This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Monster Hunter Tri.
I don't think I'll ever understand the Japanese games market. Not the sex games - those I understand! Even the visual novel thing - I don't need more complex gameplay phases between me and titties. It's the visual novels that don't have titties that confuse me. So now we're going to be removing the cream from a cream and dogshit slice? And then there's those Japanese games like Harvest Moon where all you do is be productive and respect nature and never raise so much as a finger against another living creature of God's kingdom - what an incredibly backward notion.
Perhaps it points to the comparative immaturity of modern culture that mainstream audiences will only tolerate an alternative gaming experience so long as bits of it explode every now and again. But you know what, the Dalai Lama could bang a magic gong that makes everyone on Earth as enlightened as all fuck, so that the simple act of growing a single flower with your own time and loving attention creates paroxysms of ecstasy, and Monster Hunter Tri wouldn't be any less fucking tedious.
The box art of the game depicts a giant, roaring monster gasping in disbelieving horror at his little human friend who has shown up at the monster opera in last season's armour. The opening pre-rendered cinematic depicts a sort of Battle Royale between various species of roaring monster. As it turns out, neither of those things are strongly reflective of the game's content. I never saw any monsters fighting each other. The only truly accurate part of the cinematic is right at the end when a load of humans show up and don't get to do shit.
You play an adventurer type showing up at the prerequisite village of immobile retards, in a time when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, to try to be a hunter of monsters (a "monster hunter try," if you will). It's a sort of cross between a fantasy RPG and one of those deer hunting simulators that sell really well in the American states that the other American states prefer not to acknowledge. It's probably a fairly accurate portrayal of what 99% of an adventurer type's actual life would be like when there aren't any adventures or anything interesting happening, and I'm not saying there'd be no audience for that, but I wouldn't want to be stuck in a conversation with it at a dull party.
Perhaps the better title for this game would have been Monster Hunter/Gatherer, since finding resources in the field is about as central as the game mechanics get. As well as from dead monsters, a whole homeless lady's shopping trolley's worth of miscellaneous crap can be acquired from nests, insect hives, bits of rock, and plant life. And I hope you brought some suitably impressive armour for your big day of skipping through the forest picking flowers.
Actually, speaking of the title, we should probably drop the word "monster" as well, since you usually just kill blameless wildlife that only attacks because you're invading its territory or because you just pushed a sharpened stick down the ear of its favorite child. But I guess calling it Hunter/Gatherer of Innocent Young Dinosaurs Pathetically Mewling Their Last as the Memory of Their Mother's Warmth Drifts Away to Be Replaced by the Unforgiving Coldness of. . ., oh fuck it, let's just call it You Bastard.
The reason for all this is to sell resources for gold, develop the village, and craft upgrades for your weapons and armour, although that's just the middle thing. The ultimate goal of item gathering is, I suspect, to gather more items until you've collected all the different kinds. It's like Pokémon, except all the Pokémon are bits of old twig and horn and samples of fluid extracted from an antelope's bollocks.
The crafting system makes me fearful and paranoid, because it's impossible to tell if it's safe to flog that blob of rare worm spunk or if it's going to be an integral part of the next upgrade for your favorite sledgehammer, meaning another tiresome grind in the worm cave, where the worms have all of a sudden come over all coy and started dropping nothing but clumps of nostril hair.
You may think this game is starting to sound like all the very worst parts of a MMORPG clumped together into a big, horrible, gelatinous mass. But wait, there's also the quest system! For extra money and resources, you can take timed quests to either kill a certain number of a certain kind of monster or gather a certain number of a certain resource (that can only be gathered from things that provide some other resource ninety percent of the time). So yes, it is just the very worst parts of a MMORPG clumped together into a big, horrible, gelatinous mass. So grab a spoon and open wide!
The odd thing about quests is, rather than being given a shopping list to maybe think about while running around the overworld, when you start a quest you're locked into a special version of the overworld that exists only for that quest and aren't allowed out until you're finished. It's almost bureaucratic, a sort of forced structure that a middle manager might come up with after a three-day database convention.
It was while on one of these quests that I was swimming around the ocean floor looking for a certain kind of sea sponge that the blacksmith needed to rub on my sword to unlock its true potential when a gigantic fucking sea monster appeared and tried to eat me. Holy Christ! The three-day database convention just got hit by a meteorite. It was all I could do to swim my fat arse out of the water before it could bit off my fisherman's basket, whereupon the game said, "I'm so sorry, you're nowhere near in the league to be fighting that thing. Let's just say no more about it and you can get right back to picking tufts of grass." I took a few more ocean-related missions, but I didn't run into it again. It's not a point in the game's favor when I am literally standing at the water's edge ringing a dinner bell with my balls on a skillet in the vain hope of making something interesting happen.
You can get a version of Monster Hunter Tri with a classic controller included, and if this video has made you realize how badly the game needs to be a part of your life, then I strongly advise you to get it. You can play the game with a Wiimote and Nunchuck in the same way that you can technically compete in a fencing competition using only your erect penis. Controlling the camera with the Wiimote directional buttons rather than a good, solid, dependable analog stick is like sitting on a Lazy Susan mounted on the back of a charging horse and trying to steer the creature with a tennis ball on the end of a piece of string.
There's also an attempt to create a game world full of sweeping, exotic landscapes that modestly succeeds but have to be broken up by loading screen airlocks every fifty yards so the Wii processor doesn't put a blunderbuss under its chin (and indirectly improve the overall worth of the gaming industry by several large increments). The game has no business being on the Wii! I'm not sure it has business being anywhere, except perhaps a boredom convention being held in the heart of the sun!
Why can't we all just get along: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Actually I have memories of getting into Harvest Moon on the SNES back before my gonads had fully formed
Monster hunter didn't tri hard enough