As someone who has poured nearly 800 hours into the series, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate has been a game I've been rather excited for. So when the demo appeared on the 3DS eShop, I quickly downloaded the trial to see just what had change in the latest installment. To my surprise, I found myself not only pleased with its graphical power, but also with the weapons I used to hate.
Once you start the demo, you have the choice of an easy and hard boss battle. You can either fight the mutant-rabbit Logombi or the difficult and obnoxious Plesioth. Regardless of which monster you fight, you will choose from the same ten characters. Each character has one of 10 weapon types and a unique set of armor. The weapons include every one used in the series thus far, with the except for the medium bowgun. Sadly, I was unable to view the details of the weapons or the armor such as defense, resistance, attack, and armor exclusive attributes.
Each weapon seems to have been tweaked since Monster Hunter Tri. From videos I have seen online, most of these tweaks come from Monster Hunter Portable 3rd. Some of these include the dual swords having a bar that builds up to increase the attack, creating an explosion by slamming the gunlance into the monster's face (very satisfying), and the switch axe actually being usable.
Joining you in your battle are Cha-Cha from Monster Hunter Tri, and Kayamba who is new to the series. I found both of them rather helpful. Whenever I was stuck in a giant snowball from the Logombi, one of them usually came to my rescue. They seemed to be much faster at using the healing and status buff dances than usual. I honestly forgot how entertaining their dialogue could be when fighting monsters. I chuckled a bit when Kayamba ran away from the Logombi yelling, "Kayamba did not sign up for this!"
As far as controls go, they are rather flexible compared to the PSP. You can either use the directional pad under the analog nub or its digital counterpart on the right side of the bottom touch screen. I appreciated not having to use the "claw" (controlling the camera and direction you move with the same hand) because the analog nub makes it impossible. That's not to say that the camera is perfect, but it is far more adaptable than before. The only real issue with the camera comes in the underwater sections of the quests.
When you fight the Plesioth, you will have to dive after him in the water occasionally. In order to swim deeper or resurface, you have to use either direction pads to move the camera in the appropriate direction. This can be cumbersome, but the monster did not change his depth too often. Another little detail that I would like to see adjusted is "snapping" the camera to where the character faces. It's not that it doesn't work, but it is not as responsive as it was on the PSP. I feel that I have to press the left trigger too hard for it to work.
Speaking of that cursed Plesioth, the dreaded "hip check" appears to be gone. For those unaware of the equally cursed hip check, it is a notorious move from the PSP games. The walking fish will thrust his hip to attack you. Even if you're 10 feet away from the attack it will still manage to hit you. Image my surprise when I was able to side-step away from the attack at near point blank range.
Also on the bottom screen are buttons to zoom in on the map, access the item pouch, and one that glows when the monster appears. While the map button was all I found useful, it is nice to at least have the options available.
As I hunted each monster, I was rather pleased with the graphical improvements it made. The hunter, Shakalakas, and monsters had much more details, more fluid animations, and the 3D effect really helped add depth to the game's environment. As far as I could tell, the HUD was the only thing in the game that really "popped" out of the screen. Overall, this game really feels like a step forward instead of a measly port with a few bonuses.
I have hunted each monster multiple times with different weapons, and was pleased with each battle. While using the camera underwater is still a bit cumbersome, I believe that Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate will be a treat for both beginners and veterans of the series. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to kill some more obese rabbits.