Genre: Role Playing Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom Classification: M Release Date: 29th Apr 2010 Platforms:Wii
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Long available over at the Sony camp, this is the Monster Hunter franchise's attempt at a more accessible beastie for the masses and its first soiree for the Nintendo Wii. For the uninitiated, Monster Hunter is cut from the hardcore JRPG (Japanese RPG) mould. You begin the outing as an insignificant little pipsqueak trying to make a name for yourself in a delightful little village called Moga.
Apparently the neighbouring area is beset with all manner of wild animals, herbs and magnificently dangerous creatures and it's your job to collect, bag and tag the lot of them. It is classic JRPG fare, with most plants and killed enemies leaving items to collect, a rich modifiable armour and weaponry interface and a surprisingly deep alchemy system to combine and create new potions and other such materials.
Considering the wealth of RPGs available on the NDS I find it a little surprising that there's not much out there on the Wii, and even Monster Hunter Tri ditches the Wii-mote and nunchuk for something everyone can recognise and feel comfortable with, a classic styled controller that attaches to the mote.
Given the obvious limitations of the console itself, this is a great looking game. The sheer depth and breadth of the land is beyond expectations, as it the size and temperament of all the vicious little monsters you are hunting. Much like the opening few hours of the game, you're going to need patience. MHT doesn't start at with a bang, but rather a crawling whimper. All characters talk to you via mumbles and text, and you'll find the majority of this immediately dismissible, only focusing on the quest parameters.
The village chief and various other members will get you to go on rudimentary missions to get you accustomed to the Monster Hunter experience. These are by the numbers and quite boring, to say the least, frustrating at other times. Fishing will have you at near controller breaking velocity, but once you trudge through the ins and outs and head off to slay some magnificent creature, this diamond in the rough begins to shine.
The world has a resource shortage, so everything you pick up has a larger use. Want some tougher armour? You'll need a pickaxe to mine ore. Want a stronger weapon? You'll need several claws and skins to incorporate it into your arsenal. Completing smaller quests yields many artefacts and hides which hat you can use to upgrade your armour and weapons as I touched on before. It also has a distinct and visual impact on the village itself, with various bones or skins adorning huts generally displaying the affect you've had on the area since you arrived. But it's not all murder, death, kill. Some missions might have you capture a wild beastie, and here flash bombs and traps come into play, and be warned... nothing is more dangerous than a cornered, wounded animal.
The first time you encounter a "true" battle, the sheer scope will amaze you. It is largely reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus, with each monster enveloping the screen and dwarfing your presence. You feel like a grain of sand in the ocean. Each has a specific pattern you'll need to decipher and gauge your attacks carefully. Does it have a reinforced head, making the usual assaults useless? Should you head for the soft underbelly instead? How do I get in range of its fireball attacks? All questions you'll have to find answers to, rather than just rush in headfirst and hope for the best. But this is what makes the franchise such a challenge, and so damned appealing to its enthusiasts.
New to the series are amphibious battles, which will really test your resolve, as you must fight in all directions, and evade in an area that you clearly do not control. The constantly belittled sword/shield combo gets a well needed boost, adding a stun manoeuvre than can incapacitate, leaving the recipient vulnerable and guiding you to an easy win.
I encountered rampant clipping issues across the board, and though some might argue it's a small price to pay for something of this magnitude, I disagree. I believe that there's no excuse in this day and age, and though Capcom should be commended for what they pushed out of the Wii it still needs work. As I alluded to earlier, the first few hours are a real grind, and will make or break most players. I long for a future where RPGs don't find it necessary to artificially lengthen the experience with starter quests, and long for a shortcut for veterans to the get straight into the action.
Monster Hunter Tri is well worth a look for JRPG aficionados and a welcome new step in the right direction for the Wii, though casual gamers may not enjoy the opening grind.