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When it comes to system sellers, Capcom can pride themselves on having one of the biggest ones with the Monster Hunter series. The overall success of the PSP can be largely accredited to these titles alone. Still, it takes a special type of person to involve themselves in these games and with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate it will be no different. Do not mistake this for a lack of quality however; these grueling adventures merely exist on a plane of their own. Despite obvious foibles, this roleplaying feature makes flaws work for the theme of the game. It won’t be for everyone, but those that will enjoy it have a long journey ahead.
An adventurer’s premise in Monster Hunter is simple yet challenging. Heroes get their calling to destroy a giant creature in a nearby environment and make their straight line towards certain death. Players can find a series of wildly different characters up for the task. From simple swordfighters to colossal axe-wielding giants and gun-toting amazons, a big part of the roleplaying fun is the diversity handed right from the start. Each character moves with the gravitas associated by their appearance and will need to adapt their fighting technique to it. There is a definite weightiness to playing that requires its own momentum and getting swept up in this can be engaging, though some other classes make it a bit tougher. For instance, the gun classes can feel clunky when trying to align a shot properly.
That said, huge guns should be unwieldy and as mentioned, almost anything wrong in this game feels like it should be this way. Characters with giant armor take forever to move out of the way. The camera is slow, which makes orientation tough at times. Changing items or consuming them can take forever. The latter is the only one that is truly worrisome. Monster Hunter has a rather cumbersome interface that requires too much effort to properly manage. It’s possible to cycle through items to find the proper one in a fight, but doing so will leave the hero vulnerable for quite some time. The same goes for changing equipment, such as alternating different bullets. Giving multiple fight options does add more depth, but it comes at a steep price.
Luckily, these menu blemishes stay mostly out of the way when it comes to the action. Luckily, since this game can look rather immersive when given the chance. Environments are cut into a series of small battle arenas or rooms. These can range from caverns, simple dustpans or wide expanses of green fields mixed with luscious aquatic scenes. Most horizons also provide the planes with a rather large illusion of depth. Huge mountain ranges lurk in the distance, ebbing further away as players move forward. It effectively masks that the contained areas aren’t as small as they actually are. Additionally, some rooms can even take the fight underwater for an additional tier of combat. Players can dive in and take the fight to the enemy, whether on land or by sea. Unfortunately, here the camera can take on confusing turns that obscure sight. Making matters worse, locking on to an enemy can be just as troublesome as trying to move around.
Yes, Monster Hunter is slow. It’s clunky, it’s sloppy and players flail around and fall over more than they should. It’s the hero’s life, more so than exaggerated movements and a seemingly endless grace. There is no such ballet here. Falling and getting back up is the process why a hero overcomes. They persevere. Monster Hunter is about perseverance. Pitted against a giant foe, players must manage this annoyance and strive to do better, because these beasts dominate the arenas they reside in. It’s a chore, but those that stick with it can say that they’ve accomplished something worthwhile. Striking that final blow to a monster is pure bliss, as this giant falls to a hero’s feet is a testament to one’s might.
To help out with the task, players are accompanied by a few small critters that distract monsters or attack and periodically assist the player with some buffs. They’ll also blurt out gibberish at every turn, but their main use is an auxiliary aid. It will probably be more interesting once we can see were they take this feature. If these critters can be enhanced or offer different styles, spells, aides and so on, it can definitely help. Certainly when it comes to distracting monsters, some additional help can come in handy, when multiplayer is not an option. Yes, it will be better with humans by your side, but this is a decent substitute as well, for now.
Additionally, the other part of Monster Hunter is collecting scraps from fallen creatures to turn into bigger armor, shinier weapons and so on. Sadly, not a lot of that was present in the playthrough we had, so we can only mention that it’s there. Other features include connectivity possibilities between the Wii U version and the 3DS version. The 3DS will also be playable with the circle pad pro, which could remedy the camera issues, but those that don’t want to make the additional effort needn’t fret. While it’s not completely possible to remedy, the game does offer camera control on both sides of the handheld. It takes some getting used to, but it’s possible to train yourself at twirling the camera around during deader moments in gameplay.
It looks like business as usual for Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. Bigger is better and that’s where the action is headed towards. Players will need to overcome some wonky controls that fit the mood of this battle of man versus beast, but it will aid them towards a sense of accomplishment should they defeat said foe. Bigger doesn’t mean more; sometimes less clutter is better. Does that make sense? There’s a lot of size differentials in that last segment. We mean that just fighting one giant thing to the point of exhaustion is more satisfying than mowing down hordes upon hordes effortlessly. Monster Hunter makes this strange mechanism an art with a ton of replay value on the back end of that. Take from that what you will.