‘Monster Hunter Tri’ fun despite awkward controls
By Billy O’Keefe
Capcom has tried and failed to persuade America to love “Monster Hunter” the way Japan does, but “Monster Hunter Tri” — imperfect and saturated with old trappings though it still is — might be where that persistence finally pays off.
Should “Tri’s” breakthrough happen, credit likely will go to the surprising support for four-player online co-op and downright shocking support for voice chat via Nintendo’s neglected Wii Speak peripheral.
Glorious absence of friend codes aside, rounding up a party still isn’t as elegant on the Wii as it likely would be on the other consoles. Additionally, the Wii Speak integration — assuming everyone even has the device — doesn’t always produce clear communication. If it’s logistically possible, a nearby PC and Skype account will better suffice.
Beyond these antiquities, though, the actual act of playing “Tri” online is very rewarding — due as much to the kind of game “Tri” is as its capacity for sharing the experience.
Though framed within a storyline, “Tri” structures itself like an MMO more than an adventure game. Players (solo or otherwise) accept quests centered around hunting different monsters for food and sport, and the overwhelming focus of the game centers around the act of conquering different monsters different ways than whatever rewards the story has in store for successfully doing so.
“Tri’s” environments give life to an impressive array of land and sea creatures whose mannerisms and capacities to fight back vary considerably, and after some early handholding, the game provides numerous weapons, items and tactics toward dispatching monsters any number of ways. The gist doesn’t deviate much from beginning to end, but it doesn’t need to: “Tri” zeroes in on the art of the hunt to a degree no other game does, and taming the game’s most impressive beasts is a rewarding endeavor alone and exponentially so when a plan of attack among friends succeeds.
If the concept sounds appealing, “Tri’s” unique bent should overcome some unwelcome callbacks (can’t save anywhere, overlong attack animations, large areas regularly interrupted by load screens) to outdated design. The camera controls are awkward, even when using the dual-sticked Classic Controller or Classic Controller Pro, and the control scheme takes additional adjustment when using the button-deficient Wii Remote and Nunchuck. The storyline also comes almost entirely free of voice acting, but that’s less of an issue when it becomes apparent how little a role the narration plays in the game’s enjoyment.
The good news is that all these issues are annoying more than damaging, and most of them are likely to cease mattering long before those who get into “Tri” are done picking it clean. More than 100 hours of gameplay is an easy feasibility for those who embrace all that lies within and challenge themselves to conquer every last creature, and the ability to lose oneself in a world this enormous more than makes up for the shortcomings with which it coexists.
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Billy O’Keefe writes video game reviews for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
‘Monster Hunter Tri‘
ESRB Rating: Teen (Blood, Use of Alcohol, Violence)