Monster Hunter 3 Impressions
Plus, videos of senseless monster slaughter.
The last time I played a Monster Hunter game was actually through Monster Hunter 3. Back at TGS, I rushed onto the show floor on the second press day and found that the line had already reached the four hour mark. Thinking that I was out of luck, I went to conduct an interview with producer Ryozo Tsujimoto and was all set to beg him to let me play, when I found that Capcom had actually set aside a version of the game just for that purpose! So I got to play the game, and I remember totally loving it (here are the impressions I wrote for IGN back then).
It's possible that I was at the time just excited at being able to circumvent the massive line, but my initial impression of Monster Hunter 3 today after playing the Monster Hunter G demo wasn't nearly as positive. In fact, at first, I found myself wondering what the appeal was.
The biggest problem I have with the game is its controls. They feel so dated, lacking basic features one expects from an action game. You can't fix your sights on a single creature. And you can't, in general, strafe. Even without these, the control scheme still manages to feel too complex, making use of every button on the Classic Controller.
Monster Hunter fans should note that these "limitations" carry over from other entries in the series, so I assume they're intentional. If you're used to it as is, you probably won't take issue with the Wii version controls. I find the controls awkward, but I'm hoping this will improve with play time.
I played the demo using the type 1 Classic Controller scheme, by the way. This basically mimics the PSP version of the game, with buttons used for attacks, as opposed to the type 2 scheme which uses the right analogue trigger for attacks like on the PS2. The game also has a Wiimote/nunchuck control option which adds a few motion controls but doesn't feel too far off from the Classic Controller options.
Outside of the controls, Monster Hunter 3 also has another strange quirk that carries over from past titles: load points. As with past Monster Hunter games, the main worlds of play are split into small areas. I understand the gameplay reason for designing the world like this, but what I don't like is how the game flashes a gaudy now loading screen when you cross these areas. This totally takes you out of the immersive experience. On the Wii, the load times are extremely short -- maybe one or two seconds -- so I'm wondering if Capcom can do something a bit more subtle.
Those oddities aside, I did find myself enjoying Monster Hunter 3 after a few plays of the Monster Hunter G demo. I mean seriously enjoying it. I've cleared both stages of the demo and can't wait to replay them with a different character class.
[end_p text="More Monster Hunter 3 impressions, and some videos, after the jump" /]
There's one obvious things to like about the demo and probably Monster Hunter 3 in general: presentation (aside from the load points). Visually, this is probably the best game I've yet seen on the Wii. It's fun to just walk around and look at the gorgeous scenery. Creatures are also detailed and feature life-like animation. Aurally, the game is normally all environmental sounds, but when you approach your primary foe, a thunderous orchestral score accompanies your fight. The creatures are also gifted with calls that sound like they were pulled right out of Jurassic Park.
Presentation aside, the real draw for me ended up being the actual monster fights.
Each of the demo's two areas of play requires that you find and kill one particular enemy: the raptor-like Dosujagi in the easier of the two stages, and the bird-like Kuripeko in the harder. You can see the enemy position on the on-screen map, so you know where to go. Monsters in MH3 roam about freely through the world, moving between areas just like you.
In the demo, the creatures didn't seem to actively pursue me between areas. However, they would occasionally flee if I started to overwhelm them. Dosujagi, in particular, seemed to always make it back to a central nesting ground, where a bunch of smaller foes were waiting. I think they're there in part to protect him, as they charge at you if you approach Dosujagi when he's resting.
This lifelike behavior for the enemies looks like it's going to be one of the game's biggest draws I imagine taking on the more advanced creatures will be even more enjoyable, especially when played with a large online party of friends.
I put together a couple of movies to show some of the finer points of the game.
First, the creatures. This video shows the Kuripeko creature from the second and harder of the two missions. This creature will call small reptile creatures into the fight when he senses danger. But he's more than capable on his own in a fight, with a varied array of attacks both close and mid range. He also has a pretty solid defense in that he can simply fly away to another area of the world, and you'll have to make a potentially lengthy trek to chase him down again -- not good when the demo's 20 minute time limit is running out.
This next video shows off the environments. Even though the load points are frequent, Monster Hunter 3 makes up for the shortcoming with a breathtaking, expansive world. In this clip, I end up going under water, making use of the swimming feature that's new for part 3. While submerged, still have full access to weapons and items, and I use my broad sword to kill a few peaceful creatures. Yes, I did feel a bit guilty for it.
Monster Hunter 3 is the second major demo release in a week, following last week's Final Fantasy XIII. Regardless of the awkward controls, I see myself playing a lot more of the Monster Hunter 3 demo over the coming weeks. Let's hope the full product is not too far off.