While I was sitting at Nintendo’s E3 presentation of Wii U games at the Nokia Center in Los Angeles last year, I couldn’t help imagining my favorite RPGs with the new GamePad controller. For many RPG fans that dream has been realized with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for the Wii U. For those that are unfamiliar with the action RPG series, Monster Hunter made its debut on the Playstation 2 almost ten years ago. While it’s not as popular here in the United States as other Western action RPGs or even other Japanese RPGs like Final Fantasy, Monster Hunter does have its fans.
Like Mass Effect 3, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate isn’t a really a new game for Nintendo’s latest console. Monster Hunter 3 or Tri as it was called was originally released in 2009 for the Nintendo Wii. The graphics while updates do show some age. That’s not to say Monster Hunter doesn’t look good, but the visuals are unlikely to wow anyone. The most discouraging aspect of the presentation is the lack of voicing in conjunction with poor font selection and the size of the text crammed into the lower left corner. If you don’t like to read a lot, this probably isn’t the action RPG for you.
In the single player campaign of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, players take on the role of a hunter newly arrived in a small island village. A large earthquake just struck the area and the village chief suspects a giant monster is the cause. Of course he’s sending you out to investigate. You are allowed to create and customize your character, though the options are not as robust as the offerings of some RPGs. The game has a particular style and nothing offered will make your character terribly unique. These limitations don’t apply to the variety of cartoonlike oversized weapons you will acquire and master throughout the lengthy adventure.
Players are also given the option of two control schemes. Embracing the second screen option, I chose to have everything moved over to the GamePad screen, including status bars. The controls which must be mastered to progress very far, however do present some issues. During battles, sheathing and unsheathing your weapon along with attacks must be second nature and well timed. Poorly timed and mistaken button presses can result in wasted resources and death. Longtime Monster Hunter fans understand this is part of the game and accept it as a game mechanic. Many newcomers however will likely be frustrated.
Like Demon Souls, Monster Hunter games can be demanding. This one is no different in how it rewards diligence and planning. Firstly, you need to have the right gear for the monster you’re going after. If you’re sufficiently prepared you will then need to learn your adversary and execute your attack accordingly. The further you go, the less room there is for error and with a fairly light narrative, your prowess is your reward in this game. Though the controls are nearly identical, underwater fighting requires monitoring your air gauge and acting accordingly when needed.
Besides your standard questing fare, there are plenty of other things to do in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. Pretty early on, you acquire a farm to grow resources and later you can send boats out. There are also a handful of mini-games like barbequing and fishing to break up the action while supplementing your efforts. There is a fair amount of humor to be found throughout the game as well. If you can read it, much of the dialogue is whimsical and the NPCs, including your offline companion are pretty silly. The wackiness of oversized weapons and some exaggerated animations further add to tongue in cheek package.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is really meant to a multiplayer experience and while a local option isn’t offered on the Wii U exclusively, Capcom did provide an alternative. If you want to play Monster Hunter 3 with others in your house, they need to own a 3DS. Up to four players can play a co-op game with the Wii U and three 3DS systems provided each system has a copy of the platform appropriate game. That is a pretty expensive endeavor if you’re on the hook for all four copies of the game. Online multiplayer however, is pretty standard for a four player co-op adventure. A bonus for owners of both systems and copies of the game for each is that your game can be transferred between consoles.
A final verdict on a game like Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is tough. On one hand, there is a substantial amount of value in this deep RPG. If you’re looking for a deep hack and slash multiplayer RPG and could care less about narrative, you should check this game out. Monster Hunter fans should love this offering and even if you own Monster Hunter Tri, there is still enough additional content here to consider the purchase. The flipside to that is, that fair or not, most gamers will absolutely hate this game. The controls and overall presentation are dated and clunky and the whimsical trimmings may be too much for many fantasy enthusiasts.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence. This game can also be found on: Nintendo 3DS.