Review by GirTheRobot
"A superb and very addictive PSP game"
Readers, keep in mind that this is my first MH game, and my first review. From what I understand, this game is basically just an expansion of MHF2, but is supposed to have a LOT more features in it. If you're still really on the fence about the game after my review, I'd recommend picking that game up because it's cheap. If you live around a Gamestop, they do have a 7 day return policy on used games ;) If you like it, trade it back in and buy this game. If you don't, no big deal, this game sure isn't for everyone, and that's perfectly understandable.
MH has, quite literally, no story. No plot to drive the game, no incentive to progress further to "find out what happens next", none of that. I mean, there is sort of an introductory, I guess. You were fighting some massive monster you didn't stand a chance against, and ended up falling off a mountain. Some other hunter saved you, and brought you back to his village, named Pokke. It's this village that is your only hub in the game, and it is here where you will "rest". You apparently decide to make the best of it, and do hundreds of quests for the village people. Which range from gathering items, to hunting a certain amount of enemies, to slaying a massive wyvern. But, I'll save that for the gameplay aspect.
Personally, I'm not one to notice sound in a game, ever...But I think that's what makes certain games done so damn well. It's when the sound doesn't stick out to you that you realize it was put together rather well, and that's why I'm giving it a 9. When I took a step back, though, and really listened, I realized just how great the sound is, and how well it contributes to the whole immersive aspect of the game. The crunching of snow beneath your hunter's feet, the clicking and clacking of your equipment hitting against your back, the whooshing of a Great Sword swinging right through the air, and then the cracking against a wyvern's skull as it comes crashing down. It's all done so well, that it's completely unnoticeable.
Music is the opposite for me, actually. Some music is just there, and helps with the whole experience, but other games have music that really, justifiably makes the game greater and more enjoyable. I will say that the music in this game is catchy (especially the tune that's played when you cook raw meat. Ahh...It's tasty!), but isn't anything too special. You might find yourself whistling the Pokke village theme once you walk away from the game, but that's really it. The only other time when the music in this game really stands out for me is after you slay a wyvern. You lay that final blow against a wyvern, and the victory music plays, which just makes me smile even more. Sometimes, actually, I was reminded a bit of Super Smash Bros. Brawl music, I'm not sure if they share the same composer or not, but they did seem vaguely similar.
Either the best, or second best, graphics I've ever seen on the PSP. The detail that goes into all of the little things in this game is what makes it great. When you kill a popo (basically just the "cattle" of this game), you can see its hairs get ruffled as it writhes around in pain. The details on each individual monster are superb, as well. When near a Tigrex, you can see its scales, and when close up to a Bulldrome, you can see the way its tusks splinter off into smaller parts. While this may not sound all that impressive, you have to remember that this is just the PSP, not a big ol' console. I'd say, though, that this game is on par with God of War: Chains of Olympus' graphics, and maybe slightly worse than Crisis Core. Those two games aside, it is, without a doubt, one of the top notch, most visually stunning games on the PSP.
The controls sure as hell take some getting used to. With melee weapons, triangle is to attack, first and foremost, which just seems kind of odd at first. I mean, of course you get used to it rather quickly, but why couldn't they just make square to attack? Circle is also secondary attack, and Tri+Cir can be done to do another attack as well. Square is to use any items that are useable, i.e. potions and meat. To select such items (which are visible on the bottom right of the screen), you hold L, and press circle or square to move right or left, which I think is done very well, actually. Instead of switching to a menu and equipping a potion you're going to use for a couple seconds, you can just be in the middle of a fight with a wyvern, and quickly switch over to an item you want to use. L is to center the camera, which I use quite often when I'm not fighting a boss. When you use it is up to you, though. X is to roll while moving, and crouch while not. Or, if you have your weapon out, X rolls no matter what. R let's you sprint/run faster. The analog stick, of course, moves your character.
Here's the kicker that will get most of you, though: The D-Pad is to control the camera. I know, I know, it sounds downright awful, doesn't it? Just thinking about it makes you shudder, and could possibly put you off of this game entirely. Well, there's a technique that some people like to call "Monster Hunter Claw", which is, you moving around on the analog stick, and using your index finger to pan the camera left and right. It takes some getting used to, but is very highly recommended for fights.
There are many other controls I could get into, but you can just look them up. I only typed up the ones that I thought were of any significance. I mean, you have controls for when your weapon is out, when it's put away, when you're in your hub, when you have a ranged weapon, etc. Just too much detail that isn't necessary to get into.
The worst part: You can't change the controls at all. Get used to them, buddy, you'll be stuck with 'em.
Here we go, the part of the review that actually matters =P Monster Hunter is, in my honest opinion, its own sort of genre. I've never played another game like this, yet, it is all very familiar. In a nutshell, it's like someone just made a few levels, told you to kill the boss of that level, and you did it. Of course, it is far more detailed than that, but that's what it is at its core.
Oh boy, where to start? Alright, so, if this is your first MH game (like it is for me), there is an entire training program to help you along. It tells you how to do everything that matters, and is very helpful. For instance, when you kill an enemy, you can "carve" them, and just get whatever items they drop. Tells you how to cook meat, which raises your stamina (more on that later), and all the various basic things hunters need to know. It also has a training quest for every single weapon (and there are 11), so you can get familiar with them, and decide which one you like most.
Ah...The weapons. Everyone has their own preference for weapons, and that's just how it is. There is no "right" weapon (although, of course, some weapons are better for certain situations than others), just the weapons you like. I, honestly, don't like lances, and just don't get them, while other people have come up with incredible tactics to kill monsters very fast using them. That's just how it is.
Some people complain about certain weapons being "too slow", but that's the point. This game is not, and listen to this very carefully, this game is NOT a hack and slash. You don't go in there button mashing with your fast-ass weapons because you want to kill a wyvern, you plan your moves correctly and land good damage. There's Sword and Shield, which is fairly fast, and often referred to as "noob friendly", because most early hunters take a liking to it, and you can guard with it. There are also dual swords, which are very fast. But here's the catch: Because those weapons are so fast, their raw damage is weaker, and THAT'S why they move so fast! A Great Sword is very slow, and so is a hammer, but they are the strongest weapons in the game, and, when put to good use, can bring down a monster just fine. All it takes is some getting used to, learning when to attack, and it won't bother you.
Then there's the ranged class, which I've only played around with a bit, but it definitely serves its purpose. You have light bowgun and heavy bowgun, which are exactly how they sound. Basically crossbows, but with actual bullets. LBG is weaker, but you can walk faster with it out, HBG is stronger, but you walk very slow with it out. The standard bow I haven't messed with much, but, who knows? Maybe the bow is exactly what you're looking for. As I said, everyone has their own personal preference with weapons.
Actually, I advise becoming familiar with all weapons, and not just relying on one. Pick maybe four or five you like, and switch out often. Fail a quest using a GS? Try a hammer. Fail with a hammer? Try a LS. There is a sweet spot in there for each quest, and it's really up to you to find it.
Alright, so, you've done the training quests and decided which weapons you favor, now what? Well, what else, you have to hunt some monsters! Now, you start off, and all that's really available to you are, of course, easy quests. Gather 5 mountain herbs, slay 3 giaprey, that kind of stuff. But, as you progress through the game, the quests definitely range in difficulty, and expose you to new monsters all the time.
There are two places (well...three, I guess) to take up quests. When you start, all you have available to you is the village chief (commonly referred to as Village Elder), and 1-3* guild hall quests. The elder quests are always easier than their guild hall equivalent, because the guild hall monsters just have more HP, and do more damage. It would take you longer to slay a Giadrome on a Guild Hall 1* quest than it would for you to slay a Giadrome on an Elder 1* quest, that's just how it is. Because of this, I advise doing most of the elder quests before even attempting the guild hall quests.
Starting a quest is easy enough. You go up to who you want to talk to, look through their quests, and it gives you every detail you need to know. What monster you'll be fighting, the area you'll be going to, the time limit, how much money you will get in reward, and, the contract fee. Contract fee is pretty self explanatory. You pay a set amount of money, and they let you take the quest. Of course, if you beat the quest, they'll give you double what you paid for, plus the original reward, so, as long as you don't fail the quest, it doesn't matter.
Speaking of failing a quest, that happens by dying a set number of times/the reward reaches zero, or the time runs out. For most quests, you can die three times and then it's quest failed, but for others it's only twice, sometimes even once. The majority of the time they give you 50 minutes to slay a monster, which is usually enough time.
There are various types of quests: Gathering, hunting, slaying and epic hunting. Gathering quests require you to get a set amount of items from the specific area. Hunting means you can capture a monster, instead of killing it, while slaying means you have to kill them. Epic hunting is composed of two or more different monsters, hence the name.
In order to progress further, you need to do certain quests, and then you get an urgent quest. For instance: Say you're on elder 2* quests, and you want to get to elder 3* quests. Well, you have to do certain 2* quests, and then you unlock an urgent quest, and you progress on to 3*. What specific quests you have to do is not known to you, unless you, ahem, have access to gamefaqs.
The guild hall works the same way, but when you complete an urgent quest for the guild hall, you get your HR (Hunter Rank) up each time, with HR9 being the highest possible hunter rank.
To me, the game is an action/adventure game with very prominent MMORPG elements. Now, you do not level up. Sounds stupid to you, right? In actuality, it works out very well. Say you go on a quest to slay a Rathalos. Once you finish that quest and you kill him, you can carve off various items from him. That's not the only way you get items, though. Once the quest is over, you get rewards, which are mostly composed of the items that monster drops.
With those items, you go back to your hub and make new armor and weapons...And THAT'S why there is no leveling up, which is why I really don't think this game is an Action RPG (a la Kingdom Hearts), it just just an action game that definitely borrows from such a genre. At any moment, you can go back to being completely weak, and not having the best weapons/stats in the game. Of course, you might argue that you can do that in any RPG, but once you level up, you can never go back to level 1.
Each set of armor is unique, too. Sure it gives you better defense, but that's not really the important part. What's important is the skills implemented in each piece of armor. A skill is something that can benefit, or hurt, you in battle. For instance, Your armor set might come with a skill called attack up, which, obviously, boosts your attack up. That's just the basics of it, though, and there is a lot more detail involved in skills that I'm not diving into because it really isn't necessary for the review.
Of course, not all of your items/materials come just from fighting monsters, no. You can mine, by taking a pickaxe to a crack in the wall, and just get materials. Standard stuff like iron ore, machalite ore, etc. You can also use a bug net and catch bugs, and, of course, fish. All of these things, plus more, can be found in your pokke farm, too! When you start out, you can mine, fish, plant seeds in the fields, and catch bugs at the very minimum. As you progress through the game, ranking up in your elder quests, as well as felyne elder quests, you can buy more renovations for your farm using pokke points (details below). For instance, you can add a mushroom tree, which, none other than, gives you mushrooms, which are useful in combining to make other items. You can also get a beehive and get some honey, which is also useful in combining for other items. Of course, you can add on to what you already have. You start out with one row for planting, and end up with three. One spot to mine for items, and end up with even more. One spot to fish, end up with three, and a catching net. It goes on.
Pokke points are gained through training programs! No, I'm not referring to the beginner training above, but rather training on monsters. Most monsters, when you kill them in the elder quests, get a training quest in the training school where you have the option to beat it with 5 different weapons, but they aren't always the same. For instance, Kut-Ku you fight with a great sword, but not a long sword, while Daimyo Hermitaur you fight with a long sword, not a great sword. This is great, though, because it lets you train and hone your skills to monsters without worrying about losing money by dying. Of course, you only get one life and an item/weapon/armor set, but that's alright.
This is it, though. The bread and butter of the game. Why they call the game "Monster Hunter". Think of each monster as a boss from any other game. You don't just go in there hacking and slashing/gunning up the place, you need a tactic! You need to be observant, and always on your toes. Think about bosses from the Legend of Zelda series, where every single one has a sort of "sign" they do before they attack, and, because of that sign, you know exactly what move that monster is going to do, and can dodge it, and plan to attack afterward. This game takes skill and observation, to say the least.
Many people find this game difficult, and, I'm sure it is to some, but it honestly isn't that bad. I mean, sure, it's more challenging than a lot of other crap, but it's not "ZOMG WTF" hard. Sometimes it's a bit ridiculous, but I'd say it's fair most of the time.
There are very minor flaws that keep this game from being a 10, though. Some of the quests do get repetitive, sadly =/ For instance, you'll kill a Plesioth for an elder quest, and then have to kill it to progress in the guild hall quest. It's the same thing, just harder. Just expect to fight the same wyvern a lot of times throughout your entire playthrough of the game.
Some things just seem downright UNNECESSARY to me, and I'm sure others will think so, too. So, you're in the middle of a battle, and you decide to heal yourself by drinking a potion. Of course, if you're smart, you'd step to the side of the monster, and wait for an opening to do this, but, sometimes monsters do the unexpected =/ Anyway, your character will go into the drinking animation, which is perfectly fine, and I don't mind that they did that at all, but after he's done drinking, he flexes his muscles. As if to say "AAAWWWWWWW YEAH THAT WAS AN AWESOME DRINK", but, I just don't understand why the developers chose to do that...
There is also, for some odd reason, no online play. Now, this doesn't bother me too much, but, they DID include regular multiplayer. As in, one of your friends comes in the room with you and you play over ad-hoc mode. Well, dammit, what about the people whose friends don't have PSP's, let alone a copy of MHFU? To play online, you have to go some long way around. If you have a PS3 with a wired connection, you do some weird crap for that I don't know about, and if you have some sort of device (not sure what) for your computer, you can download Xlink Kai and play online with that.
In the end, though, if you do get into this game, I guarantee you it will last you 200 hours. I am currently approximately 100 hours in, only HR4 and HR9 is as high as you can get. I know people that have 300 hours on this game and are still playing it, although it all depends on your speed. Some people spend a good 150 hours and stay HR1, while others play 100 and get to HR6. But, I am absolutely certain that if you get into this game, it will last you 200 hours at the least, no matter how fast or slow you're going. And you have to keep in mind that I've been playing solo this whole time, I would imagine setting up online and/or playing with a friend would add even more time to this game! It's just absurd how long this game, being a mostly single player game, can last. I love it.
Anyone with a PSP should at least try the demo, and for $30, you really can't go wrong. Hell, DS games cost $30-$35, and this game, undoubtedly, has a much higher production value than any other DS game I've ever played.
Overall score: 9.5/10, not 9, GameFAQs just doesn't have decimals, unfortunately.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/12/09
Game Release: Monster Hunter Freedom Unite (US, 06/22/09)
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