar enemies, it's refreshing to see the new environments and revamped sound effects compared to the first two games that used a lot of the same maps. Jumping onto online mode you'll be meeting lots of new monsters in the game which is good because the first and second games on the Sony consoles were awfully the same. Glowing monsters in the dark really shows off the lighting effects.
In the mist of battle, bullets fly by and swords swipe through. The sound effects are very familiar then of course, there is the orchestral music which matches the gameplay perfectly producing a grand atmosphere while exploring the great environments.
Thankfully, all of this doesn't come at the same painful loading times the first PSP game had and only takes a few seconds when changing between areas.
What really made Capcom's Monster Hunter series big since the PSP games is that people could play together to hunt monsters and in Monster Hunter Tri, it feels no different. It's a whole lot more fun grouping up with other people to go hunting! Even though there's a fee which is 800 Wii Points for a month's worth of access, it is probably worth it with the constant new content being released in the online mode. Fortunately the Western release will be free to play online although you'll still have to pay for certain items.
Monter Hunter Tri has received another set of improvements with enough new monsters and content for those who have been following the series like me. The solo campaign is still worthwhile as long as you don't mind a very slim storyline. The new underwater battles take some getting used to just like how most people new to the earlier games would almost give up immediately because of the "poor" controls but if you give it time, it really is a fun and challenging game.
Time Finished 150 hours
- Can use motion controls or buttons to attack.
- Support for classic control pad.
- Refreshing new environments, monsters, sound effects and music.
- Most of the improvements from the the second PSP game.
- Still looks great and plays as challenging as prequels.
- Improvements like a memo pad and preset combination list.
- 20 free days to play online in Japanese version, free for Western release.
- Very smooth online gameplay - Lots of servers and people on the JP servers.
- Wiimote and nunchuk don't quite work well together.
- Onscreen keyboard is very cumbersome to use online.
- New "event" quests are only available online.
- Can't aim long range weapons with the Wiimote.
- Forced tutorial quests.