The process of reviewing the Wii U's launch window titles has brought with it sheer childish glee, grin-inducing innovation, smug self-satisfaction and unbearable frustration, all in the space of a few months. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate brings its own unique combination of emotions (a strange mix of joy and irritation) and it's proved to be a tough one to settle on.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate isn't an original game built from the ground up for Wii U. Then again, it isn't a port of a PS3 or 360 game, either. It's something we haven't yet seen on Wii U - a high-definition expansion of a Wii game - and from here stems many a problem.
The original game hit Wii in August 2009, using the sillier moniker, Monster Hunter Tri. It was a Nintendo rarity, an RPG adventure game based in a fully-fledged, well-supported online world. What's more, it was exclusive to Nintendo consoles. Japanese gamers embraced it and it went some way towards growing the dedicated following on western shores, too. The key element to note, though, is that this game was released over three years ago. You can't simply re-release an old game and pretend it's new. Luckily, a fair few additions have been made.
Every Dragon Has Its Day
As an inhabitant of Moga Village it's your job to rid the land of the 100-foot long sea serpent, Lagiacrus, who has set up home in local waters, driving all trade from your fishing town. You start off as a rookie, but as you help the townsfolk with various quests and clear the surrounding areas of marauding dinos, village life will start to improve. Traders will start to move back and you'll be able to upgrade your weapons and armour. You'll become more powerful and be able to take on tougher foes.
You can get as involved with Moga Village as you like. The depth offered by being able to combine items, farm your own land, fish for your own food and choose from hundreds of different sets of armour and weaponry means that no two game saves will be the same. As your prowess grows the village's safety threshold expands and you'll be able to explore further and visit distant lands. This process is long - you can expect to write off at least 40 hours - but that's the draw. As you might expect, though, the deep (for which read slow and methodical) gameplay that some love is the very quality that others loathe.
The Wii U version boasts several improvements over its three-year-old cousin. Firstly, and most significantly, it's now presented in glorious high definition. The village now glows with the extra colours and detail, but it's the larger monsters that really benefit from the extra oomph. Even the most cynical gamer will be impressed by the scaly hide of a 40-foot Black Diablos as it drops to the ground before you.
The same attention has not been given to the landscape and the character models. Mountains and valleys are impressive from afar, but get up close and you'll notice the average textures stretched across angular groundwork. It's a constant reminder that this is a port, not a remake, but many people will forgive this.
Just as important as the graphical upgrade is the extra content. Hardcore Monster Hunter fans will find themselves in two minds about what's on offer. There is a new rank of quests available, including a number of exclusive and mightily impressive new boss creatures, but you have to play the game for 40 hours before that new rank unlocks. If you've never played the game before, this new content won't be so important to you. If you have, will you really want to re-play the whole game just to see the new bits?