Sweet As Syrup: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate Review

It’s been a while since I’ve tackled a Monster Hunter game! I’ve made it no secret that I love this series, even despite its faults and dated features. For as flawed of a game series as Monster Hunter can be at times, it does a lot of stuff right. It offers an action RPG that is both entertaining and enjoyable with a ton of unique and interesting monsters. As a result, its garnered an immensely large fanbase in Japan. The series didn’t start becoming big in America until just recently, though.

The Monster Hunter game I’d like to talk about today is the black-sheep of the Monster Hunter family: Monster Hunter 3 / 3 Ultimate. This was the game that a lot of hardcore MH fans had mixed feelings towards. This was justified, as the game tried to introduce new concepts and gameplay mechanics into the series, but weren’t implemented as well as they could have been. What we ended up with was a game with a lot of unique ideas and concepts, but fell flat in what it was trying. Let’s discuss this game and see if it is truly worthy of the Monster Hunter title or not!

monster_hunter_3_ult_3ds
If that dragon isn’t careful, he’s gonna end up being another armor piece for that guy.

Background Information

The third entry in the Monster Hunter series was initially released as “Monster Hunter Tri” for the Nintendo Wii in 2009 in Japan. It was later brought over to America the following year. The game did marginally well in terms of game review scores, but received mixed reactions from fans of the series. A few years later, Capcom would release Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for Wii U and 3DS, which was an expansion to the original. It added new monsters, new quests, new armor sets, along with various other things.

Monster Hunter 3 was originally marketed in America using a commercial campaign featuring a character called “Iron Beard McCullough”. I’ll be honest, I loved these commercials, as did a lot of other people. The commercials were charming, featuring a boisterous man with a Scottish accent who often brag about how real hunting paled in comparison to that featured in the game. The commercials were immensely enjoyable, and Capcom ended up making a whole mess of them. Sadly, the character is now mostly forgotten and Capcom didn’t even bother to bring his back for 3 Ultimate. Regardless, it remains one of my favorite commercial campaigns for any game.

Plot

Our starts in calm and serene fishing outpost, known as “Moga Village”. This small village works as hard as they can, gathering fish and expanding their trade. Unfortunately for them, their peace is shattered when a series of earthquakes strike the village. This causes chaos, which  urges the village to seek help. A Monster Hunter is sent to help solve the villages woes and destroy the monster causing the quakes, and this hero is you!

As with Monster Hunter 1 and 2, the story is pretty basic. Seems like there’s a bit more detail this time around, though. Parts of the plot didn’t make sense to me. Like, why not just move the village instead of killing giant possibly extinct sea monsters? I guess you can’t run a fishing village without wiping out a few dozen species of sea creatures! I can’t believe I’m actually over-analyzing the plot to a Monster Hunter game…

Gameplay

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate brings the MMO-esque action-RPG elements of its predecessors into the one place it has never been before: Underwater. Yes, you heard me right, this was the first (and so far only) Monster Hunter game to have underwater sections. The gameplay on land remains mostly the same. You pick from 1 of many weapons to bring out in into the field, you craft and bring your own armor with you, and you fill up your inventory with all kinds of items necessary for the quest. It’s your standard stuff for a game of this genre.

While fighting on land, you can gather materials in order craft new gear or supplementary items such as pitfall traps and paintballs. Using your own weapons in conjunction with items is a good way to succeed in this game. It’s not all about your weapons and armor, but also about what kind of tricks you bring to the party. Want to stop your enemy in its tracks so you can pound him? Catch him in a trap. Want to temporarily blind an enemy? Use a flash bomb. There are countless ways you can make use of the various items you have in your repertoire.

What I enjoyed most about Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was the increase of things you can do in the village. In other MH titles, the village was mostly where you crafted new gear, bought items, and occasionally spoke with a villager who had a yellow sign above their head. This game introduces things such as “Villager Requests”, which involve you doing various random tasks for villagers. This could in turn reward you with good items or bonuses.

You could also trade with the Argosy Captain, who can exchange rare or useful items with you. Some items in the game can only be obtained by trading with the captain, so be sure to do this often! In all honesty, you will probably not need a lot of these items. A lot of them are fairly superfluous, and most can’t be used in crafting. They are mostly useful in the farm, or for decorating your house with furnishings.

Furnishings are the worst addition to the whole village experience, in my opinion. Furnishings feel less like unique additions to your house, and more like pointless knickknacks that you place around the room. I know that furnishings are a small feature, and I shouldn’t be too annoyed about it, but I love room customization. Not only are the furnishings pointless baubles, but they can only be put in select locations in your house. There’s only three spots where you can put a furnishing and that’s it. Unsurprisingly, this feature was cut out from future games, probably due to the pointlessness of it. Even though I appreciate the attempt to had customization to the game, it just ended up feeling pointless.

Other things you can do in the village include the farm from previous games. This allows you to cultivate items such as mushrooms, bugs, and herbs, all items that will be useful to you in some way or other. In all honesty, I enjoy the farm, even if I don’t use it all that much. It’s fun talking to the various characters that populate the farm, and it adds a fair bit of unique extra activities to the game. It also feels relaxing, especially when compared to some of the intense boss battles in this game! You can do the aforementioned Villager Requests to improve the farm even more, adding additional accouterments to the farm and allowing you to gather items of high value.

You can also send out fleets to acquire even more items, such as fish. Probably the biggest addition to the village is an area known as “Moga Woods”. You can travel into Moga Woods and battle both monsters and collect various items. This grants you points, which can be used in the village as a secondary currency. Also, turning in hunt reports not only nets you points but also bonus items!

The improvements to the village are probably my favorite thing about this game! I think it’s time I stopped stalling though and discussed one of the weakest parts of this game: Underwater combat. While ground combat remains mostly the same, underwater combat changes up the dynamics of the game considerably. The basics of ground combat are there: You wield a big hefty weapon while wearing bulky armor (which surprisingly doesn’t weigh you down underwater) and have to do battle against a giant monster. Adding a third dimension to the mix is where things get a bit problematic.

You now have to account for controlling the camera in a 3D space while making sure you are close enough to the monster to deal damage to it. Normally, I find the camera to be a bit of a non-issue in the 3DS Monster Hunter titles. You have the automatic camera lock-on feature, which was introduced in this game. This allows you to focus on the boss and only the boss. One press is all you need to constantly track your prey no matter where you are on the map. Pressing the L button will snap your camera into a position where you can the boss instantly. Sure, it’s fairly useless when you are facing two bosses, but it’s still fairly handy.

Now, that doesn’t so bad, but things start to get shaky when you throw in underwater combat. You now have to adjust the camera constantly, while at the same time trying to be close enough to your arch-enemy to do damage. You also have to dodge underwater, which is difficult when you are facing a specific direction. I know that the camera is easier to control with the Circle Pad Pro, or with the New Nintendo 3DS. However, I don’t really believe in buying a new peripheral just to not suck at underwater combat. The battles proved easy enough to not feel too tedious regardless. Thankfully, you don’t have to be underwater for the whole fight. Enemies usually resurface multiple times, so underwater combat doesn’t ruin the game for me.

To be fair, I’m not against the idea of underwater combat. While its true that water levels in videogames usually get bad-raps, but the idea of going underwater in Monster Hunter is a fun concept. It’s like Endless Ocean meets Jurassic Park, it seems like a fun idea that could further flesh out the world. I love swimming around underwater in MH3U, because it’s fun to explore the watery depths. There’s some nice scenery underwater in the game, and I loved little touches like being able to spear sharks or catch fish swimming around in schools. It’s stuff like this that adds to the feel of this game, it feels unique when compared to its competition. The problem is that even though the underwater exploration is fun and unique, the combat isn’t.

The underwater aspect feels really hit-or-miss, but I think it shouldn’t have been removed from future titles. I have a strong feeling that if this feature was more polished, it could’ve been kept in or even made into its own game. The idea surrounding it is novel enough and all of the working elements are there, it just needed more polishing. Maybe have it so you only fight large monsters on ground, but you can adventure underwater for additional materials or to hunt smaller monsters. While I enjoy the improved vertical-combat in later games, I still miss this attempt at trying to bring underwater mechanics to the hunt.

Aside from the iffy underwater combat, I find that this game is pretty top-notch over all. The graphics are nice, and I love that they decreased the difficulty for beginners. Combat is far more approach, although there were some bosses in the game that I find to be fairly annoying. Duramboros is a good example of this, a monster with a sickeningly large amount of HP. The thing is massive too, and overall the fight against him felt boring.

Another thing I didn’t like was that they replaced Palico cats with the Cha-Chas. The Palicoes were great teammates, but I always found the Cha-Chas too annoying. It doesn’t help that you can’t really change their design, aside from what mask they wear. They lack creativity and adorableness when compared to the Palico cats from Monster Hunter Freedom Unite.

The last thing I want to touch on is multiplayer. As previously mentioned, this game was released on two different consoles: Wii U and 3DS. The Wii U version features online multiplayer, while the 3DS can sadly only do local. I only have the 3DS version, so I’ve only played a few matches with some friends who have it. Sucks that the 3DS one lacks online multiplayer, but the difficulty was approachable enough that I didn’t feel the need to get other players to help me.

Visual Stimuli

The game has fairly good graphics for a handheld game, though definitely lacks polish. Character models seem a bit dated, and several backgrounds seem to lack oomph. Underwater areas looked fantastic though, looking fairly gorgeous and having a good bit of detail to them. Armor and weapon designs are top-notch as usual, with a lot of them looking really awesome or really bizarre. Frame-rate seems to be fairly consistent, at least during my play-through

The music in this game is fantastic! It’s got the usual theme song, along with a ton of new themes. I especially love the calm serene village theme or the upbeat farm theme, this adds a lot to my enjoyment of these areas. This game lacks voice acting and populates its world with people who have a tendency to grunt and magically project text boxes. 3 Ultimate brings back the amazing CGI cutscenes, which have become a staple for the franchise at this point. I always enjoy the cutscenes present in the game, as they add a whole lot more depth and detail to the world. This game has fairly okay graphics, amazing sound, and beautiful cutscenes. While all those things are normal for this franchise at this point, I still find them to be an amazing thing, especially in this current game industry!

In Summation

Like a lot of people, I consider this game to be the black sheep of the series. It lacks the finesse that previous games brought to the table, as well as lacking the difficulty previous games had popularized. Still, its a far more approachable game due to its lacking difficulty and has a lot of heart to it. The underwater sections are so-so, but its still fun to adventure through the depths for precious minerals and rare fish.

The game brings the amazing music and gorgeous cutscenes of previous games, while also adding new features like more stuff to do in the village as well as a unique hub area for multiplayer. The story to this game is bare bones, but this is pretty par for the course when it comes to Monster Hunter. Despite some forgettable or downright obnoxious boss battles and forgettable underwater combat, the game is still a fair bit of fun.

It lacks the polish that previous MH titles had, but it’s still fairly entertaining. This game is as sweet as syrup, but difficult to reccomend. There are so many other better Monster Hunter games out there to play, and I feel that this one is definitely one of the most lacking entries. There’s elements to enjoy, but also a lot of stuff that feels forgettable. While it provided a good basis for later entries, it just failed to impress as much as the other games did.

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