The Monster Hunter franchise isn’t particularly famous in the Western world as of yet, but with the release of Monster Hunter Tri (MHT), that is all set to change. It’s a phenomenon up in Japan; one in five gamers owns a copy. So, why has it taken us this long to realise that Monster Hunter is one of the best RPG experiences you’ll ever have?
Some gamers may turn their nose up at the gigantic, surfboard-sized swords but personally, I’ve found the exuberant art style of the franchise to be its largest asset. Faster paced action games like the beautiful God of War III use heavy particle and camera effects. But if you delve deeper, you’ll soon realise there really isn’t much going on where your weapon meets its foe. In MHT you’ll definitely know when you’ve landed a solid blow – and when you haven’t. The exaggerated visual style is mirrored in your hero’s actions; hit your target on the head and you’ve got time to do it again. Miss him, and while you’re recovering you’ve probably already received a thorough spanking.
There isn’t anything quite as satisfying as belting a dinosaur (type-thing) over the noggin with an oversized hammer. Good thing that, too, because this game is the pinnacle of ‘rinse and repeat‘ gameplay. It’s a beautifully simple gameplay model: kill monsters, get better gear, kill bigger monsters. There is absolutely no end to the combinations of weapons and armour you can acquire, so MHT never really has an end. With most modern games you could expect a campaign mode of about 10-20 hours. MHT players measure their gameplay hours in the hundreds. Sad? Possibly, but you definitely get your money’s worth.
Admittedly, MHT doesn’t cater for the entry-level gamer. The unruly manual camera can take a bit of getting used to, and if you can’t handle getting the stuffing knocked out of you while you figure it out, then MHT probably isn’t your kettle of fish. You also won’t find any target-locking system here – this most definitely isn’t World of Warcraft. But this style provides MHT with a far more strategic, tactical feel than other games in the same vein.
Of course, the real stars of the show are the monsters themselves. There are huge parasitic caterpillars, giant flying dinosaurs that can mimic the mating cry of amphibious colleagues (don’t even ask!), two-legged dinosaurs that shoot rocks from their noses, tunnelling fish, farting primates, flying sabre-toothed tiger-dragons and an enormous eel that looks like that one from The Little Mermaid, only a billion times more badass. MHT, at long last, gives us easily accessible multiplayer; there are split-screen arena battles
and a full four-player online co-op mode. I was lucky enough to be given this game to review along with the Wii Classic Controller which, honestly, this game needs. The Nunchuck and Wii Remote really aren’t going to be good friends with Monster Hunter – it just doesn’t work. Monster Hunter Tri will make you into a hardcore gamer – no doubt about it.