Ok, so I'm a big Monster Hunter fan and should probably state that before I go into my impressions of the Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate demo on the Nintendo 3DS. I've been looking forward to this game for months and months, and with the demo finally coming out, I got a chance to see how the game will play. I've played Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for over 500 hours, and Monster Hunter Portable 3rd for over 200 hours. This game is the updated, upressed version of Monster Hunter Tri, which I put into the least amount of hours, in at about 60-70 hours. I barely scratched the surface of the online content, but I did finish the offline quests. Anyway, my point is that I prefer games with content rather than polish. However saying that, I did eventually get into Portable 3rd after a while. It has a really nice aesthetic and some really beautiful graphics for a PSP game. I didn't care for MH Tri too much. Playing with poorly implemented online gameplay mechanics and servers, weird, unpredictable people online swinging Switchaxes wildly, and a rather odd (and small) selection of Monsters throughout an online set of quests didn't really work too well for me. I really hope I enjoy Monster Hunter Tri Ultimate more than the original Wii game, but that is why my feelings for the game are slightly mixed. I still have that shit preordered, don't worry, I'll be playing it when it comes out.
So for those who don't know, the Monster Hunter games are somewhere in the grey area between action games and action RPGs, with no actual levelling up or stats for your character EXCEPT those derived from your gear, for which there are no pre-requisites. Instead, you collect items and materials from monsters you defeat and can forge weapons and armour sets from those items. There is always a massive amount of content in the Monster Hunter games, and with the addition of G-rank (the highest division of quests ie. Low Rank, High Rank and G-Rank quests) there is a lot more, and a lot of it will more than likely will require a lot of co-operation with friends or people online to get through.
Many people will know one thing about Monster Hunter in general. Its a difficult series - out of the couple times I've tried it so far; out of say three attempts at fighting the Urukusu (or Lagombi as its now called) in the Novice quest I beat it in about two of them. I'm really not used to using Ranged weapons such as the bow. I thought I was doing ok; the big rabbit was weak and limping to the next area, I was doing pretty well by using up my traps, bombs etc and then I ran out of time. Maybe I should stick with blademaster (I've always stuck with weapons I can block with: Sword and Shield, Lance, Greatsword, with the exceptions of Hammer and Longsword.) In terms of weapon types, it uses a good selection (a lot more than MH Tri, and about the same set we saw in MH Portable 3rd, well, we referring to Japanese audiences. MHP3 didn't release in the west.)
Graphically the demo didn't really impress me at first. Thats not to say the graphics are poor, no, absolutely not. The animations and shadows are incredibly fluid and smooth. The resolution of the screen was what confused me at first. Everything seemed very hard to read and appeared a bit smaller than I would have wanted. I'm not sure if this would be better on a 3DS XL or not, or if its due to the 3D technology of the top screen (I always seem to notice some fuzziness on the top screen) but something seemed a bit off initially. After putting some more time into it, I got used to the size of things, and after moving the 3D slider up for most of one of the quests, actually started to feel differently. Graphically it does use the technology pretty well. It somehow looks better than the Wii version.
One of the hit or miss areas for novice Monster Hunters are the controls. They often require you to scrunch the tendons in your hands into positions that they really shouldn't go, and develop something me and my friends call the "Monster Hunter claw." Tri Ultimate still has awkward controls, with the demo version not supporting the Circle Pad Pro. They've added some interesting new features though; a virtual D-pad on the touchscreen and a fairly useful (but possibly controversial) lock on function where you can automatically snap the camera behind you to focus on the large monster you're fighting. These are in an effort to make the game more easily controlled (and arguably accessible to newcomers to the series) and go some way to helping things in terms of the controls. I'm not sure if my gripe should be with Nintendo or Capcom, but the fact that the actual D-pad is directly underneath the Circle pad means its almost impossible to use both in tandem. But the other option like the lock on and the virtual D-pad mean that you won't be lost too often. I have to admit, when I first jumped into the water to fight the Plesioth, I could not even figure out how to submerge and swim underneath. Controls could still be an issue for putting people off this game. I'm really considering a Circle Pad Pro or even a 3DS XL to get a more comfortable experience out of this game and other ones.
The audio seems strong, with a lot of quality in sound effects and soundtrack songs. The only downside is that a lot of it is recycled from other games. And thats the story for a lot of the aspects of Monster Hunter. The series is solid, but doesn't actually change too much between games, unless of course you compare games from different genres i.e Monster Hunter Freedom Unite compared to Monster Hunter Tri. I just hope there is even a fraction as much content as there was in Freedom Unite, which can keep you occupied for hundreds, maybe even thousands of hours depending on your experience and enjoyment.
So for me, I'm definitely looking forward to this game, but with some worries. Will the Wii U and 3DS interchangeability work out as planned, will I get both versions and risk bankruptcy, will I have enough time for a massive time sink like this at a crucial time of my degree? I've got the game preordered and will be looking forward to jumping back into one of my favourite series on March 22nd.