Although the game's graphics have been significantly improved over the recent PSP outings, the developers have retained the original art style. The environments look very similar to those in past Monster Hunter games, only now using high-res models and better textures. While it may not match the best of the best on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, visually I found the game incredibly pleasing on the eyes. The deeper you get into the world the more exciting it becomes. Perhaps the most exciting moments come when you first realize that you can dive underwater and explore parts of the world that have up until now been completely undiscovered. These underwater areas come with their own unique monsters to hunt and effects to see. It all adds up to a very impressive package on a technical level.
But just as the water hit my face, all of the things that annoyed me about the gameplay came flooding back. I was reminded that in order to hit an enemy, you need to have to be facing the exact right direction. Or how a single press of the attack button may result in a five second long animation that leaves you vulnerable. Or how the world doesn't feel as open and alive because it's always split into smaller arenas. These are just a few of the questionable gameplay decisions that marred my experience with the game.
Perhaps my biggest complain comes from the control set-up itself. The button configuration feels like it was assembled at random. While there are plenty of buttons they could have mapped commands to, the developers have decided to make things as complicated as humanly possible. Buttons will do multiple things depending on how you're standing, you will use the face buttons (instead of a D-pad or analog stick) to cycle through your available items and at times the game actually forces you to switch between the control and the Wii remote. It's as if the game was developed to be as unintuitive as it could possibly be.
While there's no doubt that hardcore fans of the game will get used to the awkward controls, it makes me question why some of these gameplay decisions were made. A big problem you will hear leveled against this game (and rightfully so) is the lack of a targeting button, something that locks you in line with your prey. This is the kind of thing that adventure games have been doing for a decade, so it feels a little strange to not even have the option to turn it off or on. Everything about the gameplay has been streamlined in newer games, yet this game gives off the impression that it's not interested in what everybody else is doing. Sometimes that can be a good thing, but in this case I found myself fighting with the control more than the monsters themselves.
While we're on the subject of controls, it's worth noting that the game's default set-up (which involves the Wii remote and nunchuk), is virtually unusable. The only way to play this game is with one of the two Nintendo Classic Controllers. And wouldn't you know it; Capcom has decided to launch the Classic Controller Pro as a pack-in with certain versions of Monster Hunter Tri. Using the analog sticks and the face buttons is a dream when compared to the clunky Wii remote set-up. Without the Classic Controller simple things like moving the camera or using potions are turned into frustrating challenges. If you're going to pick up Monster Hunter Tri, make sure you have the right control for the hunt.
This is a game that will no doubt benefit from a complete lack of competition. There aren't a lot of online multiplayer adventure games on the Wii, certainly none that have this level of depth. Wii owners are used to getting mini-game collections and watered down ports of Xbox 360 games. But Monster Hunter Tri is different; it's a big game that was designed from the ground-up for the Wii. It's hard not to be excited about such a big game hitting the console. Even if that means we have to put up with annoying friend codes and Nintendo's woefully inadequate online infrastructure.
Despite what some of the outspoken fans might thing, Monster Hunter Tri is far from perfect. The gameplay is a mess, the game is far too daunting for a solo player and there's no story to speak of. However, the game's strong online component helps make up for some of its shortcomings. I can't imagine anybody having a bad time with this adventure game, but it's important to know what you're getting yourself into before you make that leap.
Monster Hunter Tri has a lot of things going for it. It's the biggest adventure game on the Wii, has phenomenal graphics and offers gamers a robust online experience. Unfortunately it also has control issues, no story and a frustrating difficulty. Even with these flaws, Capcom should be proud of what they were able to do with the Wii hardware!
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