Monster Hunter. A game about epic battles in an epic world, its name is synonymous with “system seller” in the Land of the Rising Sun. And with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, we’re about to see the 3DS and the Wii U talk to each other in a way that hasn’t been used too often in the realm of Nintendo consoles.
Recently, I sat down with the demo for Monster Hunter Ultimate 3 on the 3DS and found that, while I enjoyed it, there are still a few issues to be found that I hope don’t make it into the final product.
(Author’s note: This demo was only played on the 3DS version of the game. As such, I cannot speak to the quality or functionality of the Wii U version.)
Outside of knowing about the game and its popularity overseas, I don’t have a lot of experience with Monster Hunter. As such, I was eager starting out to try it on the 3DS and see how this definitive version of the game plays on Nintendo’s handheld darling.
The demo starts out offering you one of two quests; Hunt the Lagombi or Hunt the Plesioth. The Lagombi takes place on the snowy tundra and is recommended for those (like myself) who are more novice monster hunters, while the Plesioth quest takes place on a deserted island and is for the more hardened and skilled.
Really, they’re both fine to jump into, regardless of your experience with the series. Be warned, however; the Plesioth quest has a handful more enemies that are often more powerful than those in the Lagombi mode.
Once you’ve decided what quest best suits your abilities, you’ll be able to choose from 12 different weapons, ranging from short and fast double blades to the powerful ranged shots of the Heavy Bowgun. Each of the weapons offer you different moves and appeal to different play styles, making it super fun to experiment and test everything out.
Pick a weapon and the game launches you into whatever quest you previously selected, with your companions Kayamba and Cha-Cha at your side.
Once you’ve spawned in the world, it’s hard to not be impressed by how good it looks on a handheld. Sure, the graphics themselves might not be 1080p, but it still has its own unique atmosphere and personality that makes it feel every bit like an epic action RPG. Environments are detailed and beautiful, and the system’s 3D capabilities make great use of depth to play up space and the immersion of the world.
But despite how impressive the visuals may be, the game doesn’t allow you to roam freely throughout it, instead restricting you to a linear path using environment design and invisible walls. It doesn’t detract from the game’s overall quality, but it’s still something of a letdown to not be able to have more freedom in the game’s visually striking world.
Furthermore, you won’t be able to move very far through the environment without encountering frequent loading screens. It literally limits you to only moving through mere rooms at a time before throwing you back to a screen and making you wait a few seconds for the world to load. No, it’s not an ungodly long wait time, but it still felt very limiting in how much I was able to freely move about without having my gameplay interrupted throughout the experience.
Of course, the real draw of a Monster Hunter game is the combat and the obvious hunting of the monsters themselves.
Thanks to nothing by way of tutorial, you’ll be left to figure out controls on your own from the start. As such, your first few battles will be somewhat frustrating when you haven’t quite memorized the entire button layout to be successful in fighting. Once they’re nailed down, however, combat moves quickly and is satisfying to use.
The only major issue I had with fighting monsters was the game’s camera. It’s controlled by the d-pad, sitting directly under your thumb on the circle pad. Enemies move quickly, and you’ll have to angle yourself right in order to evade or block incoming attacks. This sounds like it should be intuitive and concise; instead, it becomes a jumbled mess of trying to adjust a camera behind you while moving and fighting in order to hone in on the right angles, all using one finger.
Because of that, it’s incredibly difficult to really enjoy the fluid nature of the game’s combat, and it speaks to the system’s weakness of not having dual analog sticks that would have made the game much more friendly to a 3D space. Even the additional Circle Pad Pro isn’t compatible with the software, so there’s no option to make things a little easier on the player. Some sort of tethered camera that followed you to help you stay aware of your surroundings would have been a great addition to make the game more playable.
Enemy attacks tended to be fairly generic and uninspiring; they’d have a moment of waiting, then would charge at you with some variation of melee attack, be it a swipe, a bite, or even ramming antlers into your hero. Some more variation in attacks and enemy behaviors would have been nice to give the game a bit more challenge. In the demo, it felt a bit like once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, making enemy encounters slightly less interesting.
That being said, enemy designs are unique, and when you manage to find the monster the quest is named after, you’re in for an entertaining battle with enough challenge to suitably test your skill.
Overall, my general impression of the game’s demo was this; it works okay in its execution, but Ultimate is not a word I’d use to describe my two-hour long experience with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the 3DS. Odd control choices, heavy restriction, and lackluster enemy AI somewhat soured an experience that was otherwise striking and interesting from the start. Of course, there may still be changes made to the game before its eventual release on March 19th, and it’ll be interesting to see how seamless the interaction between the Wii U and the 3DS is for the title. Until then, I’d only recommend the game to die hard Monster Hunter fans and tell newcomers to wait and see what the eventual Monster Hunter 4 brings us.