Having originally made its debut on Wii under the guise of Monster Hunter Tri~, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate comes to modern Nintendo formats with a considerable makeover. While the videogame underneath remains very much the same experience, the generous helpings of new features and polish make it feel brand new: here on Nintendo 3DS, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate has certainly earned that ‘ultimate’ affix.
The plot of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is fairly thin, casting the player as an immortal hunter employed to save a small town at the very start of the videogame. Your first mission is, of course, to hunt down a monster that has been troubling the townsfolk and, well, make it stop. While things do progress as you continue, this rice paper opening is a perfect microcosm of the extended videogame: the story is written to enable the gameplay, rather than the gameplay filling in between moments on plot advancement.
The hunt has always been Monster Hunter’s greatest asset and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is undeniably aware of this fact, with every other aspect of the videogame playing second fiddle. The videogame evidences this by throwing a huge amount of detail at the player before the first big kill. Exploration, harvesting, resource collection, item creation and much more are all sampled within the first thirty minutes of gameplay and within the first story arc. As overwhelming as it may seem, this is actually a shrewd design decision as all of these components are required early on to create the unique experience that is a Monster Hunter videogame, with each and every aspect developing from here over time.
The exploration is arguably the weakest design in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, comparable to Phantasy Star Online’s systematically expanding areas and forcing the playing to retread previously exhausted areas far too frequently. And there’s no indication as to why this might be, as Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate isn’t exactly short of content elsewhere and any resources available here could be reclaimed with the option to return, rather than being forced to do so. Thankfully the pursuit of new items is often enough for the player to overcome this small hurdle, especially given the huge variety if environments they will journey through.
With that negativity out of the way we can move on to the positive aspects of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, which is frankly almost everything else that the videogame offers. The combat begins slow but steadily builds as the player purchases or forges new items, and of course the enemy aggression ramps up at a similar pace. Combat tactics are vital for taking down larger enemies and it’s not too long after starting that players will begin to develop their preferred style of attack – especially given that the development team have been kind enough to gift new players with a variety of weapon types from the very start – of course, playing co-operatively will work best with a mix of different weapon sets.
On Nintendo 3DS Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate offers both local multiplayer for up to four players as well as online gameplay, though the later requires the use of a Wii U console and a free download in order for the console to act as a relay. The Wii U version of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is not required for this practice, though for anyone that committed to the franchise it will most likely be a high priority purchase thanks to the connectivity between the two editions: save data can be transferred between Nintendo 3DS and Wii U versions of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, allowing players to continue on either format from exactly the point at which they last saved. Many titles have promised such inter-console connectivity over the years, a few have delivered, but nine have been as straightforward and reliable as Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate.
With this wide ranging connectivity being so readily available progressing your character has never been easier, and after all, this is really the crux of any Monster Hunter experience. Beginning with ragged garments and brittle bone weapons and working your way through skin and steel salvaged from fallen enemies and traded with the world’s population is the real beauty of Monster Hunter, and so it remains in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. The system is relatively simple, similar in fashion to many more generic role-playing game (RPG) experiences, but the combination of player stats, created or upgraded weaponry and armour and the plentiful supply of modifiers that can be accrued present a component that is remarkably addictive, negating the need for any deep or twisting storyline.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is obviously lesser in its visual quality on Nintendo 3DS than that of its Wii U sister release, but that’s not to say it’s a bad looking videogame by any means. The densely detailed environments that stretch for miles into the distance (with added help from the stereoscopic 3D nature of the Nintendo 3DS console, of course) and the character models are mostly of a similarly high standard, but their connection to the world is the missing link. The animation lacks weight, both on land and under water, providing Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate with a floating feeling that current-generation home consoles have all but eradicated.
The Nintendo 3DS is beginning to host some incredibly high quality titles; innovative, enduring and technically sound. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate ticks all of these boxes and then some, providing a lengthy adventure that pushes Nintendo’s console ecosystem into new territory. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is essential for fans of the franchise and is exceedingly welcoming for those who’ve never played a Monster Hunter videogame before. It may not have the tactical depth of Fire Emblem: Awakening or the visual clout of Luigi’s Mansion 2, but in every other respect Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a leading light on the Nintendo 3DS console.