Did I pack everything? I know I forgot something.
Some of my friends have babies and toddlers, and the level of preparation needed for even the simplest trip to the grocery store is astonishing. Child seats? Check. Babies dressed? Check. Diapers? Check. Snacks? Check. Juice? Check. Tippy cup? Check. Stroller? Check. Toys? Check. Favorite stuffed animal? Check. Baby wipes? Binky? Talcum powder? Blanket? Check. Check. Check. Check.
[image1]By the time they're done, they're likely to have forgotten their driver's license (or sanity), and have to go home to start all over again.
I'm finding myself doing all the same sorts of things just to go adventuring in the ultra-complex, strangely compelling, and awkwardly named Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. You know it takes a weird parent to give their kid a name that strange.
Do not take it lightly when I say this is one of the deepest, most complex, learning-curve-like-scaling-Everest RPGs ever made for any system. After all, I play Eve Online, a game so intimidating it has its own staff economist and a quarterly economic newsletter. Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is one seriously daunting game for newbies.
The reward for that level of difficulty is that MHF Unite is also the biggest little RPG you can imagine. With over 400 missions, tons of rare monsters and rare loot, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of hours worth of gameplay stuffed into it. If you've ever played that intellectual exercise “desert island” with your friends, this is the game you want to have with you - along with a Solio solar PSP charger, of course.
[image2]The only problem with this is that, if you've played Monster Hunter Freedom 2, you've already played most of this game - a fact made obvious when you import your hunter over and discover your house, your farm, your fishing dock, and all your stuff unchanged. Sure, there are some improvements in managing your inventory, but for the hardcore fan, there's only one new area, some new items, and five new monsters to hunt.
Unite is less of a sequel and more like a “game of the year” edition. However, unless you're from Japan, where the Monster Hunter games regularly outsell tentacle porn, you probably haven't played the first 400 hours of this game yet. And if you have, you're already a hardcore fan and you already bought the game, so what are you reading my review for?
Good, now that those guys are gone, I can tell everyone else about the game. You are a monster hunter. You live in Pokke village, and you go out and hunt monsters and skin them. That's not just the plot in a nutshell, that's the entire plot. There's no princess to rescue; no dark evil threatens the land; there's no mystery to uncover. So load up, boy, and let's do some huntin' an' skinnin'!
And loading up is where you'll spend most of your time playing MHFU, because you never level up yourself – this RPG is 100% about the gear. Making that gear involves an in-depth crafting system that would put many MMORPGs to shame. Component parts include particular bits of monster, fish that you catch, plants from your farm, mined minerals, insects, and fungi. Varieties of all of these can be found in special locations on your hunting trips and also by upgrading your fishing dock and your farm and the like.
[image3]Before you leave, you'll also need lots of other equipment to maintain your gear and, well, yourself. Different environments will require different versions of armor so that you don't sweat or freeze to death, and you'll need food to keep your stamina up, equipment for cooking, healing herbs, and tools to maintain your weapons which wear out at an alarming rate. This is one complicated hunt.
You also have Felynes (walking, talking cats) that you can hire to cook in your kitchen and (new to Unite) join you in the hunt. The Felyne chefs can make you nutritious meals that boost your stats if you bring them the right ingredients, and they have sufficient culinary skill. The new option to have a Felyne hunter join you is nice, but they're definitely there as a support unit and won't be winning any fights for you.
For that kind of help, you'll need to turn to Unite's deep, four-player multiplayer system. In fact, there are a whole series of hunts that require you to get a little help from your friends. And they probably will be your friends, as it's a local-wireless-only affair. Alone on that desert island, some parts of the game will be off-limits until another castaway washes up on shore.
Meanwhile, back at the hunt, combat is done in a third-person action affair with some of the best graphics ever seen on the PSP. From your lovingly rendered, oh-so-important gear, to some truly huge monsters to kill, this is one gorgeous game. Although, unfortunately, you'll be looking at it from often unhelpful angles.
[image4]Rather than trying to develop a smart camera, Capcom simply gives you control of the camera with the D-pad. Your thumb, however, is usually busy trying to dodge monster attacks. Fans of the series insist this is a feature and have developed some unique ways to hold the PSP to try and control both at once. However, what the game really needs is simple: a lock-on.
There's a reason that Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is both the most read and most requested FAQ over at GameFAQs: It's an unbelievable dense and complicated game. Surprisingly, this is both its greatest strength and its biggest weakness. For the initiate, it's an intensely intimidating experience, while for the hardcore, it's vastly rewarding. Where you fall on that scale, you'll have to figure out for yourself.
There is simply so much content in Unite, it gets my recommendation sheerly on a bang-for-the-buck basis. About the only thing it's missing is a pet pig you can dress up like a watermelon. Oh, wait. It has that.