The zeitgeist behind the Monster Hunter series in Japan is very apparent, even to those that don’t live there. Many of us have heard secondhand accounts of perfect strangers hunting prized beasts on their commute to work or seeing bookstores having whole sections dedicated to guides and manuals to the various Monster Hunter games. If these secondhand accounts are not evidence enough, all you have to look at is the sales figures that the series generates overseas. (Monster Hunter Freedom United for the Sony PSP has sold over 3.5 million copies since late 2008.) So with the latest installment of the Monster Hunter series showcased on the Nintendo Wii, Capcom hopes that Monster Hunter Tri can reach a wider audience in the West and become as big of a success as it has across the Pacific.
With the release of Monster Hunter Tri over here, Capcom has packaged a special bundle pack which includes the Classic Controller Pro. While the game does support the usual Wii setup of a numchuck and Wii-mote, having played the game for the past three weeks now, I can attest that a classic controller of some kind (whether it is a Pro or the original) is needed to play the game properly. With that said, a classic controller is not the only prerequisite needed to fully appreciate Monster Hunter Tri. If you decide to dive into the world of Monster Hunter Tri, expect to invest a lot of time into the game; though I have played it for over 50 hours now, I still haven’t seen everything that the game has to offer. So I am confident in saying that Monster Hunter Tri is the deepest gaming experience available on the Nintendo Wii.
Yet even with the amount of variety the game presents to the player, everything always seems to narrow itself down to one basic primal activity: hunting. Following the footsteps of the past games in the series, Monster Hunter Tri’s single-player option places you in the role of a hunter in a tiny village. This village acts as your central hub for everything from saving your game to receiving new quests. This is the area in which you can also participate in various other activities on the side like gardening, crafting weapons, and bartering with merchants from far-away lands. While these side activities act as great diversions from bringing monotony in the game, the main attraction are the quests revolving around hunting a certain creature. It’s in these quests where Monster Hunter Tri truly shines.
Even though the majority of quests revolve around the simple idea of hunting down a specific creature, the various nuances within each quest really bring a unique experience in which only Monster Hunter Tri can provide. In other words, no two quests are exactly alike. The same tactics that are used when hunting packs of Kelbi for their horns will not work when hunting bigger creatures like the Great Jaggi. These quests can also be tackled online with up to three friends as well.
The online mode is a lot like the single-player mode, albeit with another layer of complexity. In the online mode, having another player (or players) tag along with you means that teamwork is essential. If even one of your group members decides to stray away from the game plan, it could mean dire consequences for you and your party. If the single-player game is about micromanaging before a battle, the online component is about working together with a select group of individuals to achieve a certain goal. While in many instances it does make a quest a bit easier with another person, a whole new level of complexity is introduced by the multi-player online mode that gives new life to an already deep game.
Regardless of whether you are tackling quests online or off, a good strategy is always needed before embarking on any mission. Depending on your environment, the type of creature you are hunting, and what your goals are for that particular quest, a solid pre-game strategy is essential for success. An example of this is the seven different weapons that you will be utilizing in the game.
The weapons are often used as strategies to take down certain creatures and are divided into seven different classes (Great Sword, Lance, Sword/Shield, Hammer, Switch Axe, Long Sword, and Bowgun). They another layer of complexity to the game as they force the player, before venturing on a particular quick, to think about how they should be paired. In certain situations it might be wise for a player to use a Sword/Shield combination rather the Great Sword because it is better to sacrifice power over mobility in that certain situation. These major decisions become make-or-break during a hunt.
Another consideration that has to be made is the various environments in which you will explore as you venture through the anointed quests. These environments could include anywhere from a snowy top to a deep forest jungle to the sandy dunes of a far-off land. These environments can affect your hunter in different ways. For example, a land that is hotter in climate can slowly drain your life bar if you don’t hydrate yourself from time to time. This means the player has to be mindful enough to carry a few “cold drinks” in their hunting pouch before taking a quest that would involve hunting in warmer climate. Including the various environments on land, the game also showcases underwater environments, a first for the series. While the controls for your character may not be the best underwater, it still adds another nuance to the already deep quest system.
This type of pre-planning might sound like busy work before a hunt, but it does add a vital layer of strategy over an already deep game. Patience, more than good reflexes, tends to be the most important trait a hunter can possess. Not only does the player have to strategize before a big hunt, but it is necessary at times to make adjustments on the fly as you are battling a massive creature. This means that sometimes a player has to retreat a battle to either heal up or rearrange their inventory. In many cases these confrontations become giant battles of attrition between man and beast. This is where patience is essential.
You might be put-off by the description of Monster Hunter Tri. After all, who wants to play a game that makes the player not only meticulously pick winning strategies before a battle, but also subject the player to various stalemates throughout the battle in hope to achieving a simple quest? However, it is here where Monster Hunter Tri separates itself from the glut of action games from this generation.
Monster Hunter Tri is not about the instant gratification through combat. Games like God of War try to empower the player so much early on that, with the slight press of a button, they become an unstoppable killing machine. Monster Hunter Tri takes a different approach. Instead of players being given smaller incentives as they go, the game makes you accomplish larger tasks for larger rewards. This could mean at time sacrificing various aspects of smaller battles to win the much larger war. While, at times, these long battles (some lasting over an hour) with various creatures might seem like battles of attrition, they also add a gravitas to the whole proceedings. In the majority of quests you undertake, there is always a feeling of an epic conflict that is about to take place. It adds grandness to each battle and its respective accomplishment, which no other action game can claim to do.
In the end, Monster Hunter Tri succeeds in what it tries to set out, a set of deep and epic adventures which build upon one another. While Monster Hunter Tri does ask a lot from its players, with enough time and patience, it can also give you an experience like no other game out there.