Slainte reviews the pros and cons of Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite

User Rating: 8 | Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G PSP
Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite is a PSP title that places you in the shoes of a Hunter whose been charged with the task of defending the village of Pokke from hundreds of massive and brutal enemies. These hunters make the Marine Corps. look like a joke as they tackle enemies the size of buildings on foot. Slash, bash, stab and shoot down your enemies in a given time set while carving your rewards from their bodies. It sounds brutal right? Well, it's only about half as brutal as the description, but still awesome.

Monster Hunter is a cult hit in many nations. Known for it's dozens upon dozens of monsters, quests, weapons and armor options in it's PS2 releases; Freedom Unite virtually combines all the content from it's previous installments and bundles them together. A considerable amount of content has been tacked on, such as new Pokke Farm features, new equipment, new equipment creation requirements, and new monsters.

While this game is a gumbo of Monster Hunter goodness, it is not for the casual gamer (especially one's with no patience.) Monster Hunter is popular for it's horrid and almost torturous habit of having inconvenient hit box measurements on it's massive and overpowered enemies. These enormous enemies also have a habit of ignoring physics, running through boulders, trees and sections of mountainside to run your ass into the ground with no hope of recovery.

The game mostly relies on three mechanics. Familiarize with your menus/tabs, fight dirty and 'epic movie jump.' To explain further, Monster Hunter requires a lot of menu use, even during combat. You're given an item hotkey of sorts, but eventually you need to concoct potions and emergency recipes on the fly. This makes it frustrating at first until you memorize your menu. Combat is dodgy and sometimes a big rip off to the player. You're forced to dodge, block, and run away from giant monster assaults. Even when you're out of reach, you're still in their reach. Being bludgeoned with invisible and benign forces (aka hitboxes.) This forces players to take extra caution on top over over-prepping before every mission.

To be successful you have to memorize all the monsters moves, which evolve and grow in intensity with the rise of your quest difficulty ranks. On top of this you must prepare for weather conditions and status effects. The game forces you to evolve your strategy WITH the game. With a wide assortment of armor, weapons, and equipment abilities, one can devise hundreds of methods to slay the beast. The problem is, good plans need good execution, so you need to have the jewels to get in their and wail on these massive enemies and take a few losses before you understand them.

All the while you're finnicking in combat, you're face with doing the quests more than once in order to update your arsenal. This can be tedious at times, but is a hidden training mechanism to provide the player(s) with the necessary know-how in order to make the future encounters of the game less difficult. This game, while at many times frustrating enough to make you want to pull out your hair, is intelligent in design. The learning curve is steep, but once you get a taste for it, you never quit.

To ease the impossible odds of the quest, this game supports 4 Player Ad-Hoc on PSP/Vita systems (and an online link-up method if you own a PS3.) This makes the game drastically easier and more enjoyable, but still remains to be a game strictly for the masters.

However, what if you have no friends? That's pretty sad isn't it? Never fear, Freedom Unite treats you to an AI companionship system with Felynes on the battlefield. You can pick a Felyne and train it and give it special abilities as it grows (similar to pokemon.) It will follow you in battle, help you kill monsters, gather material, buff you, track monsters and occasionally blow your mighty hunter butt sky high with a barrel bomb. These companions CAN die, but always revive themselves after a recovery period. This recovery time increases in duration with each KO.

This game is a must-have for Playstation handheld system users.