Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Developer: Capcom
Price: $60/$40 [3DS]
Platform: Wii-U/3DS

It’s been three years since the release of Monster Hunter Tri and my itch for repeatedly killing the same monster just so I can get a sick new hat made out of its skull is in need of some scratching.

Let’s get this out of the way right now, Monster Hunter is a hard game. It’s not punishing or cheap in the way Dark Souls is, instead all there is to the difficulty is the amount of damage you’ll take from getting hit. The game forces you to watch and learn the movements of the various monsters so that you can anticipate their next attack so that you can dodge it. The game will push you on the ground and kick you while you’re down there but when you finally understand how to tackle a certain monster the satisfaction you feel is something I still haven’t felt in a game outside this series. If you’re willing to put in the time you’ll soon learn that the game is more challenging than difficult.

The basic idea behind a Monster Hunter game is that you’re a rookie hunter who joins a village that needs some monsters hunted because they’re wrecking the area. The game will start you out with a few tutorial quests as it eases you into the features and I recommend not rushing through it if you’re new. After a while you’ll get access to the quest counter and you’ll slowly work your way through the ranks as you tackle bigger and tougher baddies. There’s quite a lot to absorb when you start out but as you play you’ll learn the importance of things like the farm and the traders. You’ll use the pieces you carve off of monsters to construct new weapons and armor at the blacksmith, this is when the grind begins. Certain monsters have a percentage chance of dropping all of the multiple pieces you could potentially carve or receive in the rewards screen which means you’re likely going to have to repeat the same fight quite a few times if you want to make that certain piece of armor that always requires some rare item. Ask any Monster Hunter veteran that you’re going to try to make that high rank Rathalos armor that needs a few rubies and see how they laugh in your face without even bothering with a “Good Luck”. Usually things aren’t too much of a grind since you can easily make an armor set from a specific monster after four or five fights, but when it requires a material that’s particularly rare is when things start to get tedious. Thankfully playing online can help speed things up but you can’t come into this game not expecting to grind eventually. This isn’t a multiple playthrough type of game, this is a one file one playthrough with hundreds hours put into it kind of game.

Newcomers to the series will be happy to know that the single player quests have been balanced in their favor; harder quests are pushed a bit further and monsters in the earlier quest seem to have less health than they did in Tri. This was a fantastic change that will allow more people to enjoy the game instead of quitting after their first fight. There’s also a slight lock-on added to the game too; tapping the L button will center the camera on any large monster in the area. It won’t stay locked-on so it’s not a proper lock-on feature which is smart since it would completely destroy the entire point behind its limb based combat, but it’s a nice thing for newer players to have.

Monster Hunter is all about the hunt. You’ll watch how your quarry moves and learn its attack patterns or the locations it will retreat to as you progress through the game. There are a couple dozen different monsters, more if you include the small creatures, and there are also sub-species types that offer a different color (Gold Rathian) with more health, different elemental focus, and new moves. There’s always something new to see, 30 hours into the game you’ll be fighting monsters you haven’t seen before and there will still be a sub-species type that changes up the way you tackle the same monster. The fact that you can’t cancel out of an attack animation also adds to the strategy as you have to time your moves correctly or else you’ll end up swinging at air and left with no time to dodge an attack. The thrill of the hunt is what this game is all about as you battle these monsters in hopes of killing them before the 50 minute timer runs out or you die yourself. The feeling you get when you just barely manage to kill a Savage Deviljho before the timer ends and with a sliver of health left is just something you’ve got to experience yourself. Likewise, losing a battle that lasted forever and planning your next attempt while thinking what worked and what didn’t is great. It’s moments like these or when playing online and all four of you start to panic, wondering whether that Qurupeco you just pissed off is going to summon a Rathian or a Deviljho is what makes this game so satisfying. Being able to share your stories on Miiverse just adds to the experience.

A complaint that has been thrown around since the first game is the lack of a lock-on function and I’m going to explain to you why it wouldn’t work. The combat in the game revolves around the limbs of the monsters and how you need to decide what part of a monster you want to focus on; you have to take into account the parts you might want to damage if you need a certain item or whether a certain part of its body is weaker to your weapon than another. One creature might be more prone to falling over if you hit its legs enough while another has armored legs and needs to be attacked a different way. There are various parts of the body that all react to elemental damage differently as well which means if you use a thunder weapon against a water monster it would be in your best interest to attack the part that’s most vulnerable to thunder damage. This also leads to everyone to cooperate on the various parts of a monster when playing online so that you don’t have everyone jumbled together in one spot. You’ll see a guy with a hammer focusing on a Rathalos’ head to stun it, the great sword user is over by the tail to hack it off, the dual sword user is using their demon dance to hit the legs that are heavily armored, and the bow guy is in the back supporting everyone. A lock-on wouldn’t allow you to specifically target a certain part of a monster’s body and a lock-on that lets you cycle through various parts of a body would only complicate matters since battles require split-second reactions; a lock-on would just restrict your movements.

So you probably want to know what’s exactly new in this game, and the answer to that question is that it depends. For anyone who’s played each entry in the series (and even imported Portable 3rd) then there’s not much new besides two monsters and this will ultimately feel more like a sort of “Greatest Hits” bundle than a sequel; of course you shouldn’t come into this thinking it is a sequel since it’s not. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is basically the G version of Tri which means it takes the previous game and adds a few new things like balancing fixes or monsters and ties up it in a pretty bow. If you played the PSP games Freedom 1 and its sequel then this is exactly like those, they’re basically extended cuts of Monster Hunter and Monster Hunter 2 respectively. The less you’ve played of Monster Hunter the more you’re going to find in this game, but considering how long it’s been since you’ve probably played the older titles I’m not sure many people would mind it that much.

Besides hunting monsters you’ll be gathering resources to prepare the various items you’ll need like traps, various status enhancement items, bombs, and more. You’ll do this by sending your boating fleet out, performing gathering quests, or putting your various cats to work in the farm. All of this is done using resource points which are earned by entering the Moga Woods which is a sort of free hunt mode. Here you can gather materials and hunt whatever monsters you find with no time limit or death limit to worry about and you’ll earn points for killing monsters and even rare commodity items. A neat new addition to the Moga Woods is the option of visiting it at night to face off against harder monsters that you wouldn’t see during the daytime. You’ll see things like Barroth or Gobul show up now and they’ll be significantly tougher. In a way that I think is Capcom’s way of egging you on to play online, they have included a second hunting companion when playing solo. Along with Cha-cha you’ll also acquire Kayamba once you reach the high rank quests in the village which are also a new addition. Kayamba functions the same way as Cha-cha, now you’ll just have two of them when you go out hunting.

A very cool new feature is how you can customize what you want to view on the gamepad touch-screen. If you want to you can move the map and health bar off the TV and onto your gamepad. Besides that there’s also a bunch of miscellaneous stuff you can throw on the gamepad screen like signaling your partners, your item pouch, the customization pouch, the health of your friends, and more. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate also features the largest selection of weapons in the series with all the weapons from the series included with the only change being that the customization of specific bowgun parts being removed which is probably for the best. You’ll see things like hammers, dual swords, lances, and more.

The main issue this game has is when it comes to explaining the weapons. Veteran players already know what they’re going to use before they’ve even started the game and might try out a new weapon if there is one. There are notes that you can view in-game that give you a complete move-list for each weapon but the game never mentions or recommends viewing it. You’re never really told the differences between all the weapons and I really hope future entries in the series offer a tutorial that goes into detail of the strengths and weaknesses for each weapon. Thankfully the game offers the free hunt mode so you can easily jump into the forest to test out a weapon without having a quest timer to distract you which is nice, but newcomers are still going to have to rough it out for a while until they figure out what works best for them. Spending some time online to watch videos or ask questions on a forum helps too.

Something that’s also still pretty annoying is the AI in the game; with all the big talk Capcom keeps talking about how each game gets more immersive with the interactions between monsters it sure does seem like a load of shit each time. You’ll never see monsters interact with each other and it still annoys the hell out of me when herbivores will fight you alongside the monsters that eat them. You’d think they’d either run away from the dragon that makes a meal of them or at least help me out. Something I also want to see are bigger monsters actively seeking smaller monsters to eat instead of running to their nest to feed on invisible food.

The online function returns with a new location you’ll go to meet up with three other players. Getting into a game can be quite a pain at times since failing to connect to a room will send you all the way back to the single player mode, but once you get in the connection is top notch. After all the matches I’ve put in I can’t think of a single moment where I saw any sort of lag or network issues. There’s also local multiplayer for anyone with a few friends and a couch. Unfortunately, anyone looking to get the 3DS version of the game will be severely disappointed to find out that you won’t be able to play online without a Wii-U and a copy of MH3U for the Wii-U.

To help keep things going for weeks after release, there’s free DLC that will release weekly. You’ll get things like new titles or backgrounds for your guild card, outfits for Cha-Cha or your pig, and event quests that are significantly harder than normal quests that sometimes offer interesting challenges like requiring no armor.

The game got a noticeable bump in graphics when it comes to the monster models, but the textures for everything else are all pretty laughable; if it weren’t for the art style holding it all together it’d just be another ugly game.

The Final Word
Despite being a sort of collection of all the best parts from the series, 3 Ultimate still manages to deliver the definitive version of the game with 3DS save transferring a very nice feature. With the second analog stick, balancing fixes, and online multiplayer included Ultimate really stepped up and eliminated most of the main issues that have plagued the series. This is a fantastic game for newcomers and old fans alike that throws in enough new things to keep things fresh for everyone.

- MonsterVine Rating: 4 out of 5 – Good