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First Impressions: Monster Hunter Tri
by Sean Engemann

Monster Hunter Tri, a highly successful and highly acclaimed title released in Japan last August, will be hitting U.S. and European store shelves in April. Having earned the illustrious and seldom given 40/40 score from Famitsu magazine, Monster Hunter Tri has revitalised the series from its stagnant PS2 and PSP forbearers. This time around, Wii owners are reaping the benefits of being the least costly platform for game development, as this game was originally designed for the PS3, but budget constraints shifted the game to become exclusive to Nintendo’s current gen. console.

After being announced for localization in Europe and the U.S., Capcom has worked hard to ensure that the game is tailored to its respective audience. The game will boast impressive online capabilities for the Wii, utilising the Wii Speak, an onscreen keyboard, and a USB keyboard for ease of communication between players. The content for Monster Hunter Tri has also been significantly upgraded, offering a vast selection of new monsters to hunt, all visually stunning and insanely large and intimidating. To combat these mammoth beasts, you are given an arsenal of disproportionately large weapons yourself. From the Great Sword to the Switch Axe to the Lance, these giant tools of destruction make Cloud’s Buster Sword from Final Fantasy VII look like a toothpick. Veterans of previous Monster Hunter games will quickly remember the “potion-pumping”, as you must tailor your battle tactics to keep yourself alive with items while trying to subdue your foes. Along with potions, you have access to an expansive inventory that can be stocked up with various materials you forage, mine, and harvest off of fallen prey, which are then combined to create all sorts of useful offensive and defensive items.

The demo, available for free through GameStop retailers, features a very nice taste of many elements of the game. You are able to hunt either the Great Jaggi (a large bipedal reptile) or the Qurupeco (a large avian reptile). Capcom must really have wanted to showcase the difficulty that Monster Hunter Tri will bring, since these two rather simple looking enemies (compared to those seen in the trailer) require several attempts and plenty of strategy to take down. Each has their own specific attacks, which although become predictable, does not make them any easier to defeat. You are allowed to try virtually all the different weapon classes to test their various powers. It is nice to see that each weapon is unique and requires its own learning curve to master, and that some are more capable at handling certain foes, adding even more strategic elements. After trying all the weapons on each monster, I found the Hammer to work best on the Great Jaggi, and the Lance to be very proficient at taking down the Qurupeco.

There are several zones which make up the layout of the demo, consisting of mountainous grasslands, caves, misty crags, and oceanfront vistas. Although you have the capability of testing the waters - literally - neither boss is an aquatic creature, therefore the venue is simply provided as a break from the hunt. You can swim around different rock formations, take in some fishing, or even take down some of the tamed creatures and harvest their meat and bones. However, since you must dispatch your main target within 20 minutes, you won’t have much time to stop and smell the roses… or seaweed. Between dodging and attacking, and chasing after the big baddie when it retreats, you better know exactly what you are looking for from the surrounding plants and wildlife to supplement your inventory, or that timer will expire and you will have just wasted 20 minutes of your life. Hopefully the full version of the game will allow you to at least revisit cleared areas without a timer, in order to fully explore and enjoy what the flora and fauna has to offer. Finally, although the various battlefields were visually interesting, I did feel like I was trapped in an arena, and pray that the finished world is much more open and expansive.

After viewing the cinematic trailer, the world just may be. From the brief clips of the different locales, it looks as if your hunts take you from one end of the globe to another, battling in barren deserts, snowy peaks, molten volcanoes, and of course under the sea. The graphics look to be very polished and lag free, which is surprising considering the immensity of the foes. While we can surmise that the PS3 would have offered absolutely pristine colouring and texturing, Capcom seems to have squeezed every graphical bit out of the Wii. It will definitely be interesting to see how the frame rate holds up when the monsters, background effects, and multiple online players are on the same screen. Which takes me to my final point - multiplayer. While it looks like you are completely within your right to attempt a hunt single-handedly (*gulp*), looking at the trailer it would appear that a well balanced group of heroes is the way to go. Some hunts may be very well near impossible to handle alone, and thus we are blessed with the aforementioned communication tools to hook up with friends (or possibly strangers) and head on out into the field of battle. If successful, Capcom will have finally found a way to breach Nintendo’s limited and often frustrating online venue, which would certainly get cheers from this multiplayer hungry Nintendophile.

Monster Hunter Tri will be released in the U.S. and Europe on April 20th and April 23rd respectively, so get you sharpening blades out and your Broadband cleared, because the hunt is about to begin.


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- Sean Engemann

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