Monster Hunter Tri: The First Bite

By Ishaan . March 18, 2010 . 12:55pm

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Did you ever have to drop a racing game because you either found it too arcadey or too realistic? I’ve done it on multiple occasions for the latter reason. I tend to suck outright at racing sims, and the last time I tried one — GRID — more often than not, I couldn’t make a turn without my car ending up facing the wrong direction. Eventually, I ended up abandoning it to pursue other racers that didn’t make me feel like I was being penalized for — what do you know — driving fast in a racing game!

 

Simulation racers aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, and I have a fair number of friends that swear by them. They’re just too…anal…for me, for lack of a better word. It’s the same reason I dislike flight simulators — too slow, too technical, not enough action to balance out the monotonous bits.

 

Luckily, striking a balance between technicality and fun is something Monster Hunter Tri excels at, if the demo is anything to judge by. Think of it as a hack-and-slash RPG combined with a tracking and hunting simulation. Since I’m new to the monster-hunting craze, I’ll be providing the perspective of a newcomer to the concept. There’s also a lot of information to digest, so I’ll break it up into sections for the purpose of this playtest. Let’s start by discussing character classes.

 

Weapons and Classes:

 

Before I booted the demo up, I skimmed over the instruction sheet that came with it, since it gave you an idea of how to use the different weapons. Classes are based on the weapon you choose. Here’s a quick rundown of each one in the demo:

 

Sword & Shield: Your bread and butter "average" class.

Great Sword: Sacrifices speed for offensive power. 

Hammer: Sacrifices defense for offensive power.

Bowgun: Your long-range class. Comes in light, medium and heavy varieties, which influence speed and firepower, conversely proportional to each other. 

Lance: Appears to be more of a defensive class. Block frequently, strike from a distance.

Switch Axe: Your weapon transforms between an axe and sword. This class had some very interesting effects on the demo, which I’ll detail below. 

Long Sword: Uses a giant Japanese-style sword with a damage gauge that decreases over time. The focus here is to keep your weapon at the highest possible level of damage by using regular moves to hit things. The one you start out with is charged with electricity.

 

Before you’re even in the game, the sheet emphasizes two things, from what I could tell:

  1. Each weapon controls very differently from the rest and requires its own unique approach.
  2. Depending on your preference, you’ll eventually settle on either the remote + nunchuk controls or the classic controller. Both have their advantages.

 

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The Tri demo consists of two quests, both of which are timed. The first, easier one involves hunting down The Great Jaggi (pictured above), leader of a pack of dinosaurs named Jaggis, and clocks in at 20 minutes. For my very first monster-hunting experience, I decided to play it safe and chose the Sword & Shield class, since it’s described as a "basic style known for its flexibility," mumbled a faint "please be gentle with me," and hopped into the game. Since I had no idea what I was doing whatsoever, I took a moment to acquaint myself with the controls.

 

Melee weapons in Monster Hunter Tri perform different moves depending on how you’re holding the Wii remote when you press the A button, kind of like in No More Heroes. For example; the Sword & Shield register holding it straight up, pointed at the screen, twisted to the left and twisted to the right. It’s very convenient not having to use a button to switch between moves. On the flipside, you control the camera with the d-pad like in most Wii games, which initially kept me from touching it entirely.

 

Journey to the Jaggis:

 

Soon after, I set off to find The Great Jaggi, whose position was denoted by a blue marker on my map. The short journey to the Jaggi’s lair wasn’t very interesting in and of itself, since the demo only features one small region, and it isn’t inhabited by much other than your quest target and a few other creatures loitering about. Once I left the camp you start out at, I got a chance to try out my moves on some of the more harmless herbivores wandering about. They appeared to be fairly docile and went down without putting up a fight despite their deceptively large size.

 

However, something that did stand out during the short journey is that the freedom of movement the game affords you is remarkable. For instance, every object in the environment — whether it’s a tree branch or a rock — is modeled using actual geometry. So, if you come across a tree branch blocking your path, chances are, you can crawl under it. While you can’t necessarily climb to the top of every cliff you come across, it is nice that every object on flat ground acts the way it’s supposed to, instead of being an "invisible barrier."

 

This is something a lot of early exploration games like Tomb Raider got me used to, so I always appreciate it whenever I’m granted the ability to navigate through the environment in a manner that I prefer.

 

The Battle with the Jaggis:

 

Once I got to the Jaggi’s lair, spotting the leader of the pack was easy. He was bigger and meaner-looking than the others. Naturally, my instinctive reaction was to unsheathe my weapons and charge right in. By about ten minutes and five deaths later, I had learnt four things:

 

  1. Rushing in and beating things over the head (or tail, or side, or hump) doesn’t work. At all.
  2. …provided you can actually land enough hits, considering the creatures in the game don’t stand still and fight back viciously.
  3. You need to control the camera manually, or you won’t be able to keep your foe in sight longer than a few seconds. There is no form of Z-targeting or auto-targeting whatsoever.
  4. Different weapon classes work well against different monsters.

 

This is where Monster Hunter is a technical game. You aren’t attempting a boss fight — you’re going on a hunt. While you have access to combos, charging headfirst into battle without a plan just does not work. The game expects that you use the full arsenal of equipment provided to you — the traps, the bait, the different varieties of bombs — with careful consideration. Each one serves a specific purpose, and how and when you choose to use them in coordination with your offense is what makes the difference between a quick death and a victory.

 

Virtual Ecosystem:

 

Or a higher chance of victory, rather. For you see, Monster Hunter Tri operates on what Capcom say is a virtual ecosystem. Creatures in the game act independently of one another, although, they are very much capable of influencing each other’s behaviour. The Great Jaggi, for instance, can rally his lesser Jaggis against you. And the lesser Jaggis’s only instinct is to protect the leader of their pack, with no regard for their own safety. Another important factor is where you fight your target. Depending on your class and the creature you’re hunting, an open or closed or small or large surrounding environment makes a great difference.

 

Fighting the Jaggis in a confined space, for instance, means you’re prone to them ganging up on you without much room for you to outmaneuver them. You’d have a much better chance if you managed to chase them into a more open area and laid traps at the exits. This way, you wouldn’t always find yourself on the receiving end of the Great Jaggi’s enormous tail, which he loves to swing about.

 

Furthermore, the creatures don’t follow a set pattern. I played the quest at least five or six times before I was able take down the Great Jaggi, and each time, he retreated to a different part of the map and my strategy for giving chase had to change accordingly. Eventually, I managed to take him down using the Long Sword class — twice. Every other time, I ended up getting myself killed. There appears to be no chance of a guaranteed victory in Monster Hunter Tri. Even in the full game, where you have access to a wide variety of material to craft your own weapons and traps with, it seems the best you can do is prepare as well in advance as possible.

 

The second quest in the demo made this even more apparent.

 

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Hunting the Qurupeco:

 

In the menu, the Qurupeco is described as a creature that can mimic the call of other beasts. I went into the second, harder quest — partially due to the tight 10-minute limit — expecting the Qurupeco to make good use of this ability to rally the Jaggis against me. While I wasn’t wrong, the game surprised me nevertheless.

 

Quest 2 started out the same way as the first one. Locate the blue "target" icon on the minimap, prepare your weapons and item configurations well in advance, and set out for your hunt. I should point out that I stopped killing the herbivorous dinos after my first and only attempt because I felt bad for doing it. This time, however, I tried to see if I couldn’t, at the very least, get a reaction out of them without resorting to violence. Alas, no amount of clapping or bowing or cheering — gestures for the multiplayer mode — in front of them caused any sort of annoyance, so I gave up and moved on.

 

Once I’d found the Qurupeco, I attempted to use the same strategy I had with the Jaggi to take it down: keep my Long Sword’s damage gauge as high as possible, perform rolls to evade often and try to avoid fighting in a closed space. Unfortunately, the Qurupeco had the same idea, largely because it complimented his strengths — flight and spitting acid. To top that, the Qurupeco could indeed call upon the lesser Jaggis and trick them into rallying against me. The usual several deaths later, I switched to the Switch Axe class.

 

Virtual Ecosystem Part 2:

 

Something I’d noticed about the Switch Axe class while fighting the Jaggis was that there was ample opportunity to send them flying all over the place due to the sheer strength of the weapon. I wasn’t even close to figuring out the nuances of the Switch Axe, but I figured anything that would help keep the Jaggis at bay was only a good thing.

 

Unfortunately, the Qurupeco didn’t call upon the Jaggis this time.

 

Once I’d managed to do enough damage to make him retreat, he flew out into the largest open area on the map and let out a call I hadn’t heard before. Immediately, I turned to the nearby cave, expecting a stampede of some sort to come charging out at any minute. The herbivorous lizards from earlier perhaps? They’d run scared the one time I had chased the Qurupeco to their territory, but if he could rally the Jaggis against me, there was no reason he couldn’t do it with those guys. But nope, that wasn’t it either.

 

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Instead, moments later, I spotted a giant shadow fly over the ground. Panicking, I turned around to get a look at it, and was greeted by this absolutely HUGE FREAKING FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON thunderously landing down upon the ground. Seriously. This thing was enormous. Like those gargantuan fantasy-looking dragons you see on Monster Hunter covers all the time. And it looked mean. The only thought going through my head at the time was, "They want me to fight this?!" It was so big, I couldn’t fathom the thought of even getting close enough without being chewed up and spat out.

 

And this guy didn’t care about fighting me. No, he wanted to rip the Qurupeco apart for calling him out…which of course, involved tearing me to shreds as well, since I was right there. And that’s ultimately what ended up happening. This was easily the highlight of the entire demo experience, because it only ever happened once. I haven’t been able to replicate it since.

 

I later learnt via the net that this beast was Rathian, queen of the Wyverns, and one of the higher level creatures in the game that you aren’t supposed to "officially" encounter until much later.

 

Eventually, I ended up using the Medium Bowgun class against Qurupeco, which made things a lot more manageable. Turns out the most effective strategy to taking him on is fighting at long-range in an enclosed area, so he doesn’t have too much room to fly about…provided he doesn’t call upon the Great Jaggi to help him out, which is exactly what he did. In this situation, one of two things will happen:

 

  1. Old Great Jaggi and his pals will tear you limb from limb.
  2. You’ll manage to lure Qurupeco into hitting the Great Jaggi and turn them against each other.

 

Either way, it makes for an entertaining, constantly surprising experience, and playing with the Bowgun class felt like an entirely different game. It involved a combination of pattern memorization, laying traps and gradually whittling the Qurupeco down to exhaustion by constantly keeping the heat on him. The perfect balance between technicality and game-like design. While I haven’t managed to kill him yet, I find the Medium Bowgun has gotten me closest to the goal.

 

Out of curiosity, I later attempted the Great Jaggi quest with the Medium Bowgun class and got my ass handed to me.

 

It’s a good thing Capcom released this demo well in advance of the actual game. From the look of it, Monster Hunter Tri is just packed full of things you wouldn’t expect to see in a videogame, and honestly, I think it could be overwhelming for someone that hasn’t played these games before.

 

As an aside, I’m also super-addicted to the demo to the point where I’ve neglected my homework, which is due tomorrow. And this is just the single player experience. By all accounts, Monster Hunter is meant to be played with other people, and I’m starting to get an idea of how ridiculously fun that could be at this point.

 

Food for thought:

 

1. As odd as it sounds, dying hasn’t felt annoying once, despite my numerous deaths. The game constantly challenges you to be better prepared and focused than you were in your previous attempt, which I really like.

 

2. The controls are amazing. Monster Hunter Tri is an excellent example of how to use a limited number of buttons as a means to streamline control and design. For instance, holding C on the nunchuk accesses the items menu, while giving it a tap centers the camera.

 

3. Likewise, in an odd twist, using the d-pad to control the camera manually doesn’t feel so bad either. Once the game gets you in the mindset of constantly constantly controlling the camera to keep your enemy in sight, it becomes second nature.

 

4. While the game’s "ecosystem" certainly seems to have limitations, they’re masked rather convincingly. For instance, a nice detail I caught was that, sometimes, beasts will make their retreat via routes they know you can’t follow them into, such as a small cave entrance or through the air.

 

5. For anyone that’s wondering in light of my article from last year, no, I didn’t feel like a sinner after hunting down Great Jaggi and Qurupeco. The only time I felt a little pang of real guilt was when I got the drop on Jaggi while he was asleep from exhaustion following one of our encounters. At the time of that article, someone in the comments said that Monster Hunter appeals to a very primal urge, and after playing the demo, I couldn’t agree more.


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  • shion16

    my money is prepared
    when this come out
    ill be there

  • malek86

    I can tell you that there is always a way to defeat any enemy with any weapon. Although, sure, some monsters will be more difficult with some weapons classes (I can’t imagine fighting a Tigrex without a shield). But everything can be done even with just a weapon. So, and considering that upgrading weapons costs a lot, I suggest you specialize on a single class rather than trying to differentiate. Personally, I’m a Lance addict.

    Anyway, having just received MH3, there are some things I like and some others I don’t like. I don’t really dig the new farm system, nor the hunting area points system. Also, as I thought, going underwater isn’t really fun. On the other hand, I like how the maps now handles gathering points (self-regenerating), and also how some of the new monsters look. Oh, they kind of modified the Lance. Now, if you guard and press forward and attack at the same time, you’ll do a shield charge attack that totally blows… it’s distracting. I was used to keep pressing up to hold my position in front of the enemy, even when attacking.

    As a final note, while MHG was extremely sharp, MH3 feels a bit… blurry. Did you notice it too?

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      This is my first Monster Hunter game actually, so I couldn’t tell the difference since I’ve only seen MHG in video form.

      Yea, I figured specializing in one class would be the way to go in the full game…you can’t do that in the demo, though, since there’s only two quests and a tight time-limit. But for the final game, I think it’s a toss-up between Medium Bowgun and Long Sword for me. They’re both fun as hell, but Bowgun is just so versatile with all the different kinds of bullets. There’s a real element of strategy there, even if BGs are just a “support” class.

      Going to take another shot at Qurupeco this weekend. I saw some guy on Gamefaqs say he managed to kill Rathios in the demo but lost to Qurupeco. How the hell do you manage that?!

      • malek86

        Rathian were some of my favorite monsters in MHFU, and not too hard to kill either. Maybe I could do it too… if the japanese demo had lances. But it doesn’t. I was stuck to using the crappy sword and shield. That would explain why I didn’t have too much fun with it.

        That said, this Rathian looks different from the MHFU one, so maybe the attack pattern is also different.

        • 5parrowhawk

          In the MHP3 promo video, the Rathian (or something that looks like it) appears to be using a new attack – it basically roars and rapidly causes a large number of explosions in a cone-shaped area in front of it, something like Kirin’s bolts but with fire element and much faster. Maybe that move was taken from the Wii version?
          Edit: @Ishaan: As general advice, I’d say you want to know at least 2 different weapons, one main one and one backup one for those monsters which are ridiculously tough to defeat with your main weapon. I main LS, but I’d never take an LS to a Basarios or Gravios fight, for instance – LS leaves me with no viable way to defend against their area gas attacks, and I don’t have the reflexes to dodge them. For those I use bowguns.

      • Code

        rar, glad to hear you gave Monster Hunter a shot and enjoyed it and caught a glimpse of why it’s so popular >wwww<''

        • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

          Ooh, I didn’t know you could choose not to kill monsters. That wasn’t in the demo, and I managed to put Qurupeco to sleep every time I used the Bowgun. That’s kind of neat…then again, I wonder what happens to them once you bring them back to camp… >_>

          I’m glad you liked the article. :) Yea, at the time, I felt really uncomfortable with randomly killing stuff, but it’s kind of funny how Capcom have gone to the trouble to make each one ugly as hell. When you’re fighting them and they start to smack you around, it turns into a, “Oh, THAT’S how it is eh?” type feeling. Then you want to rip them a new one. ><

          (the ones like Rathian almost look too majestic to kill, though)

          Hahahaha, I forgot about the kick button! I think I'll start kicking him awake, too. :P

          • Code

            rar, haha >www<''

          • malek86

            “(the ones like Rathian almost look too majestic to kill, though)”

            That’s when it gets even more awesome. You know that feeling of when you defeat someone much stronger than you? Exactly.

            The first time I managed to kill a Shen Gaoren in the story mode (in the Guild missions they have too much health, so I can only win by passing the time limit) I almost did a happy dance.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/ArcadeInfinity scott

      Sword ‘n Shield was never a viable weapon in MH mid-late game. It was mostly considered the newbie weapon just to learn the hang of things till you moved on to stronger weapons. I’m hoping Capcom gives players more (better) upgrade paths for SnS, cuz i would never face Tigrex with SnS.

      • 5parrowhawk

        SnS is good for party support because of the quick item use – if you have the Wide Area skill, using a healing item will heal nearby allies, so you can basically healbot and deal some damage at the same time. With any other weapon, you would have to sheathe it in order to heal your buddies. (edit: or switch ammo loads for the bowgun, or do the ludicrously long recital for HH)
        That being said, the DPS is pretty bad on SnS.
        But then, the LS which I generally use is kind of a newbie weapon too, so what do I know?

        • Code

          rar, honestly it’s all preference imo, you can throw math left and right but when it comes down sitting down and playing for a few hours, you’ll wanna use what you have the most fun with >w<~! Plus the weapon you use most you will usually become most useful with in turn.

  • http://www.twitter.com/christaran Chris Taran

    Very curious to see how this ultimately sells in North America.

    • thebanditking

      Well I can’t imagine those video spots on the Nintendo Channel helping very much, lol. Its so jarring to see the vids Capcom puts together for stuff like Super Street Fighter 4 and then see the Wii ads for Monster Hunter. I know the Wii has (as a whole) a different demographic but still the MH vids are just so bad its surprising they came from the same company.

  • puchinri

    The demo was fun as all hell. At first I felt disappointed, and then I reminded myself that it was just the demo. But it certainly gives you quite the experience.

    I appreciate the variety in the game. When Qurupeco (I want to call it Q-Boss for some reason) called its first buddies to beat me down, I didn’t realize anything even came to its aid until creatures were flying at me and stealing my items. At that point I was annoyed as all heck, and eventually it even called the Great Jaggi on me and its little buddies. And funny enough, I didn’t die once against the Qurupeco compared to my 6+ times of dying against the Great Jaggi, but I did run out of my time.

    Simply because of the many scenarios alone (monsters retreating one direction, others taking you down or trying to tear up your prey, etc) I’m excited for the full game. At first it was every bit of it, and I’m sitll excited to immerse myself in it all, but now I’m anxious to get in and see more of the possibilities.

    • Quitto

      you can use the Dung bomb on the monsters to drive them away from the area, its extremely usefull when dealing with Qurupeccos allys :)

      • puchinri

        Thanks for that! I generally forget about the dung bomb whenever I need to use it. I’ll definitely use it next time (and remember that for in-game). C:

  • Jaxx-Leviathan

    I literally felt a shiver of excitement down my spine when I read about your Rathian encounter, that whole scenario is just so awesome because you can’t predict it happening. I was excited about this game before but now I can’t wait after having read this article. Regarding the guilt of killing monsters, I can understand it and in many other games I have felt bad or avoided killing monsters whom I deemed didn’t deserve dying. But this game puts you in the role of a hunter, a person who has to kill these creatures either for selvpreservation, in form of food- and materialgathering or protection of self and loved ones. When it comes to the primal laws which goes beyond the man-created feeling of guilt, my mind easily adapts to the mindset of the hunter whom kills because he has to.

    • malek86

      Actually, whenever I’m not looking for materials or money, I just think, for example “I hate Congalalas so I’m going to kill a couple right now”. Not exaclt the most honorable behavior, but still. Works for me.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      Yea, I think the Rathian is going to sell a lot of people on the game if they were already interested in it. Very, very smart move to put that in.

      It’s also interesting how non-gamers react to this type of thing — my father was watching me play and he was thoroughly fascinated by how you were living in the prehistoric era, so to speak, and that everything was detailed so intricately to try and recreate that age.

  • Archeo

    A little too late, is my opinion. =P

    I’ve already played to death the Japanese version, and I guess I feel like I’m cheating on my existing save by wishing to play the english version. The only thing that really gets me is the supposed free online play.

    I’ve really loved the MH series, and I think I’ll wait for MHP3rd, rather than obtaining another version of MH3.

    If you’ve thought a Rathian was huge, wait till you see the Albatorion. Or Shen Moran. Or Nabaldeus. Just in case someone picks up on it, I don’t know the english names of the monsters, so don’t bash me on that. =D

  • thebanditking

    hmmm….think Im going to pass on this one. Maybe I will rent it to try but other wise I think Im going to wait until Capcom brings over MH portable 3. My game funds are kind of bled dry right now anyway.

  • angkor

    I’ve been hearing from many people that they’re holding off on MH3 now, now that MHP3′s been announced. I happen to be one of them.

    Well anywho, welcome to the club, Ishaan, and happy hunting when it’s released.

  • edwinbradford

    Ishaan, just wanted to say that was an extremely well written and interesting article, that’s why I have Siliconera on my RSS :)

    I don’t always have time to read some of the longer posts but Monster Hunter is one of the games I’m more excited about and that gave me a really good insight. Just goes to show that text is good for some things and videos for others.

    Mes complement au chef :)

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