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I've only ever briefly played Monster Hunter before, but it was a series I was always meaning to get into. When Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was first announced for the Wii U and 3DS, I decided that was where I would cut my teeth.
Admittedly, my RPG experience is mostly limited to lighter games like the Pokémon and Fallout franchises. I thought I was used to sinking hundreds of hours into a game, exploring and grinding and fighting. I expected Monster Hunter to be a slow burn kind of game, but I didn’t expect to not have fun for the first seven hours.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate gets off to an incredibly slow start. After you wade through screenloads of uninteresting dialogue, you’ll move on to hours upon hours of menial quests. You won’t go properly Monster Hunting for about seven hours: first you have to go Bug Catching, and Flower Picking, and Fishing, and Mining, and Gardening, and Grocery Shopping. Slowly you move up to “hunting” slow-moving, unaggressive livestock.
The need for tutorials is understandable, especially in a game as dense as this, but the lessons aren’t presented in an interesting or entertaining way. After a particularly tedious fishin’ mission, I was about ready to call it quits completely. I’m normally a pretty calm guy, but Monster Hunter became the only game to ever make me rage quit due to sheer boredom.
After a cold shower and a brief visit to my angry dome, I gave it another shot, and strangely the game decided the 7 hour, 30 minute mark was the time to suddenly become fun. Incidentally, it coincided with my first major hunt.
Fun follows when you finally actually get to do what the title says you’ll be doing. The sense of scope on these beasts is impressive, and taking them down can be immensely satisfying after a long hard fight. Although the 50-minute time limit on each hunt initially sounds excessive, later battles can scrape up against that time faster than expected.
But once the initial impact of the spectacle wears off after a few hours of hunting, the game threatens to become dull again. It’s a matter of recognising the attack patterns of each monster, and moving in to spam your attack button. Combat doesn’t feel very dynamic, and much of the battle is won in preparation.
Before you embark on a hunt you need to gear up, which may include a lot of messing around with your items, combining or upgrading them, even going on gathering quests to find ingredients to upgrade them. It can become very time consuming, but if you like inventory management, you’re in for a treat.
I, however, don’t. Much of that first dull block of time was spent trying to figure out the purposes and perks of hundreds of different items. In the beginning I just stashed everything in my item chest, with the mindset of “ah, I’ll sort it out later.” Eventually it became too much of a chore, and I kept putting it off to do the next mission. The menu and inventory systems are unfriendly to the uninitiated, and as such, managing your equipment can as daunting, confusing and entertaining as doing your tax paperwork.
To be fair, that might be an issue that many seasoned players won’t notice. If you’ve already studied – I mean, played – previous Monster Hunter games, you’ll probably breeze through the extended introduction sequences and get into the actual hunting much faster than I could.
Likewise, fans of similar RPGs who haven’t yet dipped their toes into this franchise may also adapt pretty quickly. It’s just not very welcoming if you aren’t used to the genre.
One of the major positives is the expanded multiplayer component. We’ve known for a while that the Wii U has the technology to interact with the 3DS in some capacity, and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is the first game to show off some of those capabilities. A party of friends can embark on hunts with ease, using a mix of both 3DS and Wii U versions of the game, either locally or online. It plays mostly like the single player mode, with up to four players teaming up to take down the big beasts.
Of course, the usefulness of these features depends on how many of your friends also own a copy of the game.
If none of them do, you can continue your single player Wii U game on the go, by transferring it to your 3DS. A small, free program downloaded from the Nintendo eShop allows you to quickly and painlessly transfer your save file from one device to the other – but yes, that requires buying the game twice.
It leaves me unsure of who the game is actually for. There’s a mighty steep learning curve for newbies like myself, and it’s not a particularly interesting journey until you get familiar with it all. On the other hand, if you’ve already sunk hundreds of hours into previous incarnations of Monster Hunter, the opportunity to hunt a couple of new ones might not be worth the price of admission, or the hefty time investment that the series demands.
While I can accept that the game just isn’t my kinda thing, I can see that compulsive hunters and RPG veterans new to the franchise, should find Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate to be the quintessential Monster Hunter experience.
A gamer since the days of Lemmings and Wolfenstein, and a writer since Scamper the mouse in Grade Three, my two passions only met after a freak accident left them surgically inseparable. Follow @MikeIrvo.