Native 1080p, robust online functionality, off-TV play
Lower framerate than the 3DS version, erratic connection issues
The Monster Hunter series is not for the faint of heart. In this modern gaming sphere of regenerating health, prevalent checkpoints, and dynamically sliding difficulty, the Monster Hunter games are part of the old guard when every move counted and failure meant starting from the beginning of the mission. The game’s unforgiving nature and steep learning curve has led to Monster Hunter’s reputation as a game for elitists, impossible to penetrate.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is Capcom’s attempt to challenge this perception in its most accessible Monster Hunter game yet. Andy has already covered the fundamentals in our review of the 3DS version. Here, we’ll talk about the differences in the Wii U up-port of the game, which includes several features, especially in light of the game’s recent patch.
For starters, MH3U runs at a native 1080p at a generally locked 30 frames per second. Compared with the 3DS version, some textures are sharper, colors are richer, and the text isn’t nigh-unreadable. However, MH3U is still a port of the original Wii game, Monster Hunter Tri, so while it might run at your television’s native resolution, it doesn’t look comparable to other modern games.
The game makes up for its graphical weaknesses in incredible art direction. Each monster and every location has a distinct look, and this series is one of the few where I’ve taken the time to see the sights. Misty Peaks alone is breathtaking the first time you enter it, and the Wii U version now has proper dynamic shadows, which makes a huge difference in gameplay, aiding in locating monsters who suddenly charge behind you. I can’t count the times I’ve been able to rain arrows on a Rathian just by judging its shadow.
Still, these strengths are present in the 3DS version as well, amplified by the handheld version’s stereoscopic 3D, which naturally extends your field of vision— essential for the hunt. A particularly agile monster, the Brachydios, gave me all sorts of trouble when I first hunted it on the Wii U. When I revisited the monster on the 3DS, I could actually see more of it when it moved to the side, allowing me to either attack or dodge far more accurately. Add the 3DS’s higher framerate (45fps, sometimes reaching 60fps even in 3D), and it remains the superior version in terms of graphics enhancing gameplay.
The Wii U version has the slight edge when it comes to controls. While the 3DS controls are great, the virtual d-pad excellent and the ergonomics of both the GamePad and the Pro Controller can’t be beaten (unfortunately, the Wii Remote controls from Tri have not been included here). Hand cramps are no issue on the extremely comfortable and light Pro Controller, and the placement of the right analogue stick allows the manipulation of the camera while charging attacks, which has saved me from a grisly death on several occasions.
Still, despite their differences, the Wii U and the 3DS versions play very well together. You can move your save data back and forth from console to handheld (although a separate app must be downloaded onto the 3DS). The process allows you to get your Monster Hunter fix wherever you are, which may or may not be healthy. Using the 3DS version was a perfectly serviceable substitute for Off-TV play, until the patch enabling the feature actually landed.
The Wii U’s Off-TV play is a revelation. The GamePad’s display isn’t the best, but playing MH3U on it showcases the Wii U in its full glory with low-latency streaming gameplay. The Off-TV patch arrived after I had clocked in over 150 hours of play time, and I didn’t notice any lag introduced by the feature. Just make sure to stay in the same room as the Wii U—I was testing the range during a hunt, and my playing a floor away from the console caused me to get killed by a raging wyvern.
It’s the connectivity, however, where the Wii U version shines. First is Miiverse, which has become the go-to resource for many hunters seeking partners or information. Still, it’s a terrible mistake on Capcom’s part to disable the screenshot sharing functionality—how else will you show your killer armor/weapon set or your record-breaking hunt times? Sure, you can type it out, but who will believe that?
Second and most important is the online multiplayer of the Wii U version. The game is certainly manageable solo, but playing with others, coordinating attacks, and the general camaraderie of hunting comprises much of Monster Hunter’s appeal. Voice chat is built-in via the mic in the GamePad (goodbye, Wii Speak), and any headset with a 3.5 mm jack can be used as well. Plus, the latest patch removes regional restrictions, allowing players to hunt with anyone, anywhere. It’s the most global console Monster Hunter to date, and does a great job in bringing people together. There’s nothing quite like a few successful hunts at the end of the day, creating your own shared story.
It’s these stories that matter. The game’s lack of a formal narrative may be seen as a weakness, but keeping in mind that this is your story as the eponymous Monster Hunter will alleviate those criticisms. The game is typically categorized as an Action RPG, but in this game, it is you yourself who “levels up”. When you die, it is usually your fault. With each hunt, you learn from the past, mistakes and triumphs alike, and become better for it. No two hunts ever play out the same, driven by the adapting monsters and changing strategies by both you and your prey. In gaming, there is little else more satisfying than taking down a giant dragon with seconds on the clock, knowing that you gave it your all, and understanding that next time, next time, it will be different.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for the Wii U is an excellent introduction to the series, easing you into its systems and ensuring that you are well-equipped for the challenges to come. The game’s emergent nature provides nearly limitless value, multiplied even further by the online commmunity present on the console. It requires investment in both time and skill, but with the aid of friends and partners around the world, entering the world of Monster Hunter has never been more welcoming.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.