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Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate Wii U review

The beast-bashing behemoth is brought back down to size

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.

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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.

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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?

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32 comments so far...
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  1. BattleGooseUK Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 08:17

    The thing that puts me off this game and all Monster Hunters so far is the weird controls. I'm sure once you're invested in the game you pick them up and they become 2nd nature but I switch between 3 consoles and play loads of different games and none feel quite as awkward as Monster Hunter, I gave the demo a go and I couldn't get a feel for it. I love the concept but I don't think I can commit myself to learn the controls as fluidly as I need. :(

  2. TomMc92 Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 08:51

    Quite shocked at 79% but i can see your points may parts that need improving stil remain. I did find that a bit silly the aim of the game is to hunt big monsters but the start your just gathering items, would like to get stuck in right away. But people who are willing to hold it out learn the controls will be treated to a great game. One of my favorite for online play one i bought my Wii U for really. The underwater section can be very annoying at times but overall i really enjoy them when a quest comes together. Still very much looking forward to playing it, i was annoyed that i couldn't use my wii mote on the demo but im used to the classic controls now. Its just X,A & R nothing to difficult to learn. Anyone thinking of waiting for MH4 you'll be a waiting a while as it's not even out in Japan yet, so a few years before we even get to play it. I know it has its problems but id still reccomend people giving MH3U a try.

  3. Kesskuron Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 09:30


    The combat is all about calculated risk. If you go in like a moron swinging away expecting to kill things then the game will punish you for it. Every action you take comes with a risk. It's up to your skill as a player to make sure that you don't cock it up and leave yourself vulnerable. Admittedly the game could do more in the way of tutorials and easing the player in, but there really isn't any need to 'modernise' the combat. Doing so would just massively alienate MH's already strong fan base. Given the stranglehold MH has on Japan, do you really think they're going to risk changing the formula they know when they know it works every time?

    Not every game needs to use the gamepad amazingly either. If people start thinking that then it means devs are less likely to make games for the Wii U just because they couldn't think of some quirky way of utilising it, which was the case with Borderlands 2. That and the fact that off TV play will be patched in in April.

    Do I want to play through it again to see the new content? More than twice as many monsters, 200+ quests, 5 more weapon classes than Tri, 2000+ new bits of equipment, new locations, 2 brand new monsters, new status ailments - of course I want to replay it again.

    Also how was Monster Hunter Tri a silly name? It was the first monster hunter where you could fight monsters underwater, and so because of that they had three elder dragons; one for land (Jhen Mohran) one for the sea (Ceadeus) and one for the sky (Alateron). Y'know, like a TRIo or a TRIumvirate or a TRIlogy

  4. MatthewONM Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 09:57

    Do I want to play through it again to see the new content? More than twice as many monsters, 200+ quests, 5 more weapon classes than Tri, 2000+ new bits of equipment, new locations, 2 brand new monsters, new status ailments - of course I want to replay it again.

    You'll probably get on better with my 3DS review, then. We deliberately divided the two games between a reviewer mad keen on MH (myself) and someone who wasn't as sold on the idea (Chandra) in order to balance it. It's a total marmite game, and clearly isn't for everyone, which is the point of Chan's review. Hopefully you'll find my write up less disagreeable!

  5. TomMc92 Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 10:07

    Can i also there is a point to the 3DS version as many people can't afford to buy a whole new system & MH3U. Also the fact that it has shared save files means that once the Wii U comes down in price people buy them and can upload thier saves to the Wii U MH3U keeping everything.

  6. Buffalo_K Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 12:57

    Matthew's review score was spot on. Even though I've never played a MH game before, I felt that Chan's review was a little whingey and it's clear that he had no intention of devoting himself to the game, which is what you have to do to get the best, most rewarding, results, apparently. Going to be getting this on launch day and I can't wait for it.

  7. toffeeman30 Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 13:22

    i will buy the wii version. i need a reason to play the system

  8. smikey666 Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 15:06

    I'm amazed you even scored it 79%

    I'll admit right now I'm not a fan of the wii game so I'd obviously never rate it very highly but in all honsety it's a remake of a wii game that if you own you can already play on your wii u that you have to play 40 hours to get any from new from & has better graphics (in places anyway)

    I sell games for a living 99% nintendo games and mostly pre wii days (mostly snes / n64) but when we do sell this I sell it for less than Ł10

    I will get this for the collection eventually but I'll wait for the price to drop you'll get it for under Ł25.00 by the summer.

  9. Si421 Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 15:33

    You're kidding, right? 79% is a joke.

    Sure the game may be 3 years old, but it's still brilliant. I play Tri everyday, just like I have since I first got it. Monster Hunter is a fantastic series, and while the controls are very weird, and take a little bit of time to get used to (Tri was my first MH game, so I sympathise with all of you that are new to the controls and what not), but once you have those remembered, it becomes second nature.

    Each fight isn't just hack'n'slash like some games, and actually requires thought before you perform any action. Want to take a potion? Think about the consequences first. It's a deep, highly involved, complicated game. And the rewards are worth it. Playing online is a blast, some monsters are pretty tough, and it's almost always fun.

    I think a score like 85% is more reasonable, but I'd personally give it over 92%. Definitely getting this on release, if you're interested in playing online, PM me! (:

  10. Xenobladeperson Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 16:18

    Stop trying to pretend that it's possible to review MH before the online servers open.

  11. torterratrainer Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 16:40

    To be honest i would have preferred a review of the WIIU version by matt because MH is an aquired taste that takes time to get used to but is hugely rewarding. This is the best game on the U because people are getting there money's worth. whats shocking is that Cod got a better score. Pllus note: chandra, pokemon uses an ageing formula that barely changes yet still gets a 90+% each time!!

  12. lionel_jumpfluff Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 16:56

    Long time reader, first time commentor. I think 79% is very harsh, especially considering Tri got 90% (I think). I played Tri for over 300 hours and it is honestly one of the best games I've played, and I still dont feel I've completed it.

    New players might struggle to get into it (I certainly did). The controls and combat system take some time getting used to, but they are most definitely not a 'monotonous mess' like you say. Its a far more interesting and engaging combat system than alot of generic button mashers on the market. This is a game about learning your monsters, anticipating their next move, learning to use your weapons correctly and customising your armor to get the best possible advantage. Its a game that focuses on the finer details of combat. Alright, that's not to everyone's taste, but like I say, give it a few hours and its one of the most rewarding gaming experiences.

    I will admit you're right on some points. Some of the textures look awful (the water texture looks pathetic), the early quests are a bit boring and the underwater sequences are a little niggly. But thats not enough to warrant just 79%. You've got loads of new monsters, weapons and armor, G-rank quests and improved single player, awesome online play and HD graphics. I never felt that Tri was repetitive and no doubt this game will be even stronger.

    If you're willing to put the hours in, this game is brilliant and I strongly suggest buying it.

  13. ThePokekid78 Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 17:03

    After putting over 250 hours into Tri I wasn't sure I wanted to do it all over again, but after playing the demo I was reminded of the fun I had in trying out new weapons and hunting a monster for the first time...if/when I get a Wii U, considering getting this!

  14. lrwr14 Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 17:06

    Technically this is a port of a 3DS game, which in turn is a combination of MHT and MHP3rd. I don't agree with what you said about the combat, I believe it has a solid combat system- each weapon takes skill to master and fully utilise. If your attack lasts 'six seconds' then you should anticipate what the monster is going to do during that time, it's not just going to sit there and take it. As you play it you will learn when to pull off combos and when it's best to hit and run, you need to put time into a Monster Hunter game. 79% is a bit low when you consider all the content, and replay value it has.

  15. MatthewONM Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 17:55

    Stop trying to pretend that it's possible to review MH before the online servers open.

    We've been playing the game with fellow journalists online and playing Wii U/3DS co-op. Just saying...

  16. KH81314 Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 18:40

    The Wii version is one of the best games ever made. Cant wait for my copy to get here.

  17. vtheyoshi Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 19:04

    Well, ONM, looks like I've almost completely stopping caring about your reviews. Don't you get it? This is how Monster Hunter works, combat is that way as you have to work out when to hit. Also, they also release expanded versions of the first game of that gen. God!

  18. Xenobladeperson Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 19:07

    Stop trying to pretend that it's possible to review MH before the online servers open.

    We've been playing the game with fellow journalists online and playing Wii U/3DS co-op. Just saying...

    And Chandra still believes the gameplay is outdated, even though he didn't refer to the gameplay in the Lego games or NSM games as outdated? The Monster Hunter games are undeniably boring for the first few missions, but once you get onto the harder monsters, it's near impossible to not love it. I don't know how Chandra didn't get addicted to forging armour/weapon sets.

    The number of people likely to drop around Ł70 on two identical versions of a game is minuscule.

    Loads of people have stated in the MH3U thread that they are getting both versions. Just saying...

    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.

    3 Ultimate is an expansion of Tri, released in Japan in Dec 2011 under the name Tri G. One year later it was slightly up-scaled and ported to the WiiU under the name Tri G HD version in Japan. Both the 3DS and WiiU versions were later localized in March 2013 with the name 3 Ultimate.

    Stop criticizing it for being an up-scaled Wii game - it's not. It's an expansion of Tri with almost 3 times as much content released for the 3DS.

    Fanboy rants are fun.

  19. hamzahdsi Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 19:27

    I think Chandra must have rated this game expecting some whole new experience rather than just a big expansion to Tri.

  20. Sampy Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 20:19

    Interesting review.

    I find it a little odd that the original Wii version was rated +90%, yet the version with oodles more content gets rated 79%. I know you'll always knock off a few marks because it's a (sort-of) re-make, but 79% seems a little harsh to me...

  21. Abe hikura Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 23:43

    i think MH is one of those games that exists outside of normal rules for good/bad game. part of what makes MH (and Minecraft) great is that you have to do stuff yourself other games just feed you info, items and explanations

    its like if you look at the fantastic survival horrors combat is slow and clunky which now reviews poorly (see US reviews of ZombiU) but not many modern survival horrors can match the tension of the others.

    Note: not bashing the reviewer or anything like that just throwing in my thoughts on MH

  22. KairiZero Monday 18th Mar 2013 at 23:56

    This review pretty much confounded my fears. I've already got Monster Hunter Tri, and when I played the demo I was a bit let down with the control system, it feels very loose and clunky, and combat seems slow, albeit fluid. I actually turned the demo off after playing the mission where you have to hunt the water monster - I found the controls were absolutely shocking for the swimming sections. I was really looking forward to this, but one major thing which I think is a serious draw for any game, is tight controls - without them the game feels slow. They should have developed a brand new Monster Hunter title for the Wii U, and left this one on the Wii imho.

  23. KH81314 Tuesday 19th Mar 2013 at 06:46

    I dont understand how the Wii version got a 91. The Wii U version got a 79. Somehow the 3Ds version got an 88. Why does it get such a higher grade for the same game on a different screen.

  24. samus_killer Tuesday 19th Mar 2013 at 09:04

    I dont understand how the Wii version got a 91. The Wii U version got a 79. Somehow the 3Ds version got an 88. Why does it get such a higher grade for the same game on a different screen.

    As has already been stated, the 3DS version was reviewed by Matthew; an experienced MH player, whilst the WiiU version was reviewed by Chandra; someone who is new to the series.

    Unfortunately Monster Hunter isn't a game that can be loved by everyone and this split in scores on essentially the same game proves this. Monster Hunter doesn't ease in new players well, and Ultimate doesn't do anything to rectify this. Basically if you loved MH3, you'll love MH3U, but it doesn't do anything new to win over players who didn't like the series before.

    Also, people need to stop looking at the scores as one unified score from ONM and rather take in to consideration the individual reviewer.

  25. OXM Joe Tuesday 19th Mar 2013 at 10:23

    People need to stop looking at the scores as one unified score from ONM and rather take in to consideration the individual reviewer.

    Everyone. Listen to this. Absorb it.

    Just as people looking at Metacritic often don't take into account the standpoints of individual magazines (ONM writers obviously have a different outlook on, say, Mario games to other publications), we make it very clear that we are a team of individuals. This isn't Edge, we don't have an overarching house style, and our writing emphasises our individual feelings about genres, series, etc. We might be banded together by shared interests and employment, but we are all, as it turns out, human beings without the ability to mind-link. I'm sad about that too.

    Matthew and Chandra have been very open about the Monster Hunter reviews, and our approach to offering different viewpoints on the new releases. Scores are even more subjective than writing in many ways, given that they're arbitrary at a base level. Please just read the text and make a decision as to whether those opinions match your own, not the attempt to crystallise them at the end of it all. I'm not saying not to question something you think is wrong - that's why we have comment sections - I'm saying to consider that there are many different experiences inherent in playing games, and one person can't account for all of them, particularly when it comes to something like a 100-point scale.

    If scores were the most important thing, we'd just print them in size 600 font. As it is those 1,500 words are what we think you should be focusing on. If you don't agree, either give up on reviews or tell us to start printing on graph paper.

  26. imbusydoctorwho Tuesday 19th Mar 2013 at 12:56

    Will be going for the Wii U version because of online,and the off-tv play.

  27. fatherofthenoo Tuesday 19th Mar 2013 at 15:50

    You guys have to remember that a review isn't God's final word. It is simply the opinion of a fellow gamer. There is no right and wrong about it. Just use them as a guide as to whether something will appeal to you or not; then play the game and decide for yourselves how you feel about it. There is no need to attack this reviewer for his opinion.

  28. dosh575 Wednesday 20th Mar 2013 at 17:00

    Wii U version: New monsters and quests and incredible graphics. 79%

    3DS version: New monsters and quests, worst graphics out of the three consoles, dodgy controls and no online. 88%

    Seems Legit.

  29. MatthewONM Wednesday 20th Mar 2013 at 17:17

    Wii U version: New monsters and quests and incredible graphics. 79%

    3DS version: New monsters and quests, worst graphics out of the three consoles, dodgy controls and no online. 88%

    Seems Legit.

    Snore. The Wii U version doesn't have incredible graphics. Far from it. It looks like a sharpened Wii game. Which it is. Also: fun framerate issues that the 3DS version doesn't have.

  30. Wiison Thursday 11th Apr 2013 at 15:31

    A review is a guide, ONM do not state that their opinion is fact. I guess it is slightly puzzling that the same game with more content has a lower score but then again, does it matter? We all make our own mind up. Perhaps some clarity on ONM's part would help when there is a difference in score for the same game. As samus killer mentioned though, don't focus on the score.

  31. Capt_Anders Saturday 20th Apr 2013 at 14:02

    I think that 79% is not an accurate representation of this game. While the graphical capabilities could of been so much better, they are still above Wii standard and it still looks good just not as good as it should of been. It is the gameplay that is key and while extremely similar to the Wii version it is still an epic game and the one I have played most on the Wii U. There is certainly enough new content to keep anyone amused, and any complaints of poor controls are unfounded as there are lots of different control options. The 79% is to low and to any person new to monster hunter or old fan of monster hunter buy it, this is THE best game on the Wii U at present.

  32. Adam Almasi Sunday 25th Aug 2013 at 23:36

    All that salt... There's nothing wrong with MH. Never was. It has come an EXCEEDINGLY long way since the PS2. Far as I'm concerned, this game is still at its peak. The "slow" combat animations are part of the game mechanics. Learn the speed of your attacks, the behaviours of the monsters you're fighting and the ranged of your attacks. Once you master those 3 things, the "slow" animations will not be an issue. They're as designed. Why give you an instant attack with every weapon? There has to be SOME realism to the actions and reactions.

    A) NO ONE will be able to instantly swing a super-massive sword in the blink of an eye. Don't even kid yourselves Nintendo Mag critics.
    B) The range of your attacks, depending on the weapons, will vary your attack patterns GREATLY. I myself am a Switch Axe/Long Sword/Dual Sword user in melee and a Bow user at ranged. I have NO issues with my attacks not connecting because I learned how each monster behaves at certain points. Not a difficult thing to accomplish, just requires a little time and effort.
    C) The monsters are SUPPOSED to look awesome. The game is centred around hunting them! And the main character (your hunter avatar) does NOT look that bad. You're simply washing over some issues YOU think are important.

    Last point before I finish rubbing pure alcohol into your eyes. You say the game is tedious, and gathering small amounts of materials out in the wild for things you need/want to build is mundane and pointlessly drawn out. How the hell else are you going to get the materials required for those weapons/armour/decorations? Are they going to MAGICALLY appear in your item box? Grow a pair and learn to explore. You've grown too comfortable with things being given to you too easily.

    This game is for those who have the stones to enjoy a challenge. Don't want a challenge? Go play Donkey Kong or something. Monster Hunter, right up alongside Dark Souls, is meant to weed out the gamers who do not want to put in any effort. The reward for your efforts are incredibly amazing battles with your lives on the line, insane quests to defend towns from HUGE threats and epic-looking weapons and armour.

    I'll say it again. There's nothing wrong with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. It is pretty much perfect.

    This is Baklavah, signing off.

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