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Monster Hunter Tri (Wii) artwork

Monster Hunter Tri (Wii) review


"The gorgeous visuals aren't just window dressing, either. They lend a distinct vibe to each environment and they remind you where you are at all times. That's important when your continued survival often requires that you don't let yourself forget. A pool of stagnant water could mean that a monster is lying beneath its surface, after all. Bubbles rising from a suspicious plant along the floor of a tranquil pool of water could mean that a monster lurks just below the muck. The level of immersion is breathtaking at times."



Monster Hunter Tri is a hardcore game for Wii that-- Wait, did I just type 'hardcore game for Wii' with a straight face? I believe I did. There are hardcore games for the system, you realize. Monster Hunter Tri happens to be one of them, and what's most important is that it also happens to be a good one.

In Monster Hunter Tri, wiggling your Wii Remote like a dork won't get you anywhere. That's not what makes the game hardcore, though. What makes it hardcore is the way that the game takes the established rules of the genre where it most comfortably fits--the action-RPG--and breaks them without showing even the slightest sign of remorse. Leveling up your character won't let you get past a tough monster when your wits aren't up to the task because here there's no such thing as a level-up system. If you hunt or capture a new monster successfully, it was no accident. You tracked that monster. You found the location of its lair. You scavenged for components, had a smith build you some fabulous armor and you trained like nobody's business. You learned to know how the monster would behave and you developed strategies to counter each of its most fearsome attacks or to take advantage of each brief moment of weakness.

The dedication required to excel at such a game isn't something that everyone can or even would want to muster. The experience isn't for everyone and I'll freely admit that there were moments when I wondered sincerely if it was the right experience for me. Playing Monster Hunter Tri, I often found myself yelling at my innocent television screen, grunting in frustration as my warrior fell to the ground unconscious for the hundredth time. I spent hours building the perfect suit of armor, knowing that my efforts would only take me so far and not even having a lot of fun at the time. There were numerous occasions when I conquered a beast and instead of feeling like I had triumphed, I realized that I had barely scraped through the battle and found myself hoping that I would never need to do so again. Yet every time that I started to wonder if all of the effort was justified, every time that I felt a bit too thankful for a harrowing victory, something happened to remind me that I was experiencing something special.

There were several reasons for that sentiment.

The first reason is one hundred and twenty hours. That's the amount of time that I spent playing the game's offline mode, without ever venturing online to slay monsters with friends. That's the amount of time that it took me to work my way through to the last single-player campaign and the figure doesn't even count post-game content that followed once the credits rolled. The number of hours that you spend working through the game could be much lower. It could also be higher. No matter how you look at it, Monster Hunter Tri is big.

Another specific thing that I loved about the title was its visual design. Picture waterfalls cascading over rock walls, lush foliage rising from a wall of mist, sharks swimming through deep blue ocean water, waves lapping on the shore of an island as molten rock pelts a sandy beach. Envision clouds of sandy grit rolling across a desert, ancient ruins built along a cliff and now submerged in water. Now imagine that it all looks terrific, not just one scene at a time but also in the way that everything comes together in each region. There's more at play here than just graphical horsepower. The artists responsible for Monster Hunter Tri worked in concert to create a credible island paradise to serve as your lethal sandbox. By Wii standards, at least, the game is gorgeous.

The gorgeous visuals aren't just window dressing, either. They lend a distinct vibe to each environment and they remind you where you are at all times. That's important when your continued survival often requires that you don't let yourself forget. A pool of stagnant water could mean that a monster is lying beneath its surface, after all. Bubbles rising from a suspicious plant along the floor of a tranquil pool of water could mean that a monster lurks just below the muck. The level of immersion is breathtaking at times.

Equally important, though, is the way that the monsters you'll be hunting benefit from Wii's horsepower. You'll watch monsters leap, pounce, breathe fire, roll into lethal balls and careen wildly around the spacious environments located across the island. Every change from the norm could be a precious clue. A limp means that you need to watch for your quarry to beat a hasty retreat. Wing tips knocked quickly together could mean a flurry of stomps and pecks from a large, winged foe. Black tendrils of smoke rising from its nostrils could mean that the beast you're hunting has gone berserk and that you should keep a safe distance.

Not only are there a bunch of powerful monsters on the island--all animated exquisitely with visual cues aplenty--but there also are swarms of weaker critters that will join their larger counterparts in battle. It's not uncommon to begin a battle against a lone Great Jaggi monster, then to see seven or eight smaller enemies scurrying around its feet... then to see those foes joined by a Qurupeco bird and maybe even a few thieving Felyne enemies. There were many instances where I expected the on-screen action to slow to a crawl. There were too many limbs flailing about, I figured, but I was wrong.

Monster Hunter Tri is a game that is easy to appreciate for such technical accomplishments, but those accomplishments don't always translate to fun gameplay. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the host of minor irritants that you'll face on nearly every hunt. Examples include the way that it takes so long to reload most projectile weapons in the heat of battle, or the way that you constantly have to combine items just to produce the most helpful items. They include the speed at which your stamina meter depletes if you didn't bring along the right items to negate the effects of cold mountain air or sweltering desert heat. Preparation is a key here, as is focus. There's no "Pause" option. Sometimes the game really could have used one. When you're on the middle of a hunt, you can't let anything get between you and your quarry. I love that about Monster Hunter Tri and I hate it too.

Where will you land on that same love/hate scale? It's difficult to even guess. If you don't have a lot of time to put into your next gaming experience, well, you'll probably not care for this one at all. There's too much armor to be constructed, too many weapons to master and too many monsters to hunt. If you've been looking for a challenging and rewarding experience, you've found it. Monster Hunter Tri isn't just one of the most hardcore titles on the Wii system; it's also one of the most extreme hunting games available for any platform. How many action-RPGs can truly say that?

Rating: 8/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (May 21, 2010)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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zippdementia posted May 21, 2010:

Alright. You've sold me, Jason. I like your praising review better than your bash reviews. You have a better demeanor for praise.

And here I swore I wouldn't buy a Wii game outside of Metroid. You have broken my vow with your awesome recommendation.

In short, and to say it again: brilliant review. My favorite part is how you openly admit how frustrated you were and how little fun you had at times. That's what an action RPG is all about, especially the hunting games. They are supposed to beat you up.

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