In Japan, Monster Hunter is king. It doesn't matter what platform it's on, Capcom's MMO-style adventure series is always one of the top selling games of the year. For whatever reason American gamers have yet to fully jump on board this franchise, but Capcom is hoping to change people's minds with the release of Monster Hunter 3 Tri for the Nintendo Wii. I sat down with a preview build of the game to see what all the hype was about. Let's just say that I had an interesting time.
From the get-go I was relieved to learn that Monster Hunter 3Tri comes with three different control schemes. The default set-up has you using the nunchuk and waving the Wii remote around like a crazy person. If that's not your thing, then you can plug in your Classic Control and play the game in a more traditional way. There's also an option that allows you to control the combat by using the R-stick on the Classic Control. From what I could tell there is no GameCube control support. I chose the default settings and braced myself for an adventure.
The preview build I played offered two different quests, the Great Jaggi Hunt and Qurupeco Hunt. The first had a one-star difficulty rating, while the second had a three-star rating. Seeing as this was my first time playing the game, I opted for the easier quest. From there I'm given a choice of ten different characters, each with their own special weapon. This screen gave me no useful information whatsoever about the characters, instead focusing the detail to the weapon. I chose the character with a long sword. His weapon, although large, didn't seem too unwieldy for a first time player.
With my quest and character selected, it's time to jump into this massive role-playing world. I start my journey next to my hut, a safe location far away from the violent monsters roaming the world. The map is split up into 12 different sections, with small icons pointing you in the direction of a monster. The good news is that there's a dinosaur-like monster right outside of my safe zone. Unfortunately it didn't take long before that creature (and its offspring) took me down for the count. Yeah, this is turning out to be a typical Monster Hunter experience.
Even though I'm killed I am warped (more like wheeled) back to my hut. This time around I decide to spend a few minutes actually learning the controls. I whip my remote around, that seems to unsheathe my sword. Another swing and my sword going into a chopping motion. I discover that I can chop at the characters when I push the "A" button, which will save my arms some trauma. The "-" button lets out a massive sword swing, something so strong that it pushes me back a few inches. The "Z" button gives me a second strong attack, this time in the opposite direction.
Now that I'm a little more confident of the controls, I race for the exit and attempt to take on the dinosaur for a second time. This time around the enemy I'm after is in the 7th area, which means that I need to walk through a number of other areas before coming face to face with the monster I'm trying to take down. Unlike most MMO-like adventure games, Monster Hunter 3 Tri is split up into small areas that are linked not by paths, but rather loading times that masks the animation of you actually walking. In that sense it the area I'm in feels incredibly small, a jarring experience given how wide-open most games in this genre are.
I finally make it to the 7th area and pick up the fight where I left off. Unfortunately the beast kicks me back, sending me into the 6th area. When I go back in the 7th area the monster is nowhere to be found. I check my map and see that he's moved. All of a sudden I fall to the ground dead. Time's up, I lose. The game thanks me for playing and sends me back to the main menu. Needless to say, it left me on something of a sour note.