If there is a game out there that really embodies the spirit of what it means to be a true hardcore gamer, the answer is most arguably Monster Hunter. This long-running series straight from the bowels of Japan gave the casual gamer something to fear and the average gamer something to aspire to. There is no leveling up as you have to truly earn your stats by killing and skinning various scaled creatures and forge armor and distinct weapons out of them; not only for protection, but as a warning to the next hellish gargantuan that crosses your path. As an expanded port of the Wii’s Monster Hunter Tri, does the 3DS offer a true title that delivers both the challenge and skill of its parent console in the comfort of your own bathroom? Hit the jump to find out.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is an acquired taste to say the least. It sticks to the tried and true formula that has carried its major success overseas to the United States where it has developed a strong cult following, and for good reason. If you weren’t aware already, you are a person who hunts monsters. On that premise alone, this game sounds fantastic. Luckily, it delivers on all fronts, except for one, and it’s something I would like to get out of the way first. The camera is atrocious. If the game just had levels where you are on solid ground, it would squeak by without so much as a slight warning, but without the circle pad pro, the underwater levels are somewhat unplayable. Don’t get me wrong, I played through them, but was taken out of the game and the experience so much, it was hard for me to go anywhere near the quests that demanded deep sea exploration. Using the left shoulder button to center the camera and the d-pad/touch screen to move it doesn’t work well, since most of the time you control the camera is while you are dealing with annoying monsters. With larger creatures, the option to target onto them with a quick tap of the same shoulder button is somewhat useful, but it would have been nice to not constantly move my hand from d-pad to buttons so quick during combat in a game where precision and dodging is everything.
Now, onto the gameplay itself. If you have played any of the Monster Hunter titles, you pretty much know what to expect. Create your hunter and go on quest after quest of hunting, killing, trapping, fishing, and other various odd jobs that require your upmost badass-ery. Though on paper, that might sound boring, it’s the promise of better armor and weapons that keeps you going. ‘Carving’ each beast after you have slain it rewards you with meat to replenish your stamina or bones and pelts to craft into wild, new gear for you to shield yourself with. Mining certain places flood you with precious stones and ore to strengthen your weapons and are key for other crafting. This is a game of skill and persistence. If you want something, you truly have to work for it.
Quests that require you kill the ‘boss’ of a certain prehistoric group, like the Giant Jaggi (king of the Jaggis) at the beginning of the game, are where the game shines most. You are faced with a creature who is stronger, faster, and — depending on if and how long you’ve played Monster Hunter before — smarter than you. Like every good hunter, you need to prepare for any scenario that may come up during your hunt, packing things like herbs to heal with, whetstones to sharpen your blades with, and extra ammo if your a ranged hunter. Even hot and cold drinks, depending on the climate, to keep your body temperature stable. Stamina plays a huge role in the series as it is your life blood. Start running with the right shoulder button and your stamina bar depletes. Roll out of the way of a Rathalos and it takes another hit. Knowing when and what to avoid is key in this game. Luckily there are ways to keep yourself safe. Well, safer.
Food is another aspect of this game that you will want to familiarize yourself with if you plan on being the very best that no one ever was. Learning how to fish and barbecue will provide you with small bumps to your overall health and stamina, but learning recipes for your felyne chef to sautee, fry, steam or however you want it prepared, will give you major increases as well as bonus skills that will help you before you leave for your journey. While these boosts aren’t permanent, it just serves as another reminder that you are still at the bottom of the food chain. You just have to work your way up.
With a name like Monster Hunter, you would expect to come in contact with quite a few monsters, right? Growing up with the original Game Boy, I still vividly remember how limited games were in terms of graphics, content, and even sounds. I’m proud to tell you this version definitely delivers. With monsters reaching well over 100 different species and equipment in the thousands over numerous locations, it’s needless to say you will have your hands full for quite a while. Be prepared to shelve over hundreds of hours of your life away, as you can easily do that in no time. This game is that addictive to say the least.
Graphics have never been Nintendo’s forte until recently, but that hasn’t stopped stop Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate from looking spectacular. Colors are vibrant, characters and monsters alike are crisp, well-designed and well animated, and believe it or not, the 3D is really good. I usually refrain from turning it on, especially during action titles, but turning it on pulls you into the world and really gives you a sense of depth as you swim through the ocean or run through the desert. I highly recommend playing with it on if it doesn’t hurt your eyes. You are in for a visual feast that the 3DS has seemed to do exceptionally well recently.
With so many quests ranging in rank, (1-5 star, high rank, and the even more bat shit crazy G-rank) one not-so-minor gripe is the lack of online co-op. I know it has been lacking in previous titles, but when the 3DS has the ability and it isn’t being used, it is disappointing. A game like this benefits so much from the addition of multiple people, but requiring that they all be in the same room as you isn’t as easy as it used to be with the onset of online multiplayer in games today. The Wii U version allows for online play and even uses the cross-save feature, but not everyone has a Wii U and chances are if you have one and this game, the people you want to play with don’t yet. This is a problem that will hopefully be addressed in future titles, because I actually enjoy this game a lot. I would just like to be able to enjoy it with my friends.
While Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate may look like the same game being released year after year, the experience and the replayability is something that never gets old. The world you are thrown into is vast, lively, and dangerous. The humor is in your face. This game is meant to intimidate and challenge those who might be interested in trying it for the first time. It is meant to refine and perfect hardened veterans of the series who have an idea of what they are getting into, but mostly, it is meant to entertain and reward those who are looking for a game to commit to. Yes, you have to grind and farm for hours if you have the time, but the payout in the form of the best equipment the game has to offer you, countless hours under your belt, and a trail of fallen brutes, dragons, insects, and whatever else that met the sharp end of your sword is some of the most rewarding in any game that comes to mind. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a game that wants to spend every hour of every day with you, but in return, will give you some of the most fun you can have with a handheld this generation. You just have to ask yourself if you’re ready for that kind of relationship.
[+Insanely rewarding gameplay][+Tight controls (so tight)][+Local co-op][+Excellent 3D][+Crazy amounts of monsters and equippables][-Camera difficult without Circle Pad Pro][-No online co-op on 3DS][-Not for everyone]