Monsters are a staple in video games. They are what we spend most of our time fighting in games. Especially in RPGs, monsters flank you at every turn, attempting to slow your progress for who knows why. But what game has you hunting monsters purely for sport and game? I can only think of one series that fits that bill, and one game on the Wii.
Hunting games are a very obscure genre, but Monster Hunter is an even more niche series. Technically, yes this is a hunting game, but it is not even in the same category as any other hunting game in existence. Looking at the box, one might assume that this game is an RPG, but aside from some base attack and defense stats on weapons and armor, there are no RPG elements to be found. You don't level up Monster Hunter - you just become a better player. I had Monster Hunter 2 (at least I think it was 2) for the PS2, but I never really go into it. It was just a game that I put in here and there when I was bored. With Monster Hunter Tri, I finally bit into he meat of this game, and it's a huge piece to swallow. This game is deeper than some of the waters in takes place in.
The basic gist of the game is that you, a Monster Hunter, have come to an island village to help rid them of a leviathan that is plaguing their waters and ruining their haul. Being an island people, they really on the waters to survive, and the beast must be dealt with if they wish to continue on with their lives and businesses. However, this beast cannot simply be dealt with from the start. You are a fledgeling hunter, and your equipment is pretty cheap to boot, and so the village chief asks that you practice by taking on other hunts and quests until he feels you are adequately skilled enough to deal with their little...er...big problem. The quests can range from collecting a certain type of plant, to slaying a certain number of a species, to killing a boss monster, and even to capturing one alive.
Now, I know what you're thinking. "This is getting redundant. I know you hunt Monsters. How do you do it?", and the problem is that the game has such depth that I couldn't possibly explain in detail without writing some sort of miniature guide. I will say that it mostly involves, dodging, attacking with proper timing and good item management. Now, that sounds shallow but it is anything but. This game is challenging, and not because it is cheap, but because it is legitimately difficult to become a good player. If you aren't willing to practice and lose to the same monster repeatedly until you get it right, then Monster Hunter is definitely not your game. Equipment plays a big role, and having good, quality equipment can definitely save you a bit of hassle, but in the end it is your skills that will get you through.
The game's single player campaign is great for beginners. Quests are divided by rank between 1 star and 5 stars. Up until about the 3 star quests the game is mostly a tutorial, with each quest focused on you learning how to use an essential skill. This is not set up like a tutorial, however, and you just feel like you are playing the game - because you are! Tri was made with newcomers in mind, and their great way of teaching you the basics makes it a lot easier to get into the game. However, any Monster Hunter fan will plainly tell you that to fully enjoy Monster Hunter, you have to take your game online.
One of the first things I noticed when I bought Tri was that on the front on the case, the usual "Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection" emblem was absent. Instead, there is a small blue orb encircled by blue rings that says "Wi-Fi Play Supported". This is because the game actually does not connect to Nintendo's wi-fi network, but it's on CAPCOM servers! This was actually an amazing decision on CAPCOM's part. Your connection needs to be really good, and in my experience, there were items when my connection was a little of so I just couldn't connect at all. When I was able to connect, however, there was no notable lag and everything went smooth. The friend code system is still implemented, but due to being on CAPCOM's server the number is only 6 digits long. On top of this, the game supports both full USB keyboard and USB microphone (wii speak) support, and you can even talk to players who are not on your friends list. Monster Hunter Tri went ahead and did what most online Wii games should have done - gave Nintendo's friend code system the finger.
Audio wise, the game isn't that impressive. Monsters sound pretty realistic, but most of the sound effects are just plain annoying. The visuals aren't perfect either, but man do those monsters look good! Monster Hunter Tri's monsters look amazing, even with the Wii's limitations. some of the environments, however, do not live up to the monsters and look a bit muddy. On the bright side, you'll usually be too focused on the monsters to care too much about the environments. Speaking of environments, this is the first game in the franchise to introduce underwater fighting, and I must say they did a marvelous job and diving in is not annoying or clumsy in any way.
If you are worried about the controls, you should put your mind at ease.! If you choose to use a Wiimote and nunchuk, then yes, the controls are horribly God awful and absolutely stupid. However, this is easily remedied by hooking up a classic controller. While it might take you an hour or so to stop using that item when you meant to attack, or learn how to properly navigate the menus, in time it will ebcome simple. This game was obviously made with the classic controller in mind.
So, the wiimote and nunchuk controls are absolutely stupid, the sound effects could use some work, and the environments don't lie up to the monsters. Other than these things my only real complaint is that character creation is somewhat limited. Monster Hunter Tri is a game bigger than all of its boss monsters combines, and deeper than the ocean in which the antagonist wells, and it has one of the best online servers of any Wii game. Those who stick with the game and get past the high learning curve will be rewarded greatly, and this game can be found at almost any game shop for $20 or less.