Review by Gcyoshi13
"A very frustrating game, but also a very rewarding one."
The geniuses behind Street Fighter and Mega Man are the same ones behind Monster Hunter. In Japan, this game is a phenomenon and it's building its popularity here. Monster Hunter is a third-person action game, where the objective is to gather materials and slay monsters so you can upgrade your weapon/armor to hunt down more menacing of foes. This has always been the concept of Monster Hunter games, and Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is no exception.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is an expansion of Monster Hunter Freedom 2. Both of them are basically the same game by design and looks, but Monster Hunter Freedom Unite has more equipment, conveniences, quests, and monsters than Monster Hunter Freedom 2. Safe to say, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is clearly better and superior, so there's little reason to get Monster Hunter Freedom 2 at this time.
For returning players who own Monster Hunter Freedom 2, you might be wondering in detail to what new content does Monster Hunter Freedom Unite bestow. Here's a brief overview:
- 10 new boss enemies. Six of them are quite new and unique on their own, while four of them are recolors with different attacks and patterns. Existing enemies also received new attacks.
- More convenient way to store your items, along with a vastly larger storage box.
- You can now have a feline companion to aid you during your solo quests. During quests, your companion can gather items, fight enemies, and hit you whenever you are stunned by any manner. Your companion can also level up and gain skills such as High Grade Earplug or Health Flute.
- Many new quests to compensate for the new monsters and existing ones.
- Many new equipment. A whole new tier is unlocked, dubbed as the G-rank armors/weapons that have even more power.
Following the typical nature of most reviews, I will review each point of the game.
Graphics - 10/10
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite's graphics look great on the PSP. In this game, you'll come across many different environments such as snowy mountains, lush jungles, active volcanoes, damp caves, abandoned ruins, and many more. Each one of these places looks very nice. Your character is also very detailed and can be customized in many ways by face, hair, weapon, and armor. There's a lot to look at, and graphics is something that Monster Hunter Freedom Unite does very well.
Music & Sound - 7.5/10
It's always been of my honest opinion that Monster Hunter has some hidden gems with its generally boring score of music. Well not really hidden, but most of the time, it's difficult to pay attention to the music when you're trying to kill a raging snow ape or an elder dragon. To fully enjoy Monster Hunter Freedom Unite's music, you really have to listen to it separately when you're not playing the game, because otherwise it's all too easy to ignore it. A lot of the tracks are fairly forgettable, but the ones that are worth listening to, are very epic. It's a matter of opinion in this case, but I can assure you, that Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is a game that requires a lot of focus, enough to the point where you disregard the music while playing.
As for the sound, it's very repetitive, but since you're probably focusing on how to not get hit, it's a bit hard to realize that. There's also the monster's screams which were probably intentionally not very swell to listen to. There's just not a whole unique sounds to the game, but since it's a pretty minor factor in many video games, I'm more than willing to let this slide. My only complaint is that a hammer should produce a vastly different sound than a long sword when it hits a monster's head. The swinging and hitting sound are different, but the sound created by the blood flow overshadows those two sounds to the point where it becomes very similar.
Gameplay - 8/10
Alright, the core of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, and is probably what this review will most likely go in depth for. If you looked at many official reviews, they are fairly average for this game, usually scoring a 6 or a 7 out of 10. Yet if you look at the reviews so far in gameFAQs, it's all 9s and 10s. Why is this so?
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is a game where you have play well to earn your fun. Official game reviewers have to jump from game to game quickly and take the time writing about them too. They are busy people, and Monster Hunter is a game that requires lots of devotion. If you don't get into Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, it's most likely you will only criticize its flaws. Many beginner players are forced to perform boring tasks like running long distances just to collecting mountain herbs. Most of Monster Hunter's item gathering tasks are quite boring, especially fishing, and when some armor/equipment/tools require you to gather fishes/bugs/minerals and other items that don't involve killing things, which will cause this game will easily get very dull.
Official game magazines don't usually have the time to devote themselves to a single game because they have to play, review, and write about many other games. They don't get into the game due to it's high learning curve and slow speed, resulting in a relatively low score. Normal gamers who aren't bound to playing video game as their job, can take however much time as they wish to learn Monster Hunter. This is why there's a difference in reviews between the normal player and most video game magazines.
So let's say you're a bit patient, and you actually get to kill something. Your first few hunts in Monster Hunter Freedom Unite aren't incredibly challenging, but then you'll come across some remarkably frustrating enemies. I always had the saying, "In most games, it is YOU who play cheap tricks against the bosses In Monster Hunter, it is the BOSSES who play cheap tricks on you." The idea behind this saying is that, monsters have many ridiculous ways to kill you, some of them being:
- Attacks that take around 2/3 of your health or possibly 1-hit kill you.
- Throwing out a powerful attack to knock you down and hit you again the moment you get up, thus stunning you for the finishing hit,
- Throwing combinations such as a paralyzing roar and hitting you right after.
- Piss you off by staying in places where you can't hit them, or by moving around a lot.
These are some of the frustrations that are experienced by many beginner players. It's all too easy to rage quit in this game. However! If you can manage to find a way around these problems and to defeat the boss, then trust me, it feels great. The harder the boss, the more accomplished you feel. This is the true reward of Monster Hunter.
Monster Hunter offers 11 different weapon types that unique for the most part. Each weapon has its own learning curve and uses, that require a good amount of usage to master. Here's a general idea of each weapon:
Sword and Shield - The short sword and shield is a fast and mobile weapon that is good for fast and slow enemies alike. It has the ability to quickly attack and recover and the ability to block can be a life saver in many situations. It is not a powerful weapon however, so it's best meant to invoke elemental damage and status effects (the most useful being sleep).
Dual Swords - The dual blades is very powerful having a similar purpose as the Sword and Shield, but is far more powerful and leaves you vulnerable. You can activate a special power-up called the Devil Dance to add a very powerful combo to your already long chain of attacks, but if missed, you are unable to defend yourself until you finish attacking, and your enemy can use this opportunity to hit you. Dual Swords don't have many status effects compared to the sword and shield, but better than the sword and shield when it comes to using elemental attack bonuses.
Great Sword - The mighty great sword is a massive weapon of incredible reach and power compared to many of the other weapons, but it's a very slow one. Mobility when the great sword is out is terrible, but it has the ability to block when evading is not an option. Each swing leaves you wide open and the attacks must be chained in a slow flowing combo in order to keep momentum. Normally great sword users must study their enemies very carefully for a perfect time to charge up a very powerful vertical strike and unleash it on the enemy while still creating enough time to properly roll away.
Long Sword - Long swords homes the katanas and long blades of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. Their reach is excellent, but they cannot be used for blocking. Instead, footwork and rolling is the main and only defense of the long sword. Long sword users have a meter in which they build up by successful slashes of the long sword. The meter can be used for more powerful slashes and combos, and if the meter reaches full, the user enters in a more powerful state.
Lance - The heavy lance and shield is a defense-oriented weapon. Being the only weapon aside from gunlance to be able to attack while blocking, lance users are excellent at the game of "peek-a-boo" where you simply block an attack and throw out a few pokes before blocking again. Lance is a slow weapon however, but with patience, you won't find much need to heal because you won't take much damage.
Gunlance - You're probably wondering, why lance when there is the gunlance? Gunlances (as the name implies) is basically a lance with the ability to fire shells. Gunlance have the same capabilities as a normal lance, and even has a powerful attack called the "Wyvern's Fire" that can do some hefty damage, but must require a long time before it can be used again. On the downside, gunlances wear very quickly compared to the normal lance, and must be sharpened constantly. Lances are also more powerful in the stabs for the most part also.
Hammer - The hammer is a weapon of short reach and questionable defense, but it's a weapon that's capable of taking monsters that would require other weapons to take twice as long. Hammers are highly risky weapons that can reap very nice rewards if used well. It's often considered that hammer is one of the best weapons in Monster Hunter. With enough strikes to a monster's head, you can knock-out the monster so you can score multiple combos for even more damage. However its only defense is to be evasive by rolling and moving while charging for the next strike.
Hunting Horn - The instrument weapon of Monster Hunter. All of them work similarly to the hammer, with one twist, and that it has the ability to bestow power-ups and bonuses by playing music. Each hunting horn is equipped with three notes that range from colors. When notes are combined in order, the user and any allies around him will be given a power-up, such as increased movement speed, or wind resistance. A very unique and useful weapon and its use are further magnified when playing with others.
Light Bowgun - The bowgun is essentially a gun. You load shells into the weapon so that you can fire them at your enemies. There are many different shells such as normal bullets, shotgun pellets, cluster bombs, tranquilizers, elemental shells, and more. While it's useful to be able to switch to different ammo that's suited from different monsters, some bowguns can only be equipped with certain ammo, and you always have to make sure you come prepared with ammo, since it's not infinite.
Heavy Bowgun - It's essentially the same as a light bowgun, but slower and more powerful. The mobility difference between a light bowguun and heavy bowgun are fairly large though, so they are different when it comes to tactics despite having the same concept.
Bow - The normal longbow and arrow is a fairly weak weapon, but also one of the safer ones. Each bow can be charged to fire different shots, such as a spread shot, piercing shot, or rapid one. Bows can also be equipped with coatings to give the arrows a status inflicting ability or to make it more powerful. Bows usually take awhile to finish of bosses, but it's a fairly safe and mobile weapon to use.
Sometimes the weapon you use will determine if a boss will be easy or not. One example being the Plesioth, an enemy who spends most of its time hiding and attacking in the water, only coming out when it's upset (which is still a pain to fight). Fighting the plesioth with the dual swords is incredibly hard as opposed to bow which is incredibly easy. Not saying one is impossible, but part of coming prepared against a boss is to bring a good weapon of choice.
Varying on the monster you want to hunt, some are fairly easy, and some are dreadfully difficult. While all bosses are capable of being solo'd, I'm not kidding when I say that some are nearly impossible to beat alone or even with friends. To beat a monster sometimes require you to lose multiple times to analyze it's attacks, or to be resourceful and look up strategies and tips on how to counter the boss's movements and to test them out. To beat the bosses in Monster Hunter, your really have to take the initiative to study your enemies well, which can be a very frustrating thing to do if it doesn't pay off.
Speaking of friends, the reason why this game is very popular in Japan is because it's easier to socialize through means of video games there. Monster Hunter is even more fun to play among friends, and can even alleviate all the once normally boring tasks such as material gathering. Hunting boss monsters become easier and also more enjoyable. I played multiplayer with my girlfriend and it was quite enjoyable, but whenever we lost a quest, we would begin to point fingers and get mad. While you can share the enjoyment of this game by playing this with friends, you can also share the anger caused by this too. As long as you're not terrible like my girlfriend then you have nothing to worry about ha-ha (I'm kidding). I'm serious though, this game is worth getting if you have a good friend to play it with. Alone or with friends, it's pretty fun.
Another reason why Monster Hunter is so harshly criticized sometimes is because of its controls. The actual game controls are fairly responsive. The main problem here lies within the camera, which is 90% of the time always adjusted manually by the player. For almost the whole time playing this game, you will be controlling not only the character you're playing as, but also the camera that is viewing him/her. While this isn't as hard or complex as it seems, it CAN result in a few problems.
Many times when you're fighting close up with a monster, you have to adjust the camera, because the monster gets in the way. Your camera acts all funky near walls too, and begins to go close up as well, thus giving you a terrible sight angle to work with. All of this can be fixed manually, but while doing this, the monster will prepare to strike you at your blind spot. Monsters that move quickly too, will have you constantly spare a left finger to move the camera at the designed spot. It feels weird for beginner players, but it's something the professionals have gotten used to.
I firmly believe that the in-game controls are responsive, but many people wouldn't feel that way. The reason so is that in most games, when you press a button, your character instantly responds within milliseconds or less. In Monster Hunter, when you wield a heavy hammer, you actually feel like you're wielding one. A hammer smash comes out more than second after a button is pressed, which can give the impression that Monster Hunter is clunkier than it actually is.
I'm not kidding, Monster Hunter is very addicting, but that's only if you get into it. Luckily for me, I got hooked into this series, and I love it. I have more than 300+ hours on this game, so I actually kind of know what I'm typing here. If you don't get into it however, you probably wouldn't spend more than 40 hours (probably less). It's a matter whether you're sold on to this game or not, and I firmly believe there's no real middle to this. It's either black or white.
Monster Hunter is a very well-designed game, but it's not for everyone. There's too many moments that will frustrate beginner players and advance players alike. Monster Hunter usually takes a lot of time and devotion to complete successfully which is a step that some don't really like to take in a video game.
It's simple to understand really, because harder challenges usually benefit in higher rewards and feelings of accomplishment. Monster Hunter is a very challenging game overall, so give it time, give it effort, and you'll experience a feeling that's missing in many video games as of right now.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/30/09, Updated 08/03/09
Game Release: Monster Hunter Freedom Unite (US, 06/22/09)
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