Review by Touchfuzzy
"Not for everyone, but definitely worth a shot."
All games start out with a score of 5 out of a possible 10, 5 being average. Average is "fine." "Okay." After playing through it, certain values are added or subtracted from 5 to reach its final score based on how I felt about it. Those values are derived from Concept, Gameplay/Controls, Graphics, Sound, Replay, and Fun. The game will recieve a final score based on all of the points given. Even if everything equaled a 0 or 10, those scores will only be given after thoughtful consideration; most of the time, they will be awarded a 1 or 9, respectively.
Normally when you think of Capcom, you think of Mega Man. Up next is usually Street Fighter. After that, that's about it, unless you're from Japan. If that's the case, you'd have said "Monster Hunter" immediately. That's because Unite sold over a million copies in its first week. Seven days. That's a lot of games, so it must be pretty good, right? Generally speaking, it's much more popular over there than here in America, where it's more of a niche game or what I like to call a "Bell Pepper" game; you either like it a lot, or you don't really like it at all. Looking at my PSP, I've clocked in 437 hours into Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, so I assume that would put me in category of "liking it."
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite was released in North America in mid-2009. Before it was Monster Hunter Freedom 2, released for us sometime in the third quarter of 2007, making Unite a sort of "sequel," though it's really more of a large expansion pack and some gameplay tweaks. It's labeled as an "Action RPG," though that brings games like the Mana series to mind, which Unite is not. The most "RPG" thing about Unite is the weapon making and the fact that your Hunter Rank goes up through getting farther in the game. It's much more about the action.
Concept - +0
The basic premise of Unite is the same as all of the other games in the Monster Hunter series; you kill things, get some parts, make new armor and weapons when you have enough parts, go kill stronger things until you receive your "Urgent" quest, and beat that to move on to the next set of quests. That's it. You do this over and over again until you've reached the end of the game, which in this case would be the final urgent quest. When it's broken down like this, it seems like it's merely a giant chain of fetch quests. ...but it isn't. Not quite.
Monster Hunter has always (mostly) been about teaming up with up to three other people and taking down monsters together. In fact, in Unite, there's a whole third section of guild quests (labeled as "G-Rank") that the offline village quests don't even offer. Sure you could do the G-Rank quests by yourself but...well, good luck. Anyways, just the prospect of multiplayer complete changes the previous "massive-fetch quest" feeling of the game. It means you can play through an entire game with at least one other person, helping each other and joking around while the game cheats you out on rare items over and over and over again. The game hasn't changed at all, but it makes it more bearable and fun.
Story-wise...there isn't one. I mean, near the beginning you get thrown down a mountain by a Tigrex and the village finds you, but that's about it. There isn't much of a story, though the NPCs will usually say different things after every urgent quest, so it adds a little bit of depth. Not a lot, though.
Gameplay/Controls - +1
Like I said earlier, if you break down Unite into simple little parts, it seems like Giant Fetch Quest: The Game, which might bring about all those quests in MMOs that start off not being so bad, but then turning out to be a chore. However, in MMOs, your fighting in these chores consists of targeting, click a set of skills, waiting, and repeating. In Unite (and all of Monster Hunter, really), you have to actively move, dodge, and block. Enemies also take more damage in certain spots, using certain types of weapons, and from varying elements. This makes things less of chore (for the most part), and more fun. In MMO terms, it's as if every battle is a raid.
There are 11 types of weapons, 5 different elements, and each of them play differently. You can choose to hit hard with the hammer or greatsword, block and counter the lance and gunlance, be quick and speedy with the sword and shield or dual-swords, or support from afar with the bow and bowguns. Each weapons' controls are different, so if you were using one for quite a while then decided to switch over to another weapon, you will probably have to take some time and learn what attacks work and when you should use each attack.
As the title suggests, the meat of this game is fighting monsters. Some of them are small, others are big. Some are easy, and some are just plain mean. Almost all fights progress the same way; you start on a map and are required to locate the target monster. You find it, hit on it for a while until it gets angry. When a monster gets angry, their tactics change. Some simply get faster and hit harder. Others will make less mistakes during their attacks, or pull-off completely new attacks. After a while, they'll calm down and return to normal until enough damage has been dealt to them, causing them to become enraged once more.
This causes you to have to change how you fight every monster. Not every monster falls to the "hit it with this element in this spot until it dies" tactic. Some monsters stop being weak to an element or in a certain spot when they become angry. Some monsters may be weak to a certain element, but only when hit with it on their back. This is the main strength of Monster Hunter; what worked for the monster you just faced may not work at all on the next one, and it will be up to you to figure that out, which will normally be rewarding and enjoyable, especially when you're with friends.
This game has no levels, no stat gains; nothing. The more you play, the more skilled you get. You'll start out not knowing what to do, getting hit all the time, wasting resources and time, and dying often. But you'll be getting better. You'll know when to dodge when the monster does a certain action. You'll figure out just how many times you should strike before you should pull back and wait. You'll know what weapons to use, on what parts. You'll gain real "experience." That's what makes Monster Hunter so rewarding to play; it isn't the weapons and armor you'll be crafting, it's the skill you'll be building up as you go from being a newbie that gets tossed around like a doll, to hardly getting hit at all when facing the toughest enemies, knowing just what to do to keep the monster stunned and away from you. It feels extremely good to play when you have moments like not having to heal at all after you've just finished off a G-Rank monster with a -hammer.-
Control-wise, as I said earlier, all weapons are controlled a little differently from one another. Certain controls are shared though, like item using and switching and camera rotating. Speaking of which, the camera needs to brought up. Depending on who you are, you will likely hate the camera controls in the beginning; I know I did. See, you move with the control stick and rotate the camera using the D-Pad. Do you see the problem here? Unless you're some freak of nature or a bug, you'll have to stop moving to rotate the camera. This can be bad when you first start out, but later on it's not so bad when you figure out when you can stop and when you have to move. Still, it's a bit aggravating.
Graphics - +0
The game's cinematic sequences are rather good looking. However, like most games, that's usually how it is; the movie sequences are on a whole different level of quality than the actual "game" part. The actual, in-game graphics are...okay. They won't blow your mind, but they're certainly not bad to look at; they're around standard PS2 polygon quality. The environments can be nice to look at every now and then, especially in certain spots like the Great Jungle and Forest & Hills. The weapons and armor all all diverse, for the most part, and certainly make each character look unique.
Sound/Music - +0
Music plays when you're in town and when you're up against a large monster. In between those two instances, nothing but environmental sounds play. The music that plays may be catchy to you, but it may only be stuck in your head because you hear it so often, though there are some tunes I remember without having to play and actually like.
As for sounds, you can choose from a somewhat large pool of sounds for your character to make. Weapons all make slightly different sounds, with some weapons being really special, like a Khezu weapon making Khezu-like noises, or shiny weapons sounding slick and sharp unlike any of the other weapons from its type. Monsters, of course, make different noises, but that's to be expected.
Replay - +1
This game encourages replay well after beating the "final" monster. How do I know this? I beat the final urgent quest somewhere around 200-250 hours in, though I've played it for over 400 hours. Even after you "beat" the game, you'll be able to improve armor further, make new weapons, and keep fighting monsters. You may even move on to try and beat -any- rank of Fatalis. The point is that this game makes "replay" seem non-existent, because you're always playing. There's always stuff to be made and monsters to fight. Even if you beat every monster by yourself, fighting monsters with other people allows you to re-experience it in a pleasant way.
Fun - +1
I was going to give this a +2, but I decided against it after I thought about it hard enough. Mainly, it's because sometime this game makes you think you're having fun, when you're really just addicted. And if you ask any drug-addict, just because they're addicted doesn't mean they're enjoying it.
Most of the time, you'll be enjoying yourself (preferably with other people) while you kill monsters and make things and craft your own little inside jokes (like calling Rathalos "Ramalam.") But there will be times when it isn't fun at all, yet you keep playing. You'll be needing the rarest drop from the final monster, but get none at all after ten fights, while your buddy next to you has no desire for the same item, yet got three of them in two fights. This game will tick you off royally, make no mistake about that. From weird hit-boxes on attacks, to battle tactics not working like they did before, to monsters suddenly focusing on you like you're the only person left between it and world-conquest, as well as the aforementioned item drop chances, this game will make you so astronomically irritated that sometimes you'll just turn it off and be done with it for a few days.
Overall - 8/10
This game may not be for everyone. Make no mistake, it is a blast to play once you get into it and even more fun if you have at least one other person to play it with. But to some, it's a hard game to get into, and I can totally see why. With no story and no immediately visible progress in the form of plot progression, shiny level-up screens, or stats rising, many lose motivation after only a few hours of gameplay. However, it's a game that has to be tried at least once, because who knows? You just might be the next Monster Hunter.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/29/11
Game Release: Monster Hunter Freedom Unite (US, 06/22/09)
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