March 31, 2013
In many ways, the story mirrors that of Monster Hunter Tri, which released on the Nintendo Wii. In the port village of Moga, a great earthquake has left everyone concerned for their home. The village chief decides to hire you, the hunter, to slay what he believes to be the monster behind these quakes. In order to do so, you must have the approval of the guild by working your way up the ranks until you are ready to face the dreaded beast.
The only "difference" in the story is that you save a Shakalaka child (a green, tribal pigmy) named Kayamba, as well as Cha-cha from Tri. They also have an interesting history together that will give you a few chuckles.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate's gameplay can be intimidating at first, but it is all about learning and progression. The first thing to understand is your weapons. There are ten weapon types in all from the hulking Great Sword to the Light Bow Gun. While some weapons appear similar, each one is unique. One weapon may have heavy damage, but another may have fast attack speed. Aside from these two attributes, each weapon can also have status or elemental attributes that can make up for a lack of damage or sharpness.
Weapons have also had a combat revision. They each have some changes in their attack pattern, and it works to your benefit. While some are simple tweaks, a few of these changes can change the tide of battle.
After weapons comes armor. There are a total of six armor pieces including armor charms. Other than looking cool and increasing your defense, they all have what are called Skill Points. If the points add up to 10, the skill takes effect. This could mean that you have higher attack, reduced stamina depletion, or that you can gather more quickly.
Some skills can have higher levels of activation if you forge skill jewels and attach them to you weapons and armor. For example, the defense skill has three levels of effectiveness. Simply have the points add up to 10, 15, or 20. However, some pieces of armor and weapons cannot have a jewel attached, while others can have 2 or more at a time. Some jewels may also increase and decrease a skill simultaneously. Using skills takes some thought, but it can be the difference between success and failure.
If you want to view a skill before buying the armor, highlight the armor in the forge, press the trigger buttons to view the skills, or press Y on the highlighted armor to scroll down and get a detailed description.
You also need items for the hunt. There are many items in this game. You have your potions, steaks for stamina, paintballs to mark a monster on a map, shock traps, various bombs, and much more.
Items are not just for battle, though. You may need a pickaxe to mine for ore or a bug net to catch rare bugs. Now why would you want to do this? You need them to not only create your traps, bombs, and potions, but also to create and upgrade your armor and weapons. At some point, your weapons will not be powerful or sharp enough to kill a monster, and your armor will not have enough defense to protect you. You will need these items to upgrade them. Though killing monsters will reward you with carves, it is rarely enough for the forge.
You can also eat before you leave on a quest for various status buffs that will be very helpful, such as increased health and getting an extra carve from a monster.
Now that everything's in order and you're prepared for the fight, you can now venture out for some hunting. From here, things might seem quite simple as you'll cut, slash, shoot, and hammer each monster until its dead so you can carve its battered body for items.
Don't think it will just take a beating, though. You will need to learn its movements to know when to attack. For instance, when the Rathian breaths fire, it's often three times back to back. This gives hammer users time to attack the head and possibly stunning the monster leading to more easy hits.
Careful though, every monster can become enraged. This means they breathe smoke and their attacks and attack speed increases. If you don't understand you opponent's attack pattern, you will take considerable damage and may even faint. Thankfully, you have to faint three times for the quest to end. Oh, and be sure you win within the time limit.
Once you kill the monster you will receive reward items and money. The items mostly come from the monster's body, but you will sometimes get ore and other items. You will use these items to make or upgrade armor and weapons based off of the monsters you defeated.
Also to note, many monsters have breakable and cut-able parts. If you smash a talon or cut off a tail, you can be sure that you will get more, sometimes rare, reward items and be able to get a carve off of the tail. Also, it's just rewarding to see a monster freak out that you've maimed it.
If you're not hunting a monster for carves, then you are hunting them for Resource Points outside of the village. You need these points to upgrade your farm, fishery, and to build new masks for the Shakalakas to help you in combat. You also get rewarded items for each kill that can increase the farms harvest or be traded for rare items.
For those concerned about the difficulty, this is possibly the easiest Monster Hunter game released in the West. Though it still holds a challenge, you are less likely to rage quit than you would, say, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. In fact, after 40+ hours of play, veterans may still be looking for a challenge.
The touch screen is fully customizable. This clears up the top screen and makes some tasks much easier. If you're in the village, the touch screen will change to let you search for hunters, view the forecast, check on your farms, and show a mini-map of the village.
There is also an icon you can add for battle that will allow you to lock onto a monster by pressing the left trigger button, which makes the camera more manageable. That's not to say that it doesn't require practice, but it works surprisingly well. Speaking of the camera, yes, underwater combat is still disorienting, and it will require practice to master it.
Generally speaking, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is an excellent improvement over Tri. Not only is it in 3D, but the animations are more fluid. The game is more vibrant and has far less brown. Many of the weapons and armor look like they have been given an adjusted appearance.
Sadly, there are some issues with the 3D. One is that it does not work well with dialog text. For whatever reason, the dialog font is fuzzy in 3D. Also, you may find yourself not using the 3D much at first because of how chaotic battles can be.
The music is mostly the same from Tri. This is neither good nor bad. Most of the music serves as background noise, but the village music is rather enjoyable to listen to.
As far as missions go, there is much more to do beyond the "story". You can also visit Port Tanzia. This greatly caters to veteran hunters by not only increasing the difficulty, but allowing you access to new monsters much quicker. Speaking of new monsters, they are full of personality and originality. From a moronic, armored bear, an armadillo/ant-eater hybrid, and a sand monster named Nibelsnarf, each new monster is a blast to fight.
You can access downloadable missions from Port Tanzia that you downloaded from the home screen. From there you can get various types of quests as well as free content such as free Resource Points and costumes. Other quests include Arena Missions where you choose from predetermined armor sets, weapons, and items to fight a monster for coins in an arena. You can sell or trade these coins for new equipment at the forge.
Tanzia is also where you will go to play local and online multiplayer. Sadly, you need a Wii U to play online. Speaking of online, there is also the Felyne Courier who will help you share your Guild Card with others. Your Guild Card is customizable and shows your stats to other players. Tanzia will also let you access your farm and fishery at Moga. With this, another forge, shops, and even a bed, you can stay here the entire time with little inconvenience.
The replay value has always been enormous in the Monster Hunter series. While for those who felt that Tri was small, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate makes up for this with Port Tanzia and downloadable content. Combine this with online multiplayer and many new monsters, and you have a game that will easily last hundreds of hours.
While this is the easiest Monster Hunter game in recent history, this also makes it the best Monster Hunter for anyone new to the series. While there are issues such as dialog font and online multiplayer, this is a game you will be playing for a very long time – if you can master it.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS.