Monster Hunter is a game that has been synonymous with the PlayStation brand up until now. The Japanese cult hit has sold millions of copies (and helped sell plenty of PSPs) in its home country but has experienced limited success in overseas markets thus far. Capcom hoped to challenge this notion with a marketing campaign in Europe for Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, which launched to strong reviews, and is following this up with the series' first outing on the Nintendo Wii. We embarked on a hunting quest at GamesCom 2009 in Cologne, Germany, armed with our wits and a Wii Classic Controller.
What's New: Capcom confirmed that the European version of Tri will support an online cooperative mode for up to four hunters, as well as a two-player split-screen mode for certain missions and a single-player mode. When online, you can use your friends list to set up quests with friends, or you can quest with people you haven't shared friend codes with. You will be able to communicate using standard gestures, which will probably be similar to those incorporated into Mario Kart Wii.
While felyne helpers may make a comeback in Tri, they'll no longer go into single-player quests with you. Instead, you'll be accompanied by another human monster hunter. We have yet to find out about your companion, other than that it will be a male character. We also checked out the impressive-looking new switchaxe weapon--a ridiculously oversized, curved, double-edged blade that looks as impressive as it does formidable.
What's Different: This build is localised for the European region.
What's The Same: Our demo featured the same monsters we saw at the 2008 Tokyo Game Show, including the bird/lizard hybrid Qurupeco and a dragon that you can fight underwater (a first for the series), the Lagiacrus. Like other new monsters, the Qurupeco will devour other monsters to recover stamina. In our hunt, it called some smaller members of its species in for backup, along with one of the dragon-like Rathian. Apparently there will be only two existing monsters making an appearance in Tri, including the Rathian, and all the rest will be completely new to the series.
We're pleased to report that the game's controls still feel pretty tight when using a Classic Controller and closely match the PSP scheme. You can also use a Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination to get the job done, and while Capcom wasn't able to confirm it, we expect that GameCube controllers will also work. Unfortunately there's still no option to lock the camera onto your current monster, but the L2 button will reset the camera behind you, and the right analog stick can be used to pan the camera.
What Impression The Game Made This Time: Monster Hunter Tri looks nothing short of impressive when running on the Wii hardware, and the engine does a great job of displaying the heads-up displays, your character, hard-earned weapons and armour, vibrant hunting grounds, and, of course, the monsters themselves. There's a soft look to the environments and some nice bloom effects, which make this version of the game the best looking to date. The controls felt natural and responsive, despite a few caveats, and we're keen to see what playing Tri online will look like. Monster Hunter Tri launched in Japan on August 1 and will be heading to Western markets in early 2010.