Also On: 3DS
The hardest thing about writing this Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate review is actually pulling me away from the game to do it. Seriously, it’s great. Really, really great.
Is that good enough?
If you’ve been a MonHun fan for a while, you don’t really need me to tell you how much fun and addictive the series can be. There’s a learning curve, sure, but Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate seems to lessen that a bit. It’s something you’ve heard about sequels numerous times in reviews, mine included, where the newest iteration of a long-running series is now the most accessible. But it definitely applies here.
If you’ve been on the fence about jumping in, or if you’ve only experienced the game via the PSP, the Wii U version of the game is definitely worth a look. The 3DS version is no slouch either, but if you were put off by a single analog method of control on other handhelds, unless you have the Circle Pad Pro accessory for the 3DS nothing will change your opinions about the controls much here. There’s some stuff added to the touch screen for camera controls, but it can get a little awkward to pan around, more so when you’re crowded into a wall by a big monster or when you’re navigating underwater.
But for either version of the game, the learning process is aided by a decent tutorial system that doesn’t cram itself down your throat for very long. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate puts on the training wheels just long enough to make you feel comfortable with what you’re doing, and then tosses you out into the wild to hunt giant, memorable monsters with little to no forced story interactions, cutscenes, or lengthy bits of dialogue.
Also, the amount of content here is massive. I’ve dropped about 30 hours into the game for this review, spread out across both the 3DS and Wii U versions of the game, with my time split almost evenly between online and offline play. I’ve barely scratched the surface at that point. I’ve essentially gone up to the first super-big boss fight, Lagiacrus, both online and off. But there’s so much content and questing ahead of me. There’s just tons of craftable armor and weapon sets, monsters to fight, areas to explore, and a single player village to enhance.
There’s a bit of repetition involved in all of this, since you’ll need to kill the same large monsters again and again for drops used to craft armor and weapons. But there are different avenues to farm these creatures, instead of just repeating quests over and over. Re-doing quests is one option, going online to tackle harder quests with friends is another. You can also free roam through a section offline as well, which will eventually randomize the monster selection you can encounter within a single game day.
The controls for both versions seem to be in line with previous Monster Hunter titles, with the edge given to the Wii U version for having access to dual analog sticks. You can play with the GamePad, offering up some bottom screen functionality like switching the entirety of the HUD from your TV to the screen on the controller. You can also have access to a handful of touch menus there, but I didn’t see much use for it over accessing the menu options the traditional way. There’s some added features coming down the line that aren’t present yet, like off-screen play via the GamePad, but we’ll wait to see how well that transitions before getting too excited about it.
The 3DS version of the game is also fine in the control area, but will take more getting used to with a single slide pad option. A Circle Pad Pro can alleviate a lot of issues, but if you’re a 3DS XL only owner, that’s a no-go unless you import. It’s workable if you re-center the camera with the L button, which is usually good enough to keep you focused on what you need to see. And there’s an option on the touch screen to hit that will enable the use of a lock-on option for large monsters, enabled and disabled by pressing the L button after you’ve turned the use of the function on with the touch screen.
One feature that I really liked with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was that it gave me access to a full set of weapons from the start. Instead of sticking me with a Sword and Shield, and then forcing me to eventually craft other weapons to try them out, you instead get access to every single weapon type when the game begins. This gives you time to get acclimated with a weapon that fits your style of play, and also allows you some easy quests in order to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
From a visual standpoint the Wii U version of the game is certainly a step up from Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii. But this is an HD port with added features, so while the visuals, characters, and environments are certainly crisper at 1080p, you can tell that the texture work is a little muddy and pulled from low-res assets. The framerate is also more or less stuck at 30 frames per second. The 3DS version of the game benefits from a higher framerate accessible once you turn off the 3D functionality from the menu, not the slider.
The online mode found in the Wii U version also seems better implemented than the Wii game. At least as far as organization goes, it’s easier to find people to play with, access lobbies, create rooms for friends, and so on. I had no trouble finding people to play with, or with staying connected, and experienced virtually no lag of any kind. And considering this game is at its best when played with people, that’s a really big selling point here. My only minor complaint is that the word filter system is borderline ridiculous. I get trying to protect people from the folks that like to run rampant when anonymity is present, but blocking something like the word “pass” to “p***” is pretty silly.
Not having a dedicated online mode in the 3DS version is definitely a bummer. You can enable local play, and can even play with a local Wii U user which acts as the host system. But I’d really love to see online play implemented on the handheld level too, especially since it’s possible on the system. One added bonus for those with both games is the save transfer tool, which was a little delayed but is available on the 3DS eShop now. This allows you to transfer your save from the Wii U to the 3DS and back again. It’s a little clunky compared to Cross-Play on the PS3 and Vita, but it’s nice to take your character on the go when necessary.
The only real complaint I can file against the game, is that once again I do not care for underwater combat. I know this is a thing that people have moaned and groaned about again and again, but every time I get into a fight with a monster that either starts underwater, or ends up there, I keep praying that they’ll move to ground sooner than later. It’s less frustrating in the larger underwater areas where you can stay in deep water, but for places like the Flooded Plains, where the water level is the equivalent of a pool or lake, the camera can often getting annoying when you get close to the surface. I realized it’s probably not going away once it was introduced with Tri, but it remains my least favorite gameplay aspect, and these ports have done little to change that.
But outside of that, I love this game. If you’re a fan, you probably already own it. But if you’ve been on the fence, I’d highly urge you to jump in. The demo for the game wasn’t really indicative of everything Monster Hunter does, and outside of giving you a scant 20 minutes to kill two monsters, you wouldn’t have come close to seeing the full set of features present in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. If you’ve got friends in tow, or don’t mind playing with random people, I’m willing to bet this will end up being one of the best games you play all year.