Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate Review: The Hunt is On

out of 5

If you own a Nintendo Wii U and/or a 3DS, stop reading this right now and go pick up Capcom’s Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate either at retail or through the Nintendo eShop. This will save us both a lot of time and trouble, as you will have purchased one of the best games on either system.

Now, I will tell you why.

When you get down to brass tacks, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a suped-up version of Monster Hunter Tri, which made its way to the Wii system in the summer of 2009. But Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is the pinnacle, or “ultimate” edition of the long-running Monster Hunter franchise. It is the first HD version of the game, it’s on two of the most unique game systems (at least in terms of user interface) on the market, and it’s also reconfigured to include hundreds of new missions and difficult “G level” versions of well-known monsters to take down.

For those unfamiliar with Monster Hunter, the entire game revolves around hunting huge dinosaur-like monsters and then carving up their felled carcasses for resources used to craft better weapons and armors. As a hunter progresses, the weapons get bigger and the armor gets rarer and the monsters get downright ridiculous. Seriously, the first time I fought a Rathian, a massive female flying wyvern, I was equal parts scared and exhilarated at the prospect of beating the crap out of a full sized dragon!

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is broken down into quests. There are over 200 new quests, which puts the total of all in-game quests to almost 340. These quests could be a simple gather quest, like collect 12 blue mushrooms, or a hunt quest, like find and kill a Arzuros, or a capture quest, where you have to find a monster and beat it down to where you can capture it with a trap and tranquilizer bombs (killing a monster in a capture quest causes a fail). Most quests have time limits of usually 50 minutes, but most only take 15 minutes or so until you start hunting bigger monsters, which will take up nearly all of the 50 minutes. The number of quests, coupled with the quick, “pick up and go” mentality, makes Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate ridiculously addictive.

Hunters can also team up with up to three others and hunt as a group. The Wii U utilizes full online capability, while the 3DS version offers local co-op only. Players can hunt together using both systems, as one player can be on the Wii U and three others can join in, if they are in the same room, with their 3DS’s and dedicated copies of the game. The online hunts are extremely fun, as most hunters are friendly and helpful, and the Wii U’s GamePad has a built in mic and speakers, so communication is smooth and clear without the need of a headset.

Online hunters are given a rank (Hunter’s Rank, or HR) and the goal is obviously to rise through the ranks to unlock the insane armor sets, as well as securing bragging rights. A group of similar-ranked hunters can “farm” on monsters, which essentially means that they keep hunting the same beasts over and over for the resources to craft the best armors and weapons. The group hunt dynamic (online or in local co-op) is what made this series huge in Japan, and as long as the servers stay up (Tri’s servers are still up as of this writing, but not for long), players will be hunting together and getting better armor and weapons for years to come.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate also includes new monsters and variants of old favorites, over 2,000 new pieces of equipment and over 1,000 new pieces of armor. There is also a new companion (Kayamba, who joins Cha-cha from Tri), new masks for both companions, and even three brand new stages to hunt in. Even though this is a revised version of Monster Hunter Tri, there is definitely enough new to consider this a full game and not a simple retread.

Since Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate follows the same story of Tri, Capcom was able to focus their efforts on additional features, and of course beautiful graphics, to enhance an already great game. The first time I stepped out into the Moga Woods in glorious HD, I gasped at the sheer beauty of the landscape. And this is coming from a guy who has spent over 150 hours in Monster Hunter Tri traipsing through these very same woods. The water effects have a wonderful liquid sheen and the grass and rock faces have minute details that the Wii just couldn’t handle. Visually, I’m still discovering new things in the HD locales.

The HD graphical upgrade makes everything look and feel new; especially the monsters. The Great Jaggi, a simple mid-level beast that I love to hunt, looks fantastic in crisp Hi-Def, and my favorite monster in Tri, the mighty Sea King, Lagiacrus, made me giggle with glee when it first appeared in an early mission. Every time an old favorite appears, it just looks so… new and beautiful.

For the 3DS, the graphics aren’t as sharp, but they are in stereoscopic 3D, which gives each locale, and monster, a different kind of new look and feel. The depth of field and the game’s menus just pop out of the screen. Honestly, the level of graphics on the 3DS aren’t that much lower than on the Wii U, and are still better than the cloudy, muddy graphics of the low-powered Wii. If there is an issue with the 3DS’s 3D, it comes from the movement of the system during an intense battle with a huge monster.

For the 3D to work, the screen essentially has to remain still and in the players’ vision “sweet spot.” While hacking away at, say, a Crimson Quropeco, the 3DS leaves the sweet spot and button mashing and item selecting causes the system to move and the screen blurs, which takes away the hunters vision. I’ve quickly learned to turn down the 3D after the initial contact with my prey, which prevents the screen blur, but then it also defeats the purpose of playing in 3D.

Also, even though the 3DS’s bottom touch screen has a tile that allows for camera control among other fully-customizable tiles, I highly recommend picking up the Circle Pad Pro accessory, which gives players a second circle pad to control the camera, as well as giving the system some girth if you happen to have big hands.

It is important to note that Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is completely identical in content on both the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS systems. Capcom has even used this to an advantage by allowing players to create hunters on the Wii U and move them to the 3DS version and back at will. This feature was late in implementation but the apps needed to use this feature are now available. Unfortunately, Capcom made the transfer more complicated than it ever should be.

To transfer a hunter, there can be NO saved data on the 3DS game card, even though it has three save file slots on the game card. This is essentially a $40 “fee” that hunters have to pay to take their hunters on the go, as the rest of the game is rendered useless if you want to use that key feature. Again, there are three save files on the 3DS game card but you cannot have three hunters saved there and still use the transfer feature.

Lastly, seeing as the transfer app was three days late, players who had started hunters on the 3DS game will have to sacrifice them to be able to utilize the transfer feature. This is a huge misstep in my opinion, but then again, when has Nintendo ever done online features in a way that makes any practical sense?

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is easily the biggest, most in-depth game released for either the Wii U or the Nintendo 3DS. Hunters can easily lose 300-400 hours hunting beasts and crafting rare, unique, and incredible-looking armor and weapon sets. While there is a “story” involving saving a seaside village from earthquakes caused by a legendary monster, the meat of a Monster Hunter game is in the hunting. Well after the story has concluded, there will still be beasts to take down and armors to collect. Plus, Capcom has promised DLC quests and armor and weapons, and have already released a day-one quest and other fun stuff for early adopters. With new quests constantly being pumped into the game, the hunt will never end. This is what makes this game – and series – great.

With the addition of HD graphics on the Wii U version, and the 3D presentation on the 3DS, Capcom has delivered on what is, to date, the biggest and best Monster Hunter game. Even with a hiccup on the online transfer feature, this is still a must-own game for action/adventure fans as there is so much to do and customize, and there is always a bigger monster to bring down.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for Nintendo Wii U and 3DS was provided by Capcom for this review. It became available to purchase in stores on Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

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