“I’ve been blogging since February of 2001. When I started blogging, it was a dinosaur blog. It was me and a handful of tyrannosaurs. We’d be writing blog entries like, ‘The tyrannosaurus is getting grumpy.'”
Walking into a Gamestop (which is as much of a joke as it sounds), I remember being asked if I needed help looking for anything. Like, excuse me. Do you not see that I’m rocking thick black-framed glasses and a black shirt with an 8-bit Bowser on the front? I don’t need your help. But I asked him if he could recommend a good, long RPG. It was one of those weeks.
I had a PlayStation One, 2, and 3, Xbox 360, and Wii at the time and I was surprised to hear him recommend a great, long RPG for the Wii. It was Monster Hunter (3/Tri?). I hadn’t played any game in the Monster Hunter series at that point but I’m very glad I took him at his word. The game is an amazing Wii exclusive by Capcom.
There isn’t much of a story and you’ll be skipping the corny oddly-modern dialogue anyway, so here’s it in brief. Tri begins when your character (fully customizeable) arrives at a primitive community of hunter-gatherers. Their village has been suffering earthquakes lately which has the residents spooked. The village chief of Moga Village addresses you as a bounty hunter, essentially. You will even gain access to the Guild and their hunting missions. As it turns out, Moga Village survives off of the nearby island woodland and hills, but there’s a fearsome sea monster named the Lagiacrus that the chief would like you to exterminate.
There’s your mark, but it’s not as easy as just rushing out and fighting a boss. Your unarmed and unarmored hunter would be less than an after-dinner mint for Lagiacrus. To prep for the fight, you’ll have to hone your hunter-gatherer skills by going out and harvesting resources from land and sea. Tri introduces underwater fighting and exploring to the franchise. In fact some of the monsters can only be encountered underwater.
The first missions familiarize you more so with foraging, whether that’s collecting mushrooms or cutting raw meat from downed dinosaur herbivores. You’ll also need to refit the base camp outside of the village which the earthquakes damaged. The base camp is where your hunter will respawn if you run out of health while hunting. A map in the corner of the screen helps you to navigate the large natural environment surrounding the village.
When you do return to Moga Village after quests, the village chief’s son will give you a run down of the commodities you’ve earned and you can choose whether to keep them or sell them off for cold, hard cash. Yes. Farming.
Since your hunter has no innate stats, the only way to increase your combat capabilities, skills, offense and defense is to get new equipment. Collecting resources from carnivorous monster hunting is the only way to get better equipment, which in turn will allow you to confront stronger monsters, getting you better equipment, allowing you to face stronger monsters, etc, etc, etc. You can then open up new areas and explore, and find tons of new resources. The game just keeps unfolding, like a giant violent prehistoric flower.
This escalating equipment/monster arms race is the heart of Monster Hunter Tri’s gameplay and it turns out to be extremely fun and addicting. There is a wide range of different weapons and armor sets themed around the aesthetics of every major monster species: bone items make bone armor, iron makes iron armor, raptor skin makes raptor armor and so on. New equipment also comes with different innate skills that slightly augment your hunter’s abilities such as enabling faster harvesting or lending your weapons greater durability.
There’s really so much to do in Tri. Hunting, foraging, cooking, crafting, exploring, cataloging, farming, fishing. Funnily paradoxical since you’d think the invention of agriculture would eliminate the need for hunter-gathering, but hey, this is fantasy after all.
Besides for the electric sea monster Lagiacrus (the game’s flagship beast), there are still scores of other creatures to hunt. The raptor-like Jaggi are among the earliest carnivores you’ll come across but there are the Qurupeco, Barioth, Rathalos and Rathian, Gigginox, the infamous Deviljho, and more with quests and missions surrounding them. You’ll have to build up your gear and learn to use the different attack patterns of the various weapons, from the newfangled Switch Axe (which can switch between an axe and a great sword) to the Sword and Shield, Lance, Bowgun, and others.
Even after you’ve plowed through much of the ecosystem, Moga Village will still suffer from earthquakes until the final revelation of a truly legendary sea monster, (spoiler: highlight to reveal) the Elder Dragon Ceadeus.
The 8-bit Review
Monster Hunter Tri surprised me with its graphics. This is the Nintendo Wii we’re talking about. By the time I’d purchased my Wii under the table from an old friend who was tired of it, I already had a PS3. The Wii was already showing its age. Tri does have several areas with crude texturing and rough edges but all in all its environments and most of all its presentation of those environments end up being breath taking. The opening cinematic still looks great. Thing reeled me in with its visual realism and wildness.
Of course, the focal point of the game is on its monsters and they don’t disappoint. From their general design, distinctiveness, and sheer size, they’re impressive visual elements of the game.Parts of the monsters can even be damaged, such as cutting off their tails or breaking off some of their horns or scales. It’s little touches like that which make a game like these look more tangible than it really is. I mean, we’re hunting down dragons and sea serpents here, but it just looks so cool.
Much of the game uses a Stone Agey feel of tribal flutes and drums to evoke its sense of culture, but these tracks are upheld by a foundation of traditionally orchestrated music. The sweeping score sounds almost as if it poured from the genius of John Williams. Its sense of adventure balances the sense of danger in the game with a sense of levity that at once makes Monster Hunter Tri charming and endearing.
This was yet another thing about the game that I didn’t expect from it. I didn’t think the music would play this big a part and be as memorable all these years later. Looking at the box art for the first time, I thought it’d just be some generic rock music. I was pleasantly surprised by a soundtrack with some symphonic depth.
Hunting isn’t easy. You’ve got to keep track of your health and your stamina, maintain the sharpness of your weapons with whetstones, and stay on top of your gear and skills. With so many different weapon classes and thereby play-styles to choose from, it really pays to pay attention to the rather involved combat systems so that you know what you’re doing and so you can figure out how best to prepare for each monster. This is so much more than a hack n’ slash.
The old Sword and Shield combo only seems to be the most balanced when it’s simply made for weak but agile attacking. Longswords have wide areas of effect and can churn out damage quickly but only if their users can get enough hits in. Lances are best for tactical, defensive assaults. Gun type weapons (heavy and light) are for long rangers and typically inflict status ailments. The new Switch Axe opens up fresh possibilities for thinking on your feet. Greatswords sacrifice speed and maneuverability for enhanced offense, and at the extreme end of the scale are Hammers which abandon cutting edges and defense for pure smashing power.
As for the monsters, they’re increasingly complicated boss fights. Each of the monsters have their own attack patterns and prowling grounds, their own peculiar behaviors and quirks and visual cues as to what they’re going to do next. Getting to know each creature becomes essential to hunting them effectively. Given the size of some of them, like the Lagiacrus, they’re extremely daunting and many of them can prove to be quite the challenge. Especially if you have to deal with more than one monster at the same time.
And oh yes, we can’t forget about Cha-Cha! He’s a lost child of the Shakalaka tribe and he’ll join you on your hunts as a sort of wee sidekick. Cute. Finding him different masks unlocks different abilities for him but he’s less useful than here just for the kicks and giggles.
Online Play: 9/10
Besides for Moga Village and its surrounding habitats, there was the great Loc Lac City representing the online section of the game. It functioned similarly to the village with its amenities and shops and Guild, though different quests and therefore different resources could be accessed through the city. You could also meet other hunters, one of the best parts of Tri, and one of the few times I really made good use of the on-screen Wii keyboard (until I bought a USB one).
Nestling in the Great Desert, the city of Loc Lac was a hub for hunters because it was the only place where you could hunt the Elder Dragon, Jhen Moran. It was a gigantic sandsea monster that had to be fought from the back of a ship, assaulted with ballistae and cannons with an organized party.
“Rare ore can be mined from these enormous dragons’ backs; thus they are considered prosperity symbols. They swallow vast amounts of organic material and are always surrounded by scavenging Delex, which sailors use to locate them.”
You could fight the rare Jhen Moran whenever a sandstorm blew through the city.
I say “could” because unfortunately the online services were discontinued in 2013. I remember the day I logged in and was told the servers were no more. A sad day for monster hunters everywhere who’d made online friends with no way to contact them, or others who were so close to completing their Jhen Moran set now left hopeless. It’s a shame since going out in a hunting party was such an engrossing element of the game.
Monster Hunter Tri starts off a little slow and does its best to ease you into its gameplay, but it can quickly become somewhat overwhelming and difficult as you start climbing up the ranks to top tier gear and therefore top tier monsters. You do get three respawns per mission but after that your death means you’ll have to start over again. Certain later missions involving hunting down a single monster can quickly spiral out of control, such as with the Qurupeco who can summon other tougher monsters to its aid, including the piss-your-pants Deviljho. Jerk.
If you don’t know what you’re up against on a hunt, you’re probably doomed. Being surprised by a gigantic creature out of no where and not knowing what to do means you might as well quit the mission and start over.
Yeah okay so a lot of the game is indeed based around farming. Not the unfair MMORPG kind of farming where you have to get 10,000 scales to combine with 5,000 teeth to make 1 item out of 5. There’s enough variety among the resources and tiers of equipment to largely diminish the impact of boredom on top of farming. That isn’t to say that you won’t have to complete a mission several times through, back to back. You will. But with so much to get, Tri succeeds in borrowing some of the addictiveness of true online RPGs, though it remains steadfastly and primarily an action-RPG of the home console blend.
I spent a lot of hours playing this game and really only stopped because my kid brother began to take over for me and I lost a lot of interest when the city closed down. There isn’t much to do end game after you’ve faced the biggest and baddest monstrosities, except for fighting them over again. Fortunately, it does take quite a while to reach the end of that road.
This is actually the seventh entry in the Monster Hunter franchise, but two of those seven games never made it to North America. I hadn’t really heard of the series and neither had my compatriots prior to Tri on the Wii. And speaking of the Wii, Tri is an incredibly unique game for that console. On a system crowded with brightly colored, highly stylized “kiddie” games, Tri stood out as something slightly grittier and more real-world than the bouncy physics of Super Mario Galaxy, say.
My Personal Grade: 9/10
Monster Hunter Tri was a huge game for the Wii and it’s one of my favorite games for the system. I’ll always remember it with fondness, even though it’s one of those games I could probably never return to, given everything I reached and accomplished. I wanted a good long game and what I got in Tri was much more than I could dream of. If you’re looking for an excellent and involved game for the Nintendo Wii, I highly recommend Monster Hunter Tri to you. It wasn’t ruined by the Wii’s very obsolete motion controls.
Aggregated Score: 8.5
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