Monster Hunter Tri
by OsodeVuela





(images were shamelessly taken from Gamespot and Gamefaqs images section and resized because large images are annoying)

I really, really wanted to enjoy Monster Hunter Tri. Everything about it seemed to welcome me with open-arms; it was to be released a month after Phantasy Star Universe closed down, giving me ample time to get over the three years of my life that just went down the drain. It was supposed to be a solid hack-and-slash game with free online capabilities, and, because there were no levels, there would be no level grinding. It was supposed to give a strong challenge, provide voice support, bring a peripheral to the US that's been sorely lacking for a while (the Classic Controller Pro), come with a free 500 Wii points card, have excellent customer support in general, and just look pretty doing it all. The strangest part is, it actually did all of that--Capcom just forgot to make it fun.

I should note three things before going further into the review. First, I've never played a Monster Hunter game before. I've always looked at the series with general interest, but being that I was playing Phantasy Star Universe on my PS2, and thus had no need for another hack-and-slash to eat my time there, and haven't owned a PSP until sometime last month, the opportunity never really arose to get into the series. Second, the game was never taken online. Obviously, that means the review is incomplete, but I just ended up hating the game so much that I couldn't play it anymore, and now I literally can't play it anymore, because, third, it's one of the only three games I've ever sold, and the only game I've ever sold out of complete distaste (one was sold because it took too much time, the other because we actually had another copy lying around the house). I have plenty of video games that sucked but I still kept because I'm something of a packrat, and there was some fun to be had with them. To make my point, I still have .hack//Infection, Kingdom Hearts II, Perfect Dark Zero, and the original Phantasy Star Universe despite owning Ambition of Illuminus just to name a few. I think I've made my point, no?

The game actually starts off cordially enough. It opens with a lovely FMV, titled something like, "this is what the game would look like if it was on a real console lol", and then you go ahead and create your own character. The customization options feel a bit lacking, but there's enough there. There aren't any proportion options, but there is at least male/female, which ends up being the only one that matters because all the rest are covered when you actually don your character in armor.

Way back in April, after getting the preorder and the sexy black Classic Controller Pro, I had decided to play through the offline mode first before hopping online in order to gear-up and learn the basic gameplay. As it turns out, the offline mode basically serves as a tutorial, and a pretty solid tutorial at that. You, as a known monster hunter, have been recruited to take down an awful sea-beast, Lagiacrus, who has been ruining the delicate trade-life of Moga Village. The story isn't really worth mentioning. It's hardly anything special, but it stays well out of your way as you get to hunting and mostly serves to give a little more life to progress than a prompt that reads "second farm unlocked", or whatever. The characters are all very charming and cutely written, and the village hustle and bustle actually feels pretty genuine. I think the one thing I can't get mad at with this game is the very well done tribal aesthetic.

The first quests are very, very simple methods of learning the ropes. It pushes you into a pretty looking set of woods to hunt some of the basic grunt monsters. The large woods area is set into twelve or thirteen "rooms", each room with a different, unique look to it, separated by a brief loading screen. The first monsters you're set to kill actually rarely even fight back, and the second set barely do any damage at all. It's here that the controls began to bug me a little, as the game feels a tad-bit clunky at first. I can't put my finger on exactly what it was, but moving felt awkward the first hour or so, especially when you needed a bit of precision. I think it's that it takes a slight-bit too long to stop and turn around or make a sharp turn, but that ends up not really being an issue once you get used to it. The biggest problem was the lack of creature targeting. I mean, come on! Sure, it's easy to learn to get by fine without it, and some might argue that it takes a certain amount of skill to fight without it. Fine. It also takes skill to fight with a cruddy camera, or to juggle a boggled interface, or play a platformer with slidey controls. These, however, are all considered faults of the developer, because there are games that have pulled off these aspects better. Certainly, the targeting system makes things easier, but that's because it makes them less frustrating. It just makes it easier to control the character in general, which, in a "hardcore" game like this, is pretty darn important. With all that said, though, I got over it an hour or two in. Not game-breaking, just kinda dumb.

Anyways, with the way the game lures you in, It's no surprise that the Gamefaqs boards became clogged with more than a few "how do I beat the Great Jaggi?" topics. See, as you've been romping through the woods area with no relative difficulty whatsoever, a certain complacency sets in. You don't need to guard, or dodge, or conserve your healing items at all in the first hour or two. Then, the floaties are taken off and you're pushed head-first into the deep end. The Great Jaggi, being the first boss, does not play nice. He hops around, has a broad attack span, and takes away solid chunks of health with a single swipe. The basic tactics of "whack-whack-whack-whack-heal-repeat" that reign in many other hack-and-slashes and even in the beginning of this one so, deeply set in mind, don't apply anymore. You'll even need to direct your blows to certain parts of a boss in later occasions, as targeting these areas can disable a few of their deadly attacks.

It'll probably take at least a few tries before the Monster Hunter Method begins to set in. 50 minutes are given for each boss-hunt, and it's expected that you'll use at least thirty of them on your first victory. Victory. As in, there'll probably be a good number or tries before that where you died or ran out of time. The game is actually pretty fair about deaths. There are three tries per quest attempt, and with each death, a fair amount of the reward money is docked. Can't complain there. It may come as a surprise, but normally, a majority of the time you spend in the quest is just hunting the boss monster. Why? The "Monster Hunter Battle Method"! It goes something like this:

1.) Find boss.
2.) Run around boss until an opening appears, then try to get one hit in, or a couple more if you're using a sword and shield instead of one of the heavier weapons.
2b.) Try for another if you're feeling lucky, have enough healing items, or have been playing the stupid thing for so long that you've got the timing perfectly down.
3.) Immediately dodge roll out of the way.
4.) Go back to step two, unless the monster has run away, then go back to step one.

It doesn't sound too bad, and it's actually not for the Great Jaggi. Once you learn his patterns, he falls quickly enough that it's not a nuisance, but gives enough of a fight to keep things interesting. I actually was still having fun at that point in the game, and downing the Great Jaggi for the first time was actually one of the most rewarding things I'd done in a video game in a while. But, eventually, problems begin to seep through. That's all you have to do for any of the bosses. Any of 'em. Learn their patterns well enough to get close, get a hit in, get out, and repeat. It just takes longer and longer to get a hit in with each new boss because they get faster, and longer and longer to take them down because they have more health. Just for emphasis: that's all there is to the bosses. Learn their patterns in a few hours, and there's no challenge. True, most other games are like that, but this is a game that's supposed to revolve around endlessly fighting these bosses that you can figure out in a couple of hours. Monotony, anyone?

After you struggle your way through the Monster Hunter Battle Method, it's time to learn a new dance; the "Monster Hunter Crafting Method!" Learning the bosses in itself is actually entertaining enough, but the content there would actually only last about ten or fifteen hours to play through once. That's why Capcom had the brilliant idea to make it so you practically had to craft new armor for each progressing boss, in the same way you practically had to grind in RPG's. Sure, you don't literally need to, but you're kinda screwed if you don't. Offline, there's a definite progress to the bosses--first is the Great Jaggi, then the Querupeco, then I think the Barroth, and so on and so forth, not only because the one that follows is more difficult (even though it isn't always), but because you're literally forced to by quest progression. The thing is, to get the armor to prepare for the next one, you pretty much have to exclusively hunt the one directly prior to it. As in, now that the Great Jaggi's been killed once, it's time to kill him a good four to five more times, rely on the RNG (random number generator) to drop the materials you need, and finally clothe your hunter with sufficient armor and a new weapon. Once the full set's been collected (or at least most of it), the boss from which they've been earned will obviously be no problem, as well as of no purpose. It's then time to move onto the next boss, whom you'll struggle against for probably a good couple of tries until the patterns are learned, the Monster Hunter Battle Method is performed, and the Monster Hunter Crafting Method is set into motion again. Basically, it'd be like if in Megaman, when you defeated a boss, instead of being rewarded with a new weapon, you were rewarded with a new piece of a weapon, which you then had to fight that boss again and again until you earned all the pieces of that weapon.

Keep that in mind, because the whole build-it-yourself ideal is kept through the entire game. The only area you have a literal free access to is the Moga Woods, although you are able to go to the other three areas (a desert, a tundra, and a swamp, all actually really good-looking for the Wii) without having to fight a boss as you progress through the story. These woods are rich in the basic resources that are absolutely necessary to your hunting career. Whetstones, for instance, to sharpen your blade which actually dulls as you fight off monsters, herbs and mushrooms to craft healing items, meat to restore your running stamina, and the list goes on. Your ability to visit this locale with no risk of penalty actually is quite vital, since a good number of these necessities are unobtainable in the village store, and the ones that are available cost too much to use constantly in comparison with the cost of crafting weapons and armor. It's necessary to memorize the locations of each of the necessities, as you'll only be able to mine a certain rock or pick from a certain brush of wild grasses a couple of times before it disappears for a few minutes. It sounded kind of neat in idea, but consider that if you go through most of your healing items in the first difficult fights against a new boss, that's thirty healing herbs you have to pick (which admittedly can be bought), twenty blue mushrooms you have to find, and ten things of honey you have to scavenge (neither of which can be bought). With limited bag space already occupied by the necessities (potions, a torch, fishing rod, picks, etc.), more than one trip is often needed just to collect everything. Plus, to unlock things in the village, like more farms, or more fishing boats, you need to gather materials and earn "resources", points obtained for mindlessly killing creatures in the Moga Woods on your own time (quest kills don't count). Think about that. Let it sink in. That's freaking grinding. The thing that the whole, "yay no levels" set out to avoid. Heck, fighting the bosses over and over to get their pieces is enough to constitute as grinding in my book, and it's not even constant! I don't get it. You could technically be absolutely screwed over by the RNG and do absolutely nothing about it--that's worse than EXP grinding.

I did mention farms, and they are a neat concept. You give one of your cute little farming kitties (better seen than explained) a plant of your choosing, and they can grow it for a set number of cycles. It's neat and all, except it costs resources. It honestly feels like if I have to go into the Woods to collect my resources, I might as well harvest anyways, and while the effect is still beneficial, it still feels grindy, especially since you need the resources to also build up the village and send out a fishing boat which works in a similar manner (give resources, receive fish later).

Add to that the fact that once you fight a boss in a quest and beat it, it shows up in Moga Woods randomly and gets right in the way of your harvesting, and the simple task of restocking after a mission or two (or, to you high-and-mighty Monster Hunter aficionados, four or five missions) can take well over an hour. Think about that. Before you get really, really good at the game, you'll spend as much time gathering and preparing for a mission, if not more, than actually trying it!

And don't get me wrong, the difficulty is certainly not the main issue. When you're all geared up, the fight against the boss can actually be exhilarating. The controls, despite lack of a target function, are very sharp. Once you get a good feel for the game, dodge rolling and unsheathing and attacking all feel smooth and "just right." Even the underwater portions aren't too shabby and control ok, as far as underwater controlling goes. Stalking the creature through its homeland, beating the snot out of it until it's limping away, or, in some cases, infuriated and spastic gives an odd, sadistic pleasure, mostly because it's the same creature that's been beating you senseless and to your very last healing item for the last half-hour, as well as however many failed tries rested before that. It's just the fact that it's exhilarating only once. When the patterns are learned, and you're fighting the thing for the fourth time and still have a few more times to go and you're barely taking any damage because you've come to know the thing so well, it's far, far, far from the first exhilaration.

It's not even like all of the difficulty is fair, either. About every item that aids you in combat, like a potion or a whetstone, has a five or six second long animation in which you can't control your character at all. That's a lot of time, especially when you've got an angry creature on your back. You don't have to worry too much, though, as you'll get ample time to get set back up when the boss creature you're hunting runs to another "room" in the map. It's actually an interesting feature, until it gets to the point where the creature gives no indication as to which spot it's headed. There is a paintball that can be used to track it, but that's yet another prep item you have to gather.

But obviously, there are masochists who enjoy that type of thing, and the MHT community (from the Gamefaqs boards at least) seem to be one of the most masochistic around. The Barroth is widely seen by the community as the turning point for when the game gets real, although "cheap" seems to be a more appropriate fit. He plays much like the Great Jaggi, except he's much faster and stronger and unless your weapon is strong enough, you can't pierce his rock skull. That's all fine and dandy, except a fair portion of his attacks send mud rocks raining around him in a circle, and once you get within a certain radius, they don't fly in a random pattern; they actually begin to target you. When you're hit with a mud-rock, you can thankfully run, but you can't dodge-roll or attack, and, get this. When your hunter breaks free of his mud-encasement, he does the stupid little "Herp-a-derp-derp, look at me!" animation used for a recovery item! Being that the Barroth has a wide-array of hard hitting attacks that are more or less easily dodged, unless, you know, you can't move, including a charging attack that took away a good third of my health, this doesn't feel fair at all. Technically, you could stay far away from the flying rocks, but that only adds to the ever-so-fun wait period of step two in the Monster Hunter Battle Method.

It's also worth noting that the Barroth is the first boss that you can't track without a paintball. A previous boss would fly away offscreen, but you could follow its shadow to its general location. Not so with the Barroth. He digs deep into the ground and randomly chooses one spot on the entire map to reappear, and is normally sleeping or restoring his health. I never checked how long paintballs lasted, but if I had to guess, I would say about eight to twelve minutes. You could easily get nicked out of finding the boss because he digs away just at the point the paintball wears off, and I'm saying this because it actually did happen to me and I spent the next twenty minutes (no exaggeration) looking for the thing in vain until the quest ended. Fun!

Along with that, during boss battles, you'll occasionally get swarmed by little grunt monsters. Sounds neat enough in idea, but since they don't drop anything you really use beyond the first Great Jaggi fight, not even minding the fact that looting them is another five-six second long animation, and since this isn't a literal RPG and you don't get experience from them, they're nothing but little nuisances who seem to only get a hit in right before your attack animation was about to pull through. On occasion, one of the bosses will actually call other monsters, including other bosses to come to its aid. Cool again in theory, but as annoying as it was dealing with bosses while you were trying to gather basic necessities in Moga Woods, it's doubly frustrating when you're actually trying to fight a monster for its appendages.

Let's be honest here. How many of these problems do you think would have been fixed by going online? If anything, I'd apparently have to grind more because the demand for resources would be greater, the incredibly boring "Monster Hunter Battle Method" would still be the integral gameplay, and, going by many of the users on the Gamefaqs board, it's an elitist community. Oh, and just so we're clear; it's fine and all to use the answer "use search bar" to a common question, but don't be a complete douche. Answer the question. Otherwise, I have to sort through five pages of "use search bar", which also comes from personal experience. To put the cherry on top, the game apparently suffers from desync. Since precise fighting in the game is essential, I'd find that pretty vital. I'm not sure if hitting party members deals damage to them, but I know it knocks them around, which I would guess leads to even more of step two of the Monster Hunter Battle Method.

I'm sure the game would become more enjoyable online, but that's in the same way that licking toilets with a buddy is more fun than licking toilets alone. The reason I had so much fun online with Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe was because I had actually enjoyed what was present for me offline, or, in other words, the game was at least fun enough at its core to be enjoyable alone. Online brought me new content and new people (although I'm so introverted that it carries over online and I normally prefer to solo anyways). Monster Hunter Tri wasn't even fun offline, and I'm just going to go ahead and assume the things I found at fault with it aren't fixed online, and thus not worth my time.

I'm also going to guess that the reason I didn't dislike the game isn't in the fact that I didn't try every weapon type. I went through pretty much all of what I played (twenty-six hours) with a Great Sword, and I actually liked the Great Sword. How much different would it be if, instead of largely relying on the dodge roll, I had to rely on guarding instead? Or I got a bunch of tiny hits in instead of one great hit? It seems like, while timing might be different, the same sparse fighting technique would hold through. There was a branch of guns, though, and while that might spice things up a bit, it also would mean you'd have to gather more materials to make bullets with, or more necessities to gather in other words. Thanks, but no thanks.

I'd hate to knock on the game for so long without really providing any solutions. I'm no game designer, and I'm sure this is broken in its own way, but remember how I referenced Megaman earlier? What if they built the game like that? Instead of forcing you to progressively grind on one boss at a time, open all of the bosses to you at once and let you choose just where you want to go. Give bonuses for mixing and matching sets so players don't end up grinding through a boss all at once and finishing it completely (although I'm sure many would anyways. At least then you couldn't blame the developers). Limit the materials they drop to only one, and make each piece of armor take only one material to craft. In fact, why even have quests? Why not just let you run free in the four areas, and have the bosses show up as they may (within reasonable measure)? That'd violate my "bosses are annoying when you're gathering" point, but make it possible to avoid or get rid of them without fighting. Obviously, the game would eat less of your time, but people need to realize that's not necessarily a bad thing. At the very least, you'd think that once you get online, you can choose whatever mission you want. Nope. Even if you've completed all of the offline missions, there's apparently a rank system that works on XP. Go figure. Anyways, you need to be a certain rank to access each increasing tier of missions. I might not be getting this exactly right, but if I'm at least getting the gist of it, you basically are taken from fighting the Lagiacrus offline to fighting the Great Jaggi again online and clawing your way back through everything again multiple times.

The saddest thing, though? If I had had hours and hours to spend on this game, I probably would have. The biggest fault I found with this game is you could literally spend an hour and achieve absolutely nothing in the game, or, what seemed to be at most, one hour might earn me half of what I need to craft a chest piece. That's not fun. I can barely spend three hours Monday through Friday playing video games, and you want me to spend those three maybe getting some of the armor I need for the game to be reasonably fun? Most RPG grinding sessions didn't even last that long! I quit at twenty-six hours, just before the Lagiacrus, the final offline boss. The final boss is electric, and the only gear that was resistant against electricity was from the Barroth. I would have had to work my way through a Barroth Helm, Barroth Mail, Barroth Vanbraces, Barroth Faulds, and Barroth Greaves. I can't be bothered to figure out how many times I would have to win against the Barroth to get all of that, but I'd estimate at least six times. That's not to mention the probably two or three times I'd have to fight the Great Baggi (yes, reskins too) to get the next Great Sword. The fact that I was that close to completing the game and just stopped out of the sheer mundane quality of it all should say something. I read on the boards that it takes about fifty hours for the game to get fun. That's twenty-four more hours I could spend practicing, running, reading, or, heck, playing Phantasy Star Portable 2.

So, yeah. Basically, if you've got a lot of time on your hands and are good with repetition (and not even fun, happy repetition), and the whole "find it yourself" mechanic appeals to you, and you're fine with the game constantly kicking you in the balls, you might like it.

Oh and you should probably have like a million or so free hours on your hands (or at least two hundred).



Overall:


Half of the full score for actually being pretty well-built. The other half was lost because, what's a game if it's not fun, really?






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