Monster Hunter Tri (Wii) Review
Written by Troy Benedict Wednesday, 30 March 2011 05:00
The Monster Hunter series is a video game franchise that the Japanese go absolutely ga-ga over. But over here in the United States, it exists, but has nowhere near the fanatical following. After logging some time as a hunter in the Moga Village in Monster Hunter Tri for the Wii, I was surprised to see this game reminded me of one of 2010's game of the year: Red Dead Redemption.
To begin, Monster Hunter Tri is a very Japanese game. It’s somewhat whimsical, filled with very quirky characters with even quirkier personalities (complete with an overabundance of modern pop-culturey references) and a weird coexistence of humans and “other creatures,” like the bipedal feline race appropriately called Felynes. To me, I think it’s ridiculous; then again, I’ll watch a movie like Star Wars and have no problem when the camera pans through the Tatooine Cantina.
Monster Hunter Tri is an interesting game to explain. It plays a lot like your run-of-the-mill 3rd-person perspective action game. You have your attacks and evasions and blocks. Because it’s also a role-playing game, you can customize your physical look (hairstyle, skin color, etc.) and purchase and upgrade your equipment and weapons. There aren’t any true enemies -- at least not during my time with the game -- and you’ll appropriately spend your time in Monster Hunter Tri, well, hunting. You’ll meet tons of God’s most interesting looking creatures and then you’ll brutally slaughter them all.
At times Monster Hunter Tri reminded me of Red Dead Redemption -- especially with the hunting and berry picking minigames. Nearly every creature that you hunt will have items that you can scavenge from their body. Some of those items can be used to craft new things or can be sold for money. Now, while you’re free to explore, hunting creatures and collecting herbs, picking mushrooms and gathering herbs: it’s going to be the quests that will actually help drive the game forward and open up new areas of exploration and with that there are new creatures to hunt.
Not only will you hunt beasties on land, but you’ll dive into the vast bodies of water and hunt aquatic creatures. Thankfully, hunters have some really powerful lungs and can swim and fight underwater for a LONG time before needing to surface (or find underwater bubbles of oxygen) to catch your breath.
There are many ways to play Monster Hunter Tri. The way I chose to play was with the Wii Classic Controller, rather than the Wii remote and nunchuck attachment. I’m kind of over the whole motion controls that don’t accurately mimic the real on-screen action and I felt that this was probably the best (albeit least novel) approach to the game.
Hunting a creature usually involves hammering the attack button, but one thing the game was sorely missing was a lock-on feature. A hunter will attack in a straight line and often times the creature will sidestep your attack. Then, while I’ll press towards the newly repositioned creature, the attack animation will continue forward until it’s fully completed. I’m not exactly expecting organic controls like in the God of War series, but it sure would have been nice if attacks were a little looser.
One other controller annoyance was the “use item button” that I was constantly activating on accident. The same button is used to sheathe you weapon, but if it’s pressed again, it’ll use whatever item was currently selected. I’ll chalk it up as part of the learning curve, but it was highly annoying to accidentally heal myself over and over again, when I didn’t actually mean to.
The visuals are good... for a Wii game. I certainly prefer the high-definition quality of my Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but Monster Hunter Tri had a nice visual style. The game’s prerendered animations are also really well done and probably would have benefited from being in 720p or 1080p. I’ve never actually played either of these games, but the visual style sort of reminded me of the footage and character designs from the online-only games Final Fantasy IX and XIV.
While I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in multiplayer, what it did remind me of was Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast. Monter Hunter Tri also supports the Wii Speak accessory, but because I do not have that device, it was not tested. The game does have an in-game chat system where messages can be sent easily to the members of your party. I can see the benefits of the Wii Speak, but at the same time I think allowing the use of a headset would have been a much better way of communication.
Overall, I was really impressed with Monster Hunter Tri and I can absolutely see why it’s so popular in Japan. I was a bit surprised to see how much the game made me think of Red Dead Redemption. I will definitely be playing more of this game post-review and I really hope that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 would receive a port or sequel of this title, as I would definitely prefer to play it on either of those systems. I highly recommend checking out Monster Hunter Tri. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and it may give you some faith in the Wii that a game doesn’t have to have “Mario” in the title to be good.