Felyne Chef now serving T-Rex Tri-Tip Steak.
More startling than Monster Hunter Tri (otherwise known as Monster Hunter 3) being on the Wii due to budget costs is the theme of Capcom’s event for the game at the Mezzanine in San Francisco which Duke, Chris, Blake, and I attended: middle school. The moment we entered the club-turned-classroom - replete with desks, chalkboards on wheels, waterless aquariums filled with rocks and faux-fossils, and PR staff dressed up as professors - we were told to expect an initiation lecture by the developers. (Trust me, there’s nothing like our beloved Capcom’s Mr. Chris Kramer drilling us to use the Wii Classic Controller Pro… while he’s holding a large wooden stick.) We were also given schedules and class participation assignments where we had to earn stamps by completing two demos in order to receive our "complementary" gift bags at the end of the night. So there you have it, this preview is officially homework.
[image1]This third console installment of the hugely popular Monster Hunter series has already been released in Japan, to the tune of more than one million copies sold so far, some of which came in bundles with the fabled black Wii console. But we didn’t let that dampen our dinosaur-slaying spirits in our hands-on time with the US-localized version of the game, which can be played with either the Classic Controller or a Wii-mote and Nunchuk. In fact, that only made us want to slaughter overgrown lizards even more.
Monster Hunter Tri doesn’t stray too far from the formula of a third-person action hack’n’slash that has you slice and dice
totally innocent evil creatures that just happen to go about their business are always killed in self-defense. You accept a quest suitable to your level, equip appropriate gear, comb through the environment, slay whatever beast is necessary, and strut back to camp in the hopes of crafting even better gear with the beast's remains.
Weapons, armor, and items are once again the key to victory, as there are no "levels" or "experience", so grinding for materials is just as important as exploration and battle prowess. None of the usual item gathering, raiding, foraging, mixing, fishing, hunting, cooking, and farming were shown, but from what can be surmised by the list of items in the demo’s supply crate (including Torches, Mega-Potions, and Dung Bombs), there should be no shortage of loot-based concoctions in this installment. Anything less wouldn’t be Monster Hunter.
[image2]The new story mode (wait, there's a story now?) revolves around deadly earthquakes that have been ravaging Moga Village, and apparently, monster hunting will eventually lead you to the source. Once you are fully prepared for a hunt, you step into a number-marked environment in search of your mark within a time limit – roughly 30 to 45 minutes for easier beginner quests and 15 to 30 minutes for craftier, more challenging prey. Eventually, you will scour volcanoes and the depths of the ocean waters to reach your goal, a nice change of pace to the boundless number of flatlands.
Every monster tends to be bigger than you are – the bigger, the badder – and aren’t as dumb as their supposed peanut-sized brains would have your believe. They will knock you down, force you to run and evade, call in backup monsters, and run off to other parts of the map (luckily, we had tracking armor). You can gulp down a potion at any time, but every attack and item usage takes several seconds to complete, so combat prowess usually requires more strategy than ultra-aggression.
The demos at the event showcased the four-player online mode, which had us select our class by our weapon of choice: longsword, great sword, hammer, lance, bowgun, and the new switchaxe (a sword and an axe in one!). Surprisingly, lag was never an issue, which is a promising indicator for how the game’s touted Capcom-hosted servers will work without the need for friend codes. However, we didn’t get word on whether the Western release will have monthly fees for online play (hopefully not) and whether WiiSpeak voice chat will be supported (hopefully so).
[image3]Since enemies become stronger as more players join the fray, working together as a team is essential. If one player falls unconscious on the battlefield, that person is carted back to home base by their companion Cha-Chas, which look like miniaturized dancing wooden shamans, and the monetary reward for the quest drops a notch. But if a few players are just fooling around or getting their noob-ass kicked by Barroth The Tyrannosaurus Rex, you won’t have to worry too much about them. Anyone with enough potions and tenacity should find themselves standing over their prize in due time.
The Monster Hunter series has always had trouble carrying its overwhelming success in Japan (where Famitsu magazine gave it a perfect 40/40 rating) over to American shores. The choice of the Wii platform for Monster Hunter Tri won’t win over players that are bedazzled by graphics, but its depth and multiplayer features will likely launch it far above the common sleeper hit. Look for Monster Hunter Tri to rummage its way onto store shelves on March 30, 2010.