Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a challenging game to review. Normally, I would prefer to hold off writing my reviews until I’ve completed my assigned game. That’s usually not a problem, but Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a game without a discernible end. There’s a loot and gear-hoarding aspect to it; you always want to have better and better armor and weapons like in Diablo or World of Warcraft. And also, like those games, there’s no real point where you are “done.” What makes Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate stand out is the way you get this gear. There aren’t any dungeon crawls, or 25 person battles. Aside from the occasional mission to hunt a little fodder, or gather a specific ingredient, each quest you undertake will have you and up to three of your friends hunting or capturing monsters that get ever larger and ever more fearsome. Your experience can even get up to a point where it seems ludicrous that you could ever hope to bring them down with a sword that is one thousandth their size. In short, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a series of crazy boss battles that I find wildly fun, especially with a team fighting alongside you.
The Ultimate Hunt Requires Preparation
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a very difficult game to understand at a glance. You have a dozen different weapon types, each handling different from the rest. The Dual Swords emphasize quick attacks and quick escapes. There’s the Hammer, which is exceedingly slow yet delivers extremely powerful crushing blows. There’s the unusual Hunting Horn which doesn’t only bludgeon your foes, but can be played like a musical instrument to give buffs to you and your teammates. There’s also several weapons that attack from a distance, including the Light and Heavy Bowguns. That’s a lot to cover, and it’s one of the first decisions you make in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. Sadly, one of the problems of the game is that it doesn’t tell you how to use each weapon. There is hardly any tutorial on combat at all. I had to bring up the built-in manual on Wii U (Or 3DS) to get information on how to use my dual blades. The manual is thorough, but I wish I could get some more guided instruction from the game with each weapon type. I ended up sticking with Dual Swords for the longest time and just recently started dipping my toe into Bowguns.
With 12 different weapons, you’re just going to have to pick one and try one out for a while. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is not a game that holds your hand all the time. However, the game does do a good job of using early missions to highlight individual aspects of gameplay. Whether it’s gathering items, hunting small monsters, crafting new items and gear from your spoils, or managing your very own farm, you’ll learn over a period of several hours how the nuts and bolts of the game fit together. Admittedly, four or five hours is a long time for what amounts to a tutorial, but by the end of it, you’ll feel that you understand a lot of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate’s systems and mechanics. I actually found the entire process enjoyable, as if it were building up to a major event. Your enjoyment may vary with your level of patience. Once you complete most of the missions at a given difficulty level, you have to complete an Urgent Mission to get to the next level of missions. It’s a simple, classic progression scheme, but it works.
The Look and Feel of Hitting Something Until it Dies
Controlling your character can be a little bit floaty. Sometimes it can feel like your character doesn’t respond immediately to the push of the analog stick, but it’s easy to ignore and honestly, you won’t notice this in the heat of battle. Swimming can be tricky too, but once you get the hang of it, underwater battles allow for full maneuverability.
Attacking with your weapon is another story. Contrary to many popular action games, you can’t turn your character once you begin a combo. For better or for worse, you will attack in the same direction you are facing until you cease pressing buttons. This means you need to be judicious with your attacks, because a monster might dodge to the side during a long combo and then choose to charge you while you are flailing your swords at nothing but air. You have a dodge roll that can get you out of hard spots by pressing the B button, but you can’t interrupt an attack to dodge out of the way; you can only do this between attacks. Also, not every weapon has this kind of dodge. My dual blades do give me increased mobility, but they have no block functionality whatsoever, whereas the sword and shield has a great block, but doesn’t deliver really massive damage.
Thankfully, the monsters you fight in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate will stop in an area long enough for you to get some hits off. But in order to really succeed, you’ll have to watch your targets and learn their patterns, their tells, and their animations, just like a good old fashioned boss fight. For example the Barroth, a giant lizard beast that likes to play in mud, will back up a few steps and lower its head before charging; a great signal to get out of the way. The Lagombi, some kind of snow owlbear, has a unique animation before he does a tricky attack, where it spins itself around in a circular arc, knocking aside anything it slams into. Fights can take upwards of twenty minutes or even longer, and without a lifebar over your quarry’s head, it might be difficult to tell how long you have until you win. Even here, analyzing your foe is useful. Weakened foes will pant, drip saliva, or limp. Their attacks become either more feeble or more desperate. The very fact that fights are long and challenging make the feeling of success that much greater. It’s like every great feeling you got from defeating a challenging boss in a classic 8 or 16-bit game. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate delivers these feelings about two or three times an hour and that’s the real appeal of the game in the forms of taking down these giant, crazy, fearsome beasts. I just want to see how far I can get before I hit that proverbial wall.
You’ll Never Fight Alone
You will hit that wall. You will fail somewhere. It might be taking down a particular creature or hunting for a particular item. I was looking for Fertile Mud and searching in dung piles wasn’t giving me any luck. I happened to hear how to collect Fertile Mud over the voice chat in an online game on Wii U. You can hit the mud off a Barroth and, if you get lucky, you’ll be able to pick it up. Having that told to me from another player rather than looking the information up on a FAQ felt like a veteran hunter passing his knowledge to me. I sincerely believe that the developers at Capcom planned for this kind of exchange.
To play multiplayer, you’ll board a ship from Moga Village to a place called Port Tanzia. Port Tanzia has all the same shops as Moga Village and you can even access your farm and trade routes. One thing that’s different are the missions. There’s an entirely separate mission progression on Port Tanzia and you can tackle the missions online, in local multiplayer, or solo if you prefer. There’s also plenty of free DLC quests that can be played in Port Tanzia. These DLC quests are available on both 3DS and Wii U versions of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and they are updated every Tuesday.
Multiplayer on the 3DS is limited to other 3DS owners in the nearby vicinity unless you use a tunneling application on the Wii U. Even then, it doesn’t feel quite “right.” The Wii U version of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate allows local multiplayer with 3 other 3DS owners, and it features full online play with voice chat thanks to the built-in microphone of the Wii U Gamepad. Everyone I ever played with was friendly, patient, and helpful. People are eager to help each other with whatever they need. It’s really something.
Fighting monsters in a group is a totally different experience. Your attacks can strike your allies which doesn’t hurt them, but it does interrupt whatever they were trying to do. You have to find a place around the monster without getting in anyone’s way. Monsters tend to focus on only one target at a time, which means that you won’t be the focus of all its ire. Of course, tougher monsters can do things like surround themselves with electricity, which can lead to four dead adventurers if you’re not careful.
One of the best parts of multiplayer is that it’s where you’ll learn a lot the things the game won’t tell you. The game is slightly vague when it comes to how to trap and capture monsters, but a player I was in an online party with told me how to achieve this: “Wait until the creature limps from one area to another, then follow it, hit it with a shock trap, and finish it off with 2 tranquilizer bombs for the guaranteed capture.” In days of yore, gaming lore was passed from person to person via oral traditions and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate continues this. The best experiences you’ll have, and the most knowledge you’ll gain, will be from fighting alongside fellow hunters.
Wasn’t it Designed for Handhelds?
On the 3DS, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate looks great, with some decent draw distances, and environments that are decently detailed. Some areas come off as dark or claustrophobic, especially the waters of the Flooded Forest, but I marvel at the detail that Capcom’s packed into this game. While the 3DS version of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate supports the Circle Pad Pro, there is a way to put a digital D-pad in the touch screen for easy camera manipulation. It’s a great substitute.
On the Wii U, it kind of looks the same. The game is in HD, sure, and some lighting effects look better, and the draw distance underwater is better, but the textures just look like upscaled 3DS textures. While the graphics aren’t going to be the selling point of this game, the Wii U version looks particularly underwhelming, given the potential of the system. The text, especially dialog, is smaller than it needs to be. I shouldn’t have to strain my eyes to read anything in a console game, period. It may be the only version with online play, but man oh man, I just wish it looked better. The Wii U version can be controlled with the Wii U Gamepad, Pro Controller, or Classic Controller. The Gamepad is the best option because it contains the same customizable extra info on the screen as the 3DS version’s bottom screen. There’s no off-TV play, but that will be coming in a patch dated for April 15. That patch will also enable cross-region online play between Europe and North America.
There’s one other thing I want to mention that affects my review of this game. There is a thing called a “Charm Table,” which determines certain kinds of charms that you can get in your game. Charms are equippable gear that can improve various stats. The Charm Table your character will use is essentially determined by the time of day your character was first created. This seems fine and all, but out of the 17 possible Charm Tables, 5 are considered “cursed” by the community. This means that the charms you can get from these tables are considered much worse than anything else. Some may see this as a minor issue, but with all of the thoughtful system design in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, why does this exist?
Join the Hunt
Gripes aside, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is the first time I’ve been really thankful I own a Wii U. It’s not a system seller, but it does its part to justify owning a Wii U. If you own that platform, and you want a hardcore game, you’re done looking; this is it. Not only that, but Miiverse is perfect for this game; there are plenty of questions being answered in the Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate Miiverse community. I can’t find a more accomodating or friendly group online than the Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate community.
The 3DS version is a bit of a harder sell. If you don’t have any friends nearby who are also playing it, I can’t recommend picking it up. This game lives and dies by its multiplayer. If you can, I actually recommend picking both up. I don’t know if Amazon is still running the deal where if you buy both versions you save $20, but there is a downloadable app for the 3DS that facilitates transferring your save game between both platforms. It works without error or complaint, and even let me pick up the guild cards I had found in StreetPass on the 3DS version and applied it to the Wii U version after I transferred.
I can say that the pace of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate might not be for everyone. Sometimes, you’ll need to farm some resources for your next big hunt or you’ll need to do some resource management or crafting. There’s definitely times when you’ll need to compare two sets of numbers to decide which ones you like better. But it’s all calm before the wild storm of fighting crazy creatures that just refuse to go down and the joy you feel when they finally do succumb.
Ted played up to the 4-star quests on Moga Village, and made it partway through HR2 in multiplayer. He played both on Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, and logged approximately 30 hours before writing the review. Capcom did not provide Ted a review copy of the game.
+ Tons of missions, never run out of things to do
+ Great online play
+ Wonderful social experience in and out of the game
+ Simple, rewarding crafting system
-Wii U graphics underwhelming
-Combat has a moderately steep learning curve
-In-game tutorials could be more thorough
-Charm Tables are bad design
Available on: 3DS, Wii U
Version Reviewed: Wii U