At some point about 5 months ago, Capcom put something in my food.
That’s my theory at least.
You see, for some inexplicable reason about 5 months ago, I became very interested in Monster Hunter Tri. And I’ve never been interested in the series before. True, the visuals grabbed my attention at first, but the more I read about Tri and the series, the more interesting it seemed. Having a static character with no leveling has been one of my highly desirable features in an RPG. Yeah, doesn’t seem like an RPG if that’s case, I know. But I think the point should be that the characters get better with a specific thing by using it repeatedly. [Muramasa had a similar approach where you leveled up by choosing different swords.]
Monster Hunter isn’t exactly that, but it’s somewhat close. After playing Tri now for 10 hours offline, it’s more or less what I expected, and I’m enjoying it. The starting few hours are basically a tutorial, but the gist of it is that your character improves weapons and armor to take down bigger monsters. To improve armor and weapons, you need to collect different ingredients.
One significant draw for me is that the game requires that you pay attention to what you’re seeing, especially in fights. And thus, the game is known for being difficult. For example, it has no lock-on while attacking, but the reason is that where you hit the monster is important, as the graphic below illustrates. A lock-on target system would take away a part of the strategy and skill of the game.
You have to mine, fish, farm, forage, and, of course, hunt to collect the ingredients. Reminiscent of my Everquest days, the monster might not drop the needed ingredient every time, so I might need to defeat it a few times–as in tri, tri, tri again. And some fights with monsters might take most of the 50 minutes you have to complete the quest, especially if you’re soloing.
But the fights–that’s where the game shines. You might spend a bit of time preparing for a fight–maybe upgrading your weapon or armor but also collecting materials for health and stamina, for traps and bombs to use against the monsters. So, you have less urgency and the game somewhat slows down. But when you take that quest, the timer starts and the pacing changes. You have to hunt the monster, you see. Isn’t that clever? The map is divided into several zones, and, unless you have particular armor, you might not know where it is. And once you find it and weaken, it can run to another zone, requiring you to find it again, unless you hit it with a paintball so that you can now track it across zones.
This isn’t a hack and slash, though. You can’t stand there and attack a monster. You might spend as much time dodging as swinging. And there’s no health bar to tell how much damage you’re doing. No flying damage numbers with each hit. There are indicators for you and your weapon, but for the monster, you have to pay attention. Is it drooling? When does it attack? How? Does it run when injured? Certainly, it’s a variation on finding the patterns in shoot ‘em ups and other games. But it feels fresh as an action RPG.
I’m not doing the game justice because it has several little things to enjoy and appreciate. Also, it has its share of frustrations. For example, the game has a lot to learn, and if you read the info on Monster Hunter wikia, you wonder how anyone would learn the weapon trees and such on their own. And while the game has shed the Wii Friend Code system, it’s still not easy to add friends, even if they are on your Wii friend list. You can only send messages to people that are online, requiring to coordinate with friends offline. Still, it’s an improvement because adding people you meet online is certainly easier.
Through these 10+ hours, I have more personal investment and satisfaction than I had in 70+ hours of Final Fantasy III. Yes, I can customize my character in many ways, though not as extensively as some games now allow–no getting that particular nose and bottom lip that I’ve always wanted! But it’s more than custom appearances or my selection of weapons and armor.
Maybe it’s that I have a 10-year-old son who’s trying to assert himself and do more for himself, but the game reminds me a lot of that satisfaction of doing something hard, doing it your way, and then enjoying that satisfaction, even though you might have had doubts. The game isn’t holding your hand. You don’t necessarily know the right way to play, but you’re learning a way. Beating diablos is satisfying because of your preparing for it, watching and learning the creature. Who knows if getting that one ingredient to make that one extra dung bomb might not make the difference in completing or failing the quest.
So far, I’m enjoying Monster Hunter Tri, and I’m anticipating some lunch time gaming. My son has created his character and wants us to play together. Once again, gaming brings families closer.