It’s been a while since I last sat down and played Monster Hunter on a handheld device. Four or five years, in fact. I still remember the long summers and late school nights spent huddled over my PlayStation Portable, cutting down huge beasts and scurrying around for materials. “Just one more,” I would always think to myself, blindly pushing ahead just to get that next set of armour or shiny greatsword.
Things have changed a lot since Monster Hunter Freedom Unite debuted in 2009, however. Having fallen out with Sony over localisation efforts, Capcom turned to Nintendo to champion their addictive action franchise. Eagerly, with its consoles selling by the bucketload, Nintendo took up the offer, giving many PlayStation fans little choice but to retire their handhelds for good.
Though the series has continued to prosper under Nintendo’s banner, one complaint often levelled at the series is how it fails to cater to a wider audience. In Japan, Capcom has opened the doors to other platforms but overseas, fans have been strictly limited to one or two despite its growing popularity in the west.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for iOS may not resolve this issue but at least provides the publishers another avenue with which to flog its acclaimed franchise. As the name suggests, this is a direct port of the PlayStation Portable classic, but comes complete with updated visuals and fitted with touchscreen controls.
After creating your very own character, players are dropped into a vibrant yet perilous world populated by friendly settlements and gigantic beats. With no set story in place, you are free to roam the wilds, constructing your own narrative from the numerous scenarios and encounters you experience while playing.
Though often branded as a role-playing series, Monster Hunter is much more action-orientated and doesn’t carry many of the experience/levelling systems found in genre stalwarts such as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. Instead, progress is solely determined by which beasts you have slain and the weapons and armour you take into battle.
It has to be said that, for new players, the first hour or so may prove off-putting. In an attempt to ease you into the flow of the game, progress in Monster Hunter will inevitably feel stunted to begin with. However, once past your first “boss” creature, the doors really start to open and it isn’t long before you’re sucked in for hours at a time.
When first announced for iOS there were always fears that touchscreen controls simply wouldn’t work with Monster Hunter. They’re certainly a boon for the seamless inventory management but combat manages to feel a tad slower than in the PSP original. Players, especially on smaller devices, may also suffer from the amount of obstructive yet necessary clutter which populates the screen during play.
Wanting to get a feel for the attuned control system I played with three weapon types including the nimble dual daggers, the cumbersome hunting horn, and long-range bowgun. Despite being a little finicky and at times imprecise, the melee weapons held up quite well. The bowgun, however, required a lot more effort to control, even with the new third-person targeting option.
In a nutshell, touch controls are serviceable but inherently flawed. Capcom knew this, however, and wasn’t under the delusion that a port could solve this long-standing problem. Instead, this port passively nudges players towards investigating the growing range of iOS-compatible controllers.
This is exactly what I did, but after sifting through dozens of videos, customer reviews and shop listings, I couldn’t bring myself to buy a controller. This was on the grounds that they were either unreliable, of poor build quality or simply too pricey. For a decent, compatible gamepad you’re looking at forking out at least £45 on top of the game’s already steep asking price of £10.99. The current market for iOS controllers isn’t something Freedom Unite can be blamed for, though.
As it stands, Monster Hunter’s latest handheld offering is solid but certainly isn’t for everyone. As with any game in the series, newcomers may not be able to trace the “hook” that has latched onto so many dedicated fans. Returning players, on the other hand, may be equally put off at the prospect of replaying the exact same content put in front them five years ago. If Capcom would have ported Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate then the appeal would be far greater.
Make sure you come back next week to see how we get on with Freedom Unite’s online co-op. Wi-fi enabled play has been shockingly absent from every handheld entry in the franchise and could therefore be this release’s secret weapon.
Sounds like an interesting port, but I imagine I’d find more enjoyment from pulling my fingernails off than playing this game with touch controls.
What’s up with the weird angled screenshot? Reminds me of the typical off-screen leak at an angle.
Hmm, I’d be tempted to give it a shot just to see how it feels but at £10.99 it’s just too pricey, combined with the fact I can play my original PSP copy on my Vita with dual thumbsticks, and I’ve got MH3U on 3DS and Wii U too!
It’d be a bit of a novelty for me, but if it helps grow interest in the series, and Capcom see’s fit to push the series onto other platforms (i.e. the Vita and PS4) then it’s definitely a good thing.
How are the graphics by the way? Much of an improvement?
It definitely looks nice though not much of upgrade from the original version. Asking for creatures and armour sets to be remodelled is too much, it seems.
How does Touch Screen, in any way optimise the hunting?……
Inventory management is quicker and can be done on the fly. As can change ammo type when using guns. That’s about it, really.
Slightly off topic but still iOS related but you can get the fantastic Rayman Fiesta Run for free from expedite.
Last year’s MH4 has online co-op on a handheld already.