This Is Why I Gave Monster Hunter A Second Chance

Monster Hunter: it has sold millions of copies in Japan. I have personally seen it played in parks, on trains, and in countless fast food restaurants in the Tokyo area by everyone from kids to adults. Simply put, it is one of the most prevalent and popular gaming franchises in Japan.

The same cannot be said for its popularity in the West, however.

Back when Monster Hunter was just hitting its stride, I picked up Monster Hunter Freedom 2 on the PlayStation Portable to see what all the fuss was about. To put it mildly, I was not impressed. And so, after about 10 hours of play, I gave up on it (and the series as a whole), deciding it just wasn't for me.

Among the several issues I had with Freedom 2, the most egregious was the game's camera controls. Because the PSP has no second thumbstick for camera control, the camera is instead linked to the d-pad, with movement relegated to the thumbstick. This means that to both move and control your camera at the same time, you have to force your left hand into what I lovingly call, "an unnatural withered claw" — i.e., with your thumb in charge of movement, your index finger on the camera, and your middle finger on the left trigger. It is a control setup unlike any game I have played before or since. Worse yet, it is far from comfortable or easy to get used to. And with no auto-lock to help me out, I found myself more often fighting the game's controls than the monsters inside the game.

My second major issue with Freedom 2 was the lack of story. Obviously this is based upon personal preference, but good, interactive stories are the main reason I play games in the first place. The simple, open-ended plot of hunting-monsters-for-fun-and-profit was nowhere near what I require to become invested in a world and its characters. So without a story, Freedom 2 felt to me like a grind for the sake of grinding — something I have zero interest in.

In lieu of a story, however, Freedom 2 is built around making an immersive co-op experience. Now, don't get me wrong, I love co-op games. And sometimes, the co-op nature of a game can replace my need for a plot (though having both is ideal). But sadly, practical real-world limitations kept me from getting the most out of the co-op mode. I only had one other friend willing to buy the game and play with me. Unfortunately, two people just isn't enough — you really need four people playing together to best experience the game. And as this was nearly a year before the release of Ad-Hoc Party, we were SOL in the online co-op department.

Moreover, I found the game slow and boring when playing alone. He found it less so, and in between our first co-op session and second, his character entered a-whole-nother weight class full of monsters I couldn't even touch. And, try as I might to catch up, I was never able to.

So, after all that, what could make me give Monster Hunter a second chance? Nothing much. Just a new Monster Hunter game that looked to fix the vast majority of the problems I had with the game. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the Wii U reads like a checklist called: "How To Make A Monster Hunter Game For Richard Eisenbeis."

To start, camera control has been radically improved. Not only can you control it via the Wii U's second thumbstick — leaving the "claw" totally optional — but also there is a lock-on feature that allows you to re-center your camera on the boss monsters at any time. While not quite the permanent lock-on I had hoped for, it's undoubtedly a great start.

And although Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate still lacks anything but the most barebones excuse for a story, the co-op is so engrossing I hardly noticed. Almost immediately I was able to head online, find a group at my level, and get to boss hunting. There was no need to have three friends at my beck and call to get the best experience; I just logged on and played.

Rather than boring, as I found Freedom 2, 3 Ultimate was exciting and more than a little addictive. I spent hours doing boss fight after boss fight and never really grew tired of it. So if you were turned off to Monster Hunter for the same reasons I was, I encourage you to give it another shot with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the Wii U. It may well change your mind.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was released on December 10, 2012, in Japan for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS and is region locked. It will be released on both systems in the United States on March 19, 2013.


Comments

    A lot of this stuff was actually addressed in the original Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii. This is basically an HD version of Tri with some more monsters to fight as far as I can tell. The only real major difference aside from those is the addition of the Wii U's gamepad functionality.

      They put in a snap to face monster button from what I hear.

    I wish we could see people everywhere with 3ds and vitas on the bus, you dont really see many people pull out one and start playing.

      Nah, I'd see maybe one a month, if that.

        Killing a boss takes yonks in MH anyway and lots of concentration, you aint gonna wanna be killing no hard mobs on the bus!

          The time to beat something is irrelevant, since you can suspend the game and continue later. I'd much rather make 20% progress on a mission than play some whatever mobile game that will bring me no satisfaction or sense of achievement.

          It's what I don't understand about the trend towards 'bite-sized' games.

    I've yet to try the WiiU demo but the 3DS demo fails as a demo to attract new players! It just slaps you in the face and throws you in the deep end. I understand Monster Hunter is meant to be a hardcore action game, but a demo is meant to show and possibly attract new gamers to the series. So far it has failed (I had more fun with the Castlevania demo). I'll see how the WiiU demo fares.

      The actual game starts with tutorialish easy levels, it does get harder fast, but it's never as bad as dark souls etc. Also multiplayer makes it a fair bit easier.

        For the game itself, that's fine. But a demo needs that "friendliness" so you can judge the game better. It's one of the bad demos I've played.
        Castlevania on the other hand has left a positive impression with me. It also showed a controls map and a few tutorial hints. That's how a demo should be (i'm not expecting a full tutorial, but a simple tutorial would work).

          Yeah, sad thing is the demo was probably made for the Japanese release etc

            Just tried the WiiU demo, while it looks much nicer and controls are better than 3DS, this is not a game for me. If I were to get this all I see is endless frustration for myself haha

              It can be frustrating but it's also very rarely unfair (as of tri anyway, some of the older games had some serious bullshit), and as you get better it goes from unfair to rewarding to casual stabbing monsters to death.

          People seem to forget the 3DS has a manual function, you can look up the controls for the game in there before you even boot up the demo.

          And even then, I went in headfirst and found the controls to be quite intuitive.

            I found the complete opposite :(
            (I found out about the manual later on)
            But yea I've decided its not a game for me, so I'll be skipping

    It sounds like you don't have the knack for Monster Hunter games. Lol, story? You create your own story, you're the star of the show! The reason for not needing camera lock-on is because you always need to be looking around you and not just the 'boss' monster, so you're always shifting your view and scouting the environment, heck this is even more important in co-op because you need to see what your mates are doing i.e. setting para/sleep meat, para/pitfall traps, readying flash/sonic bombs etc. Another reason why is because weapons are free-aim, they will swing in the direction relative to the viewer, I wouldn't want to the camera to shift at the last moment and ruin my aim. My story, I'm a LS/Tachi user from down under and I specialize in tail cutting and monster tripping, hail if you need assistance!

      And people who want a lock-on are usually completely missing the point, as if you want to be successful you have to target individual parts of the monster and poking it in the torso is usually a bad idea, as it's typically neither a weak spot nor does damaging it cripple the monster,

      Last edited 23/02/13 7:39 pm

    Ive only just started playing MH for the 1st time on the PSP (about 14hrs in ) and so far im having a great time playing solo and cant wait for the Wii U version so i can actually experience it multiplayer (sure ill prob get my team mates killed due to being a noob but hopefully i wont be the only one lol) . I havnt had to many issues with the camera on the PSP (might be because i havnt used a ranged weapon yet) but if they have refined it for the Wii U i wont complain but the main problem ive found is creating items. Does anyone know if the new MH will have a "recipe" list icon on the touch screen because trying to remember what is required when all you want to do is make a pitfall trap or something is a nightmare

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