Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

Just like every other entry in the series, Monster Hunter Tri has received its expanded version. Retitled as Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, this entry adds new monsters and areas for the long term fans eager for more.

Despite how obvious it might sound, Monster Hunter can be loosely summed up in three words: you hunt monsters. Gameplay wise, Monster Hunter hasn’t changed much since the original title. This is by no means a bad thing, as it plays as well as it ever has; it just takes time to learn. This series has a reputation for warding people off with its unusual, unapproachable methodology towards almost everything you can do. Combat requires long, unskippable animations to do anything. Depending on the weapon you choose, attacks can last seconds, rather than instantly hitting quickly and being able to cancel out and move away, requiring what can feel like expert timing. This makes your initial impression of the game early on extremely tedious. These feelings can be exacerbated when necessities such as healing, sharpening your weapon and eating also take such a long time.

Animation priority is the key to this game. Learning roughly how long each animation will play out will come with practice. Luckily, 3 Ultimate’s early hours are more tame than any other in the series. Fighting creatures called Jaggi’s and Ludroths (pink-purple velociraptors and yellow-green water-based komodo dragons) is good practice, then slowly building up to the boss versions of these creatures. Great Jaggi’s and Royal Ludroths teach you how to fight on both land and water. Quests can be replayed as well, so pacing isn’t an issue for newcomers who can play early quests repeatedly until they get the hang of everything. While all of this can be tedious for anyone with experience of the series, these early sections do not last long and new, stronger creatures are introduced quickly for more challenge.

What a challenge you are in for, too, as some of the most unique wyverns in series history are in force here. While classics like like Rathalos, Diablos and ‘old favourite’ Plesioth return from the first game, Nibelsnarf (yes, Nibelsnarf), Uragaan, Aganktor also make appearances from Tri, as well as newcomers such as Duramboros, Brachydios and Dire Miralis. Aganktor is an enormous lizard that is covered in molten metal which heats up in proximity to lava. However, if it is too far away for too long the metal hardens, making it nearly impossible to damage unless you risk damaging yourself next to lava to keep him hot in order to hurt him. Duramboros is a moss covered behemoth with a giant hammer like tail. He spins around with his tail extended to crush. All of the larger fights are exhilarating, especially the first time.

What has always made Monster Hunter so special, even from the beginning, besides its unique take on combat, has been its supreme customizability. There are 12 weapon types in U3, each with its own unique animations, quirks, strengths and weaknesses. From the first game to this one I have tried different weapons and loved each-- lance is my current weapon of choice, as the ability to block almost anything and attack through enemy skin to weaker points inside really appeals to me. Others, like the Dual Swords, are much faster and are great for hit-and-run attacks as well as long sustained combos.

Killing enemies with your weapon of choice offers the chance to carve them up. Using spoils from the creatures' bodies, you can create or upgrade your weapons or even make armour. There are hundreds of different pieces of armour in the game with each set having positive and negative passive skills to balance. An example of this is the Aganktor armour set, which improves your blocking ability and slows the degredation of your weapon. It will also make you more likely to take more damage if your health is under a certain amount, requiring you to keep your health high.

While all the core gameplay systems in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate might be up to the same quality as usual there are also some problems that have persisted from previous games, which you would assume would have been fixed by now. The first example is in the basic controls.

Controlling the game on the 3DS is ultimately a little awkward, specifically the camera control, which is relegated to the D-Pad similar to the PSP games. There was a technique called the claw on the PSP where you would hook your index finger up to use the D-Pad while your thumb controlled the analog nub. This isn’t possible on the 3DS as the circle pad is positioned above the camera controls. Luckily Capcom has mitigated this slightly by including some features to control the camera besides the D-Pad. The touch screen by default has camera controls displayed at all times while out hunting. There is also a lock-on: pressing the left bumper button will rotate the camera to centre on the largest enemy in the area, which does make combat substantially easier. All of these controls working together can make fighting on land a comfortable experience, but as soon as you move into the water the entire thing breaks. Locking onto large enemies works to some extent in water, but combat can be so quick that finer controls are needed and a D-Pad and lock-on just don’t cut it. Thank goodness there is Circle Pad Pro support which removes all of these problems.

The second biggest problem with 3 Ultimate for the 3DS is the lack of native online gameplay. Once again, similar to the PSP titles, it is required that you own a home console specific to the brand of your portable console to play online. In this case the Nintendo Wii U, on top of that the console version of the game is additionally required. It is a shame then that most who play 3 Ultimate on the 3DS will not play it when it is at its most enjoyable, when played with other people. Local play is still possible between 3DS’ or with a Wii U, but not everyone will have friends who live close enough to play frequently.

It is a shame that Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on 3DS is let down so badly by the lack of online capability. However, if you have friends with the title or have prior experience with the series and can deal with the challenge of fighting alone, then 3 Ultimate is worth picking up. Just make sure you play with the Circle Pad Pro.