The lights are on
Capcom’s Monster Hunter Tri servers shut down in April, but the upcoming release of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for Wii U and 3DS on March 19 promises to invigorate the series. As a veteran hunter who started fighting dragons and other beasts on day one, I’m here to tell you why this series should be on your radar.
Beware the Yian Kut-Ku.
The monsters, unsurprisingly, steal the show in Monster Hunter. Ranging from winged, fire-breathing behemoths to gigantic mammals, the animals of the world prove to be deadly, but also beautiful. The recognizable crimson scales of the Rathalos have made it the series’ most iconic creature. Clever, subtle design choices keep each creature unique. Every monster is also designed in such a way that players can instantly identify it.
Players don’t need to see Deviljho to know he’s entered the battlefield – his roar serves as his introduction. So too does his exclusive, now-you’re-in-for-it theme music. Even powerful hunters become paralyzed with a moment of fear when Jho – a much too affectionate nickname – enters the hunting ground.
Though not as readily apparent as appearance and sound, monster mannerisms count just as much in the design. Barioth, a giant cat, acts differently than the aquatic Gobul. He’s quick, pounces around erratically as if chasing an imaginary ball of yarn, and is almost playful in the way he attacks his future meals – namely, you. A Gobul, while not as helpless as a fish out of water, is much less nimble on land. He seeks to use blinding light from the lure on his head to stagger foes, while also paralyzing them via spikes he puffs out of his body in a more defensive display.
Monster Hunter can change drastically when battling elder dragons like Jhen Mohran. Not simply another tough foe found on battlefields, fighting Mohran is an event spanning around 30 minutes. The beginning of the battle has hunters commandeering a desert warship and all of its weapons, and then transitioning to a more traditional brawl with the mountain-sized dragon as players try to repel or slay the beast.
Each monster provides a new experience, and is also an intricate part of the next reason you should be playing.
Monsters are not just used to create great battles and look fantastic; they are also meant to wear – and not to make a fashion statement. The most satisfying part of Monster Hunter is what happens after you smite enough beasts: the creation of armor and weapons. Felled monsters provide a set number of “carves” such as horns, tusks, or claws, which are used to make equipment.
Those horns on your switch axe? Yeah, those were the same Lagiacrus horns impaling you as you ran for dear life three battles ago. Now you use them – and their thunder element – to take down bigger and deadlier enemies much more efficiently.
There are no insipid designs when it comes to weapons and armor; most pieces reflect the beast they came from, but never come off as tacky. For example: Barioth armor will contain a headpiece with two tusks that rest on your hunter's cheeks. Gigginox armor emanates the same kind of creepiness as the creature it’s modeled after, giving off a baroque vibe unique to the cave-dweller. Its Unnerving Talons easily earn their name as they bizarrely hug your character’s body.
Armor doesn't always match the animal it’s from, but each piece has character – even the obscure Jaggi Mask, hip Shadow Shades, and out-of-place HellHunter Jacket. It’s odd to wear a dinosaur head as a helmet, and use a weapon aptly named the Kut-Ku Jaw for use as a hammer. However, smashing a dead animal’s jaw against another massive monster – one that makes the dead wyvern’s noises – is a part of the series’ quirks.
[Next up: The joys of hunting cooperatively with friends]