It’s one of the most popular video game franchises in history, even though it may not appeal to the majority of Western gamers. Capcom has a definite money maker with the multi-million selling Monster Hunter franchise, and if you haven’t done so already, we suggest you turn your attention towards Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for the PSP. Perhaps if you give it a chance, you’ll finally understand Japan’s love for these games. This new PSP installment was on display at the Game Developers Conference this year and several sources (including GameSpot and IGN) went hands-on with the promising action/RPG and relayed their thoughts on the experience. For the most part, if you’re familiar with the series, you’ll already know what to expect; if you’re unfamiliar, feel free to use this preview as an initiation of sorts. This game, like most of the other Monster Hunter entries, is like a mini-MMO that offers tons of depth and nearly infinite longevity. Doesn’t that interest you?
The good news for those of you who aren’t so keen on the idea of a handheld MMO is that Capcom has overhauled the concept just a tad, thereby giving it more of a single-player focus. Basically, they’re tossing in a companion so you don’t have to set out on missions alone, and you don’t necessarily have to team up with other players. In the preview build at the GDC, players were able to do battle with all sorts of enemies, including a giant boss in the form of an intimidating crab. The number of aforementioned quests may actually be countless and the sheer amount of content – ranging from equipment to items to locales – should be enough to satisfy even the most hardcore role-playing aficionados. The multiplayer missions will let you discover better items, and despite the fact that you can do plenty on your own, the primary appeal still centers on multiplayer action. And hey, there’s plenty of incentive, as all that cool stuff you find during multiplayer missions can be transferred to your single-player adventure, which will most certainly give you the edge!
As most of you know, the MMOs are big on freedom and player customization, but not so big on storyline. It’s a matter of creative limitation, really; you can’t very well allow the player to do whatever he/she wants and still attempt to institute a cohesive storyline. Well, Freedom Unite won’t be entirely devoid of a plot, as the story takes place after Monster Hunter Freedom 2 and everyone will recognize your character as a hero before you even attempt your first mission. It’s a good way to start, but always remember: in games like this, preparation is crucial. GameSpot talks about starting off their play session with a character named Gin (a warrior princess, apparently) and before setting off to explore an icy region, they had to pick up a hot drink before setting out. Then, during battle, Gin’s multiple blades – very effective up close but lacking in range – became dull from use, and they had to pause to use a whetstone. Furthermore, the rest of the characters in the party each had different weapons and abilities, which always adds much-appreciated diversity to any RPG.
Actually, your equipment will dictate much of your character’s skill, so you have constant motivation to upgrade your weapons and armor. One of the upgrades you can expect in regards to equipment should come as good news to avid followers of the series: you don’t have to save up for a thousand years to get that one super-powerful weapon. Instead, Capcom has tossed in plenty of “mid-tier weapons” that will allow you access to newer and better weapons on a more consistent basis. The only downside to this addition is that such middle-of-the-road weapons won’t be upgradable like the other ones, but at the very least, you won’t be stuck with a relatively weak blade for too long. As for the rest of the game, that partner of yours in the single-player mode is a cat, who was seen dressed in strange samurai gear and wielding a giant hammer…okay, so don’t piss off the cat. And of course, with the amount of gear available throughout your adventure, you’ll never grow tired of searching for new, more powerful stuff. It’s all about catering to the build-up and micromanagement buffs.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is scheduled to release in North America some time later this year and for RPG fans, it may be a must-buy. You won’t find anything all that similar, and besides, Capcom has proven themselves time and time again with games in this series. We’ll let you know whenever they decide to hand out a solidified release date.
3/26/2009 Ben Dutka