Upon announcing Monster Hunter Tri as a Wii exclusive, Capcom triggered a heated frenzy among fans of the ultra-popular franchise, but why? Originally Monster Hunter started life as an action RPG for the PlayStation 2 back in 2004; it was largely overlooked, especially in Western territories. However, those who stood by the game and dug a little deeper soon unearthed Monster Hunter’s staggeringly-impressive online component, supported by a mature, robust community. It was this PlayStation-based group of devotees who also threw themselves behind the portable instalments of the franchise, MH: Freedom and MH: Freedom 2.[drop]Within a few years, the Monster Hunter series had gone from cult status to a mainstream hit, tucking numerous sales records under its belt. It was an exciting time to be an MH fan; the prospect of Capcom marrying the Monster Hunter template with the PlayStation Network would make you giddy just thinking about it. Dozens upon dozens of rumours and statements were in constant circulation as Capcom prepared to drop the details on the next product in the franchise, though no one was expecting what came next. Monster Hunter Tri was to be launched exclusively for the Nintendo Wii.
For those who had supported the franchise via Sony consoles, it was both frustrating and confusing. With the PlayStation 3 literally about to take off, and with its technical capabilities, launching Monster Hunter Tri for Sony’s next-gen platform seemed like an absolute no-brainer. The decision to release Tri on the Wii felt as if Capcom was trying to maximise its potential from the next Monster Hunter game, but only in terms of sales. Combining the colossal Wii audience with the series’ already expansive fan base, at first it was as if Capcom had found an easy way to print themselves money.
When Tri finally released in 2009 (UK-2010,) the game found moderate success, especially among critics, though in everywhere apart from Japan, where it shipped over a million units within six months, sale figures were looking bleak. The overall reception of Monster Hunter Tri in no way empowered PlayStation fans to take a “I told you so” stance; it may not have expanded the series’ overseas fan base, but it was still an absolute cracker of a game.
In premise, all Monster Hunter games are identical. You create your own rookie hunter, who is then dropped into a fictional settlement from which they can explore the surrounding lands and complete a number of quests. Doing so will not only earn you respect and cash but when a monster has fallen in the field, you can literally carve materials from their bodies, and then use these scraps to forge your own equipment. It’s an addictive formula which still doesn’t show its age, even after seven or so years in circulation.
What makes the games even more exciting is the actual combat; tracking down a huge beast is only part of the fight. The high-profile monsters are usually huge in size, each having their own unique attacks, attributes and behaviours, which all have to be monitored if you are to ultimately outwit your opponent. Not only do players have a choice of several weapon types, but they can also use pre-purchased or crafted items in the field. Keeping a healthy stock of potions, energy rations, and offensive gadgets such as shock and pit traps add a unique twist the gameplay, making a change from a head-on clash of fangs and swords.[drop2]As an action RPG, Monster Hunter is centred on character development. With no plot arc to consider, your only incentive to even play any of the games is to inflate your ego and gather components to build better weapons and armour. There are no classes, though your playstyle is determined simply by your weapon choice. Each category has its own designated moveset and stats, from bows, daggers, and lances to guns, great swords, and hammers. Each weapon is treated differently and can be upgraded.
What makes Monster Hunter Tri truly remarkable isn’t the wealth of customisation options or intuitive gameplay, it’s the online functionality. Though there is a certain level of satisfaction from playing solo, if you have neither the skill nor patience, you will eventually run into a barrier, not being able to proceed further. However, using the combined talents of up to four hunters, the difficulty is drastically reduced, and the Monster Hunter experience becomes infinitely more fun. This is the very best online title available on the Nintendo Wii for hardcore gamers, and is unlikely to be dethroned, even after the consoles intended lifespan.
If your Wii is starting to collect dust, and you have yet to get stuck into the Monster Hunter franchise, there is no better place to get started. Getting online is fairly hassle-free, and there is still a huge multiplayer community who are happy to engage with anyone, whether you are just making your first steps or tying up the final cluster of end-game monsters.