Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate – A Wii U System Seller?
Monster Hunter 3 on Wii U is helping Nintendo start 2013 with its renewed focus on bringing core experiences to players once again taking centre stage.
With Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge helping to sate the appetites of the action fans, Monster Hunter 3 stomps into view and looks to capitilise on the (very much in vogue) RPG, stat heavy, co-op focused action genre that dominated charts last year.
Of course, thanks to Gearbox’s Borderlands 2 it’s become evident that Monster Hunter should be a perfect fit for gamers outside of Japan, so what’s kept it from being a worldwide hit?
No matter how popular the Monster Hunter series has become, compared to its Japanese domination, here in the West we’ve barely scratched the surface.
There have been plenty of reasons put forward for this – the PSPs lack of reach, the genre itself and maybe even the supremacy of the FPS in the West – but on the Wii U, Nintendo is hoping Capcom’s series can finally find itself in the hands of gamers ready to indulge in its potent brand of combat, levelling and social interaction.
And the Wii U is perfectly placed to show gamers that it is the console for a series such as Monster Hunter. The Wii U has an impressive array of abilities.
The online social interaction, now supported by the Wii U’s Miiverse, proves the perfect forum, the GamePad offering a hunter easy access to anything they need including the map, weapons and those all-important paintballs. It’s a logical control interface and with the Wii U’s power Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate now looks the part, too.
We’ve waited for Nintendo to show us just why the Wii U is special, but it seems third party developers are paving the way and proving that the GamePad and the Wii U’s new online functionality is well worth the price of admission… and not Mario’s latest game as is usually the case.
As you’d expect the Wii U’s extra graphical grunt over the Wii means that Monster Hunter can finally be seen with crystal clear HD visuals. It’s a significant step that should help entice those initially put off by the Wii’s lack in power, but there’s an interesting compromise going on in Monster Hunter 3.
The Wii U brings the world to life like never before but there’s a roughness to the game’s edges that belies Monster Hunter’s handheld roots. This is a game that has one leg rather firmly in the Wii U’s camp and another quite clearly in the 3DS’s.
With Monster Hunter 3 arriving on both systems – and bringing with it some fascinating cross-play potential – it could be argued that the Wii U version takes something of a hit in the visuals department to make the whole experience possible.
That’s not to say that what Wii U players actually get is a slouch when it comes to the graphical representation of the world and its monsters, though. Finally seen on a big screen in a resolution befitting of a modern console, Monster Hunter 3’s dinosaur-inspired beasts are the stars of the show.
Compared to the largely flat – but now much more detailed – backgrounds, taking on something like the Brachydios will show you just how much work has gone into the animal’s animation and movement and they really do look fantastic.
But there are curious compromises when it comes to what should be a full-blown next-gen outing for the Monster Hunter series. The instanced areas that make up the sprawling levels are small; though loading between them is incredibly quick.
There’s a distinct feeling that Monster Hunter 3 on the Wii U is up-scaling the 3DS’s handheld version of the game and for all intents and purposes, that’s exactly what it’s doing.
Sort of, at least. The main reason Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate on the Wii U is making as many small compromises as it is, is down to the cross-connectivity with the 3DS version of the game. We’ve seen Sony’s PS Vita push its cross-play functionality, but Monster Hunter 3 on 3DS and Wii U is taking things to another level.
You might need to buy both copies of the game, but Nintendo is throwing in enough features to make this more than worth your while.
On the 3DS, Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate is structurally the same game as its Wii U counterpart… exactly. Where the 3DS version sports pared down yet 3D visuals, the Wii U version pushes the visuals wherever it can.
If you own a Wii U and a 3DS, you need never stop playing. This cross-play means that players can leave the house and continue slaying beasts on the go. You can pick up your Wii U save file on your 3DS and continue on your grand adventure.
Monster Hunter’s grind-heavy gameplay suits this ‘play anywhere’ style perfectly, but Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate is also allowing players on both versions a number of ways of taking on the beasties together.
The Wii U and the 3DS both feature 4 player co-op (local for the 3DS and online for the Wii U) but, and this is where Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate really begins to sound interesting, 3DS players can play locally with Wii U players.
It’s a fascinating way of ensuring new players of Monster Hunter really grasp what makes the game so compelling. Pushing social play to the forefront with the Wii U and the 3DS cross-connectivity highlights exactly what can be achieved on Nintendo’s new console, well over and above the competition.
The Wii U’s GamePad recreates the 3DS’s touchscreen, too, with the same customisation and controls mapped to each version. As we said before, though, this cross-play does create a number of issues that can hamper play. And that’s beyond the obvious visual capping of the Wii U version (controls mapping awkwardly to the GamePad due to the limits of the 3DS come in at a close second).
Taking on monsters with friends is the only way Monster Hunter should be played, though you can take on the new Lagombi if you’re feeling lucky.
But what players are getting in return for a few awkward idiosyncrasies more than makes up for things. Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate is the amalgamation of the preceding 3DS versions (including the Wii’s Monster Hunter Tri) meaning that Western players will get the chance to take on a number of monsters that have yet to be seen outside of Japan.
For seasoned players this might feel overly familiar, but it’s the staple approach the series has taken to date.
Monster Hunter’s complex gameplay suits the Wii U’s gamepad, too, granting players access to the traditional control pad set-up with the added bonus of having the game’s many potions, traps and tools no more than a finger-length away.
If there was ever going to be a series that benefited from Nintendo’s new tablet controller it was going to be Monster Hunter.
It’s easy to see that Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate sits, somewhat awkwardly straddling, the Wii U and the 3DS but far more good comes out of this union than bad.
With Capcom able to utilise the unique functionality of the GamePad (not to mention the 3DS’s touchscreen) Nintendo’s new console can offer an experience that’s totally befitting of the Monster Hunter world.