After months of negotiations, I have finally been given the go-ahead to write a review of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. It seems like there should be a colon in that title somewhere, but sadly I don't think there is. This will be much like my Rune Factory: Frontier review (ahh, a colon), as I have never checked out a Monster Hunter game before aside from a brief excursion into the tutorial of the first Monster Hunter for the PS2. Unsurprisingly, it was very similar to the tutorial for Freedom Unite.
My first thought upon trying FU (I'll just abbreviate from here on out) was that the controls felt awkward. That could be the fault of the PSP's button layout, as I have pretty much gotten used to them, though I haven't been out on any real hunting yet.
All I have completed so far are the beginner tutorials on every basic aspect of the game, including a tutorial for each of the game's 11 or so different kinds of weapons. These tutorials seemed verbose at first, but FU feels like a very deep game, so I'm glad the tutorials try to clue you into the inner workings as much as possible. I thought it'd be annoying to run a tutorial for each weapon, but because they actually all operate fairly differently, it was worth it to see which one I am most comfortable with. I'll likely wield a long sword or a bowgun for now, but the flute/horn that can boost your abilities by playing music in-between bashing monsters in their faces seems like it could have its advantages.
While my first impressions on FU were awkward, I'm warming up after completing basic training. I am eager to get out into the field and to get into the meat of this game, which has a ungodly following in Japan. Maybe I'll even be able to check out the new online play feature that was added recently. There appear to be a ton of weapon types, armor types, items with different effects, materials for crafting, and a new "felyne" village was added where you can recruit cats and make them cook for you and such. Seems interesting.
I'll do my best to get this review completed in a timely manner, mostly because if I don't RPGamer has threatened to take me off the streets and put me behind a desk for the rest of my career. For a loose cannon like me, there'd be nothing worse.
So, I began my first real quests, and assumed they'd all be easy as pie. While on my third mission to collect the tongues of some docile mammoth-type creatures, a giant wyvern appeared and knocked the crap out of me. Seeing as I love a good challenge, I tried to kill it, which resulted in three "deaths" and the failure of my quest. A good start actually, I like surprises like this, and I'm just going to go back to try to kill the thing again.
I'm loving this game. It has a simple structure, and really no story to speak of, but it doesn't matter. This game is about hunting for loot, collecting massive amounts of items in many different ways, and fighting different types of monsters. It's good in the same sort of way that Demon's Souls is, where the world seems to be against you but then you find an upgrade here and there, figure out this or that, and truly feel like you're getting stronger. It's just too bad that the PSP control scheme can really hurt your hand, but it's not killing the game's enjoyment. Onward to new areas to see if Monster Hunter will hold my attention.
I am wearing a boar's head for a helmet.
I got the courage to leave the Snowy Mountains (the first area), and headed into the Jungle, where my cat companion got farted on by a pink monkey. I'm still at the very beginning as far as quest levels go, so I'm hoping there will be more moments like that in the future. Lots of depth in this game.
I just recently returned from my first journey into the desert. This seems to be the place where the game makes you work a bit more, as there are these under-the-sand dwelling wyverns that are tough to catch unless you use certain items. Also, your health will constantly go down in the desert unless you use a cold drink. Cats may also steal your items in another area. Luckily, the desert's version of the dino-raptor is still pretty weak.
It's a little tough to figure out exactly which armor suits to create, as they all have different advantages and disadvantages. I'd hate to make a full suit of something only to find out that it's incredibly weak to the next area's monsters. Other than that, I'm not having too many problems with the game, other than the still annoying camera controls.
The Khezu is the first monster that really kicked my butt and I had to turn off the PSP before defeating it. I got close to killing it but its rage mode is fairly tough and it seems to deflect most of my sword attacks. I'm definitely not using items properly and am going to bring a selection of bombs and such to give it another try.
The Khezu battle made me realize you really need to find the patterns of some of these monsters and follow them 100% of the time, or else you won't be slaying much. The Khezu is actually easy once you figure it out. My next challenge was a monster called the Plesioth. It hangs around in the water and shoots water breath at you, but the real problem with it are its very powerful close range attacks. I am using a long sword, a close range weapon which cannot guard (but is more powerful than a regular sword and more agile than a great sword). You have to hit and run on the Plesioth, or else it'll demolish you pretty quickly. As with the Khezu, after defeating the first Plesioth it gave me a great feeling of accomplishment, because often these monsters seem almost impossible at first. Then, I took on the even tougher Green Plesioth, which you have to fight in an area that is tighter to move around in. After killing a monster, is also feels good in that you get new rare crafting materials to make better weapons and armor.
Though my hands hurt from Monster Hunter's control scheme, there is just so much to do that I can't stop playing. It's a perfect handheld game that will give you plenty of things to do while not at home. While sometimes frustrating if you fail at defeating a monster after a long fight, that is just what the game is. You have to chalk it up to learning the fight.
With nearly 40 hours in, I'm still fighting what are considered the weaker monsters and am only on the three star main quests. There are still the four star, five star, and six star quests, all of the quests inside of the hunting hall (of which there are even more), training challenges...
I'm anticipating having to put at least 100 hours in to write a decent review.
I'm still working my way through this game. I finally took on the quest to defeat my first nemesis, the Tigrex, and he's not an easy monster, especially when enraged. My feline companion is invaluable as a distraction, and with its help I was able to send the Tigrex to its grave. Now I have moved on to the five star quests, with only them and the six star quests left.
MH: FE so far is like one seemingly impossible encounter after another. After defeating one thing that you don't think you'll beat, you move on to another harder one, and another one, and maybe an easy one, and then a harder one again. What adds to this feeling is that monsters do not have a health bar. You have no clue if a monster is 1 simple hit from death, or 100. When a monster is enraged, that's a clue that it's damaged (usually), and monsters also tend to limp when they're really close to death. I suppose this adds to "realism" and provides a unique sense of tension you won't find in other games, but it definitely can impart the feeling of frustration. I haven't yet even taken on the game's tough monsters, so I'm interested to see what they throw at me.
I am almost at the end of the five star quests. I've taken on my first Elder Dragon, the Kushala Daora, and it was tough because it has this aura of wind that makes it hard to get close. Considering how I've chosen the long sword, a melee weapon, this is a problem. Supposedly, poisoning the beast makes its wind die down, though the methods I tried of poisoning didn't seem to work. Eventually, it weakens to the point that the wind goes away, and then it's pretty much a pushover. I have "defeated" it twice, though against an Elder Dragon the early battles mean that it flees, not that its killed, so it's has run away from me twice (which are victories).
Just when I think that the game is all wyverns, the 5-star Kirin slay appeared, an electrical horse that I never thought I'd defeat. The main problem with the Kirin is that it harms you just for getting too close, and at times it kicks into high gear and really harms you. The Kirin, like most tough fights, I defeated on my last life (you get three per try). Luckily, I have had few times where 45-minute long fights ended with a loss.
The lack of a health bar is just really annoying. Cues in the form of hasted or raging monsters just isn't enough. One of the game's flaws, along with painful controls.
You must gather your party before venturing forth