Platforms: Wii U / 3DS
Reviewed On: Wii U / 3DS

Originally released on the Wii back in 2010 as Monster Hunter Tri, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is somewhat of a “remaster” of the former and released exclusively for the Wii U and 3DS.

Anyone already familiar with those games will know what to expect, however as someone who has played every single Monster Hunter game in existence (Including the Japanese-only releases!), I can safely say veteran hunters will be pleasantly surprised at what this new version has to offer. But let’s get the basics out of the way for the uninitiated:

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate pits your custom-made character against really large odds, that is, gigantic monsters! As a hunter, you get to choose to be any type of fighter you want at any time, ranging from a Hammer class, Bow class, Heavy bowgun class or even a gun lance class, plus many more.

The odds are against you because the ferocity and scale of the monsters you hunt are tremendous ,and the level of skill needed to take down and/or capture these monsters can be incredibly difficult.

 photo monster-hunter-village_zps1d06663a.jpgIn the world of Monster Hunter, there is a gameplay flow that occurs before taking a quest. Starting in a fixed NPC village called “Moga Village”, hunters can tend to their very own farm to cultivate more materials and/or barter with local NPCs to acquire needed items. Moga Village acts therefore as a staging hub to prepare for quests. However at any time the hunter can also leave and go out onto the nearby plains for non-quest activities in the pursuit of either hunting smaller animals or harvesting a variety of items across the land.

The point of collecting materials is to forge or upgrade weapons and armor – an important mainstay of the game. Forging completely new weapons and armor benefits the pplayer by creating unique items that your hunter can equip, thus increasing their abilities such as Attack, Defense, Elemental damage or defense and even latent skills.

Upgrading equipment will increase the already latent stats of your items, making you an even more deadly fighter. Monster Hunter doesn’t rely on a stat-based level-up system like regular RPGs, instead it's all equipment based and your own player skill in using that equipment is what plays a big role in your ability to take down monsters of varying difficulty.

Although Moga Village has a swath of features to cover, the most important aspect to mention is the Quest Counter and the Online Quests – Yet again, two bread and butter elements of all Monster Hunter games.

In Quests, the difficulty is ranked by a set of stars. One star difficulty quests can ask you to go out and take out 5 monsters of a certain types or gather 3 specific types of mushrooms. However as the star rating increases, you can see yourself pitted against two large “boss” monsters at the same time!

Online Quests are largely the same, however the major difference that all monsters in the online environment have boosted stats to cater for the fact that you can take 3 other online hunters with you to beat-up one monster. Also the items that drop from slain monsters are more rare, so there is an incentive for online play. It is also worth noting that there are a lot of unique monsters you can only fight online, so if you want to experience the full game, you have to play this game online at some point.

I didn’t get a chance to play the multiplayer for this game properly as I was going between the 3DS and Wii U versions of the game and the application technology that links the two won’t be released until the game’s launch on March 22nd – however, I will be doing a separate review for the multiplayer elements after the game’s official launch, so keep you’re eyes peeled for that!

So that’s the basics of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate explained, so I think its time to still familiarize those who still aren’t sure about how the game works combat-wise whilst explaining the new features the Wii U and 3DS has to offer the game’s overall experience.

 photo monster-hunter-bite_zpse9668bec.jpgThe game's combat revolves around whichever class of fighting style you choose. You can be incredibly fast as a sword and shield user or very slow, yet powerful, with a hammer class. However, the most important elements a hunter must take into consideration is health, stamina, weapon sharpness and the camera!

Your health gauge is pretty self-explanatory – keep this full and you’ll be all right. The stamina gauge takes real skill to maintain – it will deplete by itself overtime and actions such as charging up weapon attacks, running and/or dodging will deplete the stamina bar significantly. There are potiona to maintain both health or stamina, but this requires you to do some hefty pre-mission preparation in Moga Village.

Weapon sharpness depletes overtime the more you smack monsters about. A lot of monsters in this game have “weak spots” but they'll also have very strong spots that your weapon will deflect off. This causes weapon degradation to occur really fast, so you’ll have to constantly be sharpening your weapon if you're not careful.

Lastly and most importantly is the game’s camera; this is without a doubt one of the most important elements of any Monster Hunter game, as it can either hinder or aid you incredibly. Thankfully, in this version of the game, you can somewhat lock-on to any large “boss” monsters, making enemy tracking via your camera much easier.

The 3DS touch screen and screen really make combat a lot easier. At all times the screens display your item pouch were you can just tap the item you want instead of manually browsing through every item you need. The touch screen also let’s you perform combo recipes on the fly via a simple touch button interface instead of going through a plethora of menus.

The major issue most people familiar with this game series will have will be the 3DS’s lack of a second nub stick. Although Nintendo has remedied this issue with an additional peripheral, the 3DS version of the game tries to compensate for this lack of a second nub stick by displaying a virtual D-Pad on the right-side of the touch screen, allowing the player’s right hand to control the camera. At first I was skeptical, but I can unanimously say that it works perfectly and actually makes the purchase of an added peripheral for the second nub stick pointless. I think certain players of varying hand size may benefit from the added peripheral, but for the most part, the virtual D-Pad works so well that I was both amazed and shocked at the beauty of its implementation.

Everything just “works” in this game. It really is an extremely fine tuned experience of Monster Hunter with few flaws. Even the ability to customize the UI at anytime by dragging buttons around different parts of the touch screen was nothing short of genius.

The 3DS version boasts its own stereoscopic 3D experience whereas the Wii U version displays some wonderful 1080p HD textures and colours. For the most part, the 3D element from the 3DS version worked and did shine from time to time, but unfortunately it can’t compare to the Wii U version, that has a really beautiful definition of colours and lighting. Having said that, both really can be beautiful in their own right.

What I found most impressive was the game’s overall frame rate, specifically for the 3DS version. The game appeared to run over 60fps, up as high as 90fps at times. There were no frame rate drops or jitters of any kind. To boot, loading screens were short as hell, which is absolutely incredible.

 photo monster-hunter-forest_zps19d30efc.jpgAlthough the games aren't the most beautiful looking graphical experience, most of it is due to the artistic style and is intentional (similar to how World of Warcraft is “cartoonish") and these versions are graphically the best to date.

Now I’m sure a lot of veteran Monster Hunters are wondering why I’m referring to all the monsters are merely “monsters”; it's because in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, there are 30 new monster types that range from underwater creatures to bear-like monsters, as opposed to the typical dragon-like nature of “boss” monsters seen in early Monster Hunter games.

This is a game based on the player’s skill. I have always seen this as a defining strong point of the entire series, as there are few games that allow the player to be truly free with using their natural skill to overcome difficult odds in a game.

In Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, the developers have really tried their best keep the game based on the player’s skill alone, however the addition of touch screen functions have been implemented to welcome novice gamers into the fold and make their hunting experience more enjoyable. I still think it's a game that can become an acquired taste due to the game's difficulty. The art of using the camera to help you can be a pain to new users, however with a bit of practice it really pays off. A lot of games try to capture this feeling of triumph through hardship with virtual trophies or achievements, but Monster Hunter captures the feeling of real based on your skill as a gamer.

Overall the additions included in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate are really worth it if you're hankering for what is essentially the “ultimate” Monster Hunter experience.

Another fantastic feature was the ability to transfer your save data between the 3DS and Wii U versions of the game, so anything gained through your portable experience can be continued via your Wii U or vice versa.

While I couldn’t review the multiplayer feature this time around, Capcom’s implementation of cross US and EU servers should open up the general online experience, creating what will possibly be one of the largest Monster Hunter online experiences to date.

With an almost endless amount of free dlc planned in weekly instalments, cross platform functionality and solid gameplay, both versions of the game are well worth the cash in your wallet.