Monster Hunter Freedom Unite Review
Wednesday, August 05, 2009 4:50 PM
The popular Japanese pastime makes its way to Western PSPs; ta for that, Japan.
Some Japanese crazes I understand, like mecha robots. Some I even take part in myself, like. well, I better not tell you about that one. Then there are some that I have no clue how they got started, and even less about why anyone outside of that country would want them. Like Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, the winner of my 'Most Japanese Title of the Month' award. Which is the only award it's gonna get from me, for although I am new to the series, I'm certainly not new to gaming.
They gather together, PSPs all ready for a mass monster hunt. I can understand the co-operative part, that's always fun. Unfortunately we don't quite have the same sense of social gaming here, at least not on handheld. Still, even with the co-operative in, I'm still baffled. For you see, Monster Hunter Freedom 'Happy Wish Show' Unite is an exceptionally boring and tedious game.
I know what you're thinking (it's to do with food or sex, isn't it?): how can a game where you go out and hunt progressively bigger and badder monsters, preferably with friends, be dull? Well it can, and stop thinking about that you sick pervert.
If there's one thing that puts me off most MMOs, it's grind, and Monster Hunter Freedom 'Battling Seizure Robots' Unite is entirely built on grind. Get contracts (missions) to kill monsters, go out and kill them, come back and buy things, repeat process until death. That's pretty much the entire game.
Now, I can understand that grind isn't all bad. World of Warcraft is also built around it, and several million people seem to like that. Getting a group together, going out slaying multiple dinosaurs, coming back and buying new weapons, armour, clothing (or lack of it) etc, that can be quite fun.
Or perhaps of more important note is the lack of XP and traditional RPG levelling-up, which here is something you do by simply earning money and buying things. This is quite a nice idea and that fact alone forms the majority of the score you can see at the bottom of this page.
What totally screws up the entire game, even beyond the utterly insane amount of tedious grinding (yes, I know I just called it fun for some people - forget them now, I'm ranting again), is the control system. It is completely broken and far, far too complicated. The most easily accessible and comfortable button is the one closest to us, the X button, and that should be the most important function, be it 'Use' or 'Jump' or 'Attack'. Here, X is 'Roll'. What? 'Use' is Square. Triangle is 'Attack'. Huh?
There are more controls of course...and this is when I totally fell out with Monster Hunter Freedom 'Mister Sparkle' Unite.
Often when games have more 'unique' control schemes, if I leave the game for a couple of days I will probably forget some of those controls. No bother, usually a quick mess around or, if I'm still stuck, a pop on to the menu where a Controller Layout option will fill me in. Often there'll even be an in-game log of stuff learned in the tutorial.
This game didn't have any of that, and messing around with the controls got me absolutely nowhere. Wasn't there a lock-on function, or a way to scavenge items from dead monsters? Buggered if I could figure it out, and without a manual I (and I can't believe I'm saying this) had to run the tutorial again. The exceptionally tedious oversized tutorial section that doesn't tell you all you need to know and yet makes all the simple stuff complicated. For example, did we really need 10+ pages of explanation to tell us that Level 10 quests are harder than Level 8?
I was wrong about the lock-on, by the way. It doesn't have one. The camera is utterly abysmal, and can only be slooooooooooowwwly rotated using the Left and Right arrows. It will
kill you, often. And I'm not talking about your game character.
Then there are all the technical problems too. Loading times are all over the place, with several seconds of wait for even small areas. There are clipping problems, with your characters running through even the biggest monsters. Most damningly of all, in multiplayer games many of the monsters don't appear the same on each player's PSP. The characters all appear right, but that big wasp is on the other side of the map for you. How are you supposed to help your friends take down monsters if you can't actually see the monster they're attacking?
The customisation options can be interesting, but when dressing up pigs and hiring cat cooks is the most fun thing about a game where you slaughter gigantic monsters with friends for cash, something is very, very wrong. Monster Hunter Freedom 'Mecha Barbara Streisand' Unite is all kinds of fail, and in no way deserves its popularity. Maybe the Wii title will be better, but the PSP version is tedious, broken non-fun.
Come back Phantasy Star Portable, all is forgiven. At least you were controllable.