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PixlChatter: Monster Hunter 3 Part One

Jason and Kathrine talk a bit about their experiences with Monster Hunter 3.

Kathrine: I'm actually kind of nervous about this, I'm not too good at thinking on my feet...

Jason: So, I think the first thing about Monster Hunter, maybe the most important thing is probably the monsters.

Kathrine: True. It does have "Monster" right there in the title.

Jason: Also "Hunter," but Monster comes first. That definitely means it's more important. There's a lot of good about the monsters, really. To begin with, there's 18 big ones.

Kathrine: Are there? I haven't counted. That's a pretty good number.

Jason: Each one comes with a relatively unique set of attacks, movements, and design, too. It's a pretty good number considering how strong they all are. Unless you have overwhelmingly powerful gear, monsters can take a very long time to take down.

Kathrine: Which makes it all the more satisfying when you eventually do.

Jason: Definitely, it feels like an accomplishment when you see a monster die. I'd have to say my favorite thing about the monsters, oddly enough, is that they can literally be different sizes.

Kathrine: Then you get to cut it up and reap the rewards. That might be the best part.

Jason: You can play one monster at any one time, and it'll be "shorter." Physically, it's size on screen is small compared to the monster's regular size. Other times, a version of a monster will seem gigantic, and at the end of the fight, you can see if you've set a size record with it, even.

Kathrine: I actually never noticed that until you pointed it out, but it is a nice touch.

Jason: Oh, and I agree. I definitely like to cut up the monsters, that's typically something satisfying, too, unless there's little monsters around. The little monsters could measure among the most annoying facets of Monster Hunter 3, especially since if they hit you while you're cutting up and taking pieces of the dead boss monster, they can knock you out of the cutting phase and force you to start all over.

Kathrine: You will no longer lose health once the quest is complete, but really, you should become completely impervious to attacks so you can cut up the beast.

Jason: It's just annoying, really. Moving on though, there's some definite problems with monsters. The most noticeable is that of the 18 bosses, half of them share one of a few common body shapes.

Kathrine: Isn't it more than that? It seems like there are really only four different body and animation types. You've got two different ground types, a water type, and a flying type. Within them, they share a lot of the same movement animation and patterns.

Jason: Some of the flying types don't use the same model, though. They do stand the same, and virtually every monster has a double-swipe tail attack, though. Often, they all look very similar while flying, too.

Kathrine: I guess they have some differences, but they aren't all completely unique.

Jason: I'd go so far to say there's two Velociraptor-style monsters, three T-rex ones, two water-dragon ones, and two flying dragons. That adds up to 10, doesn't it? Looks like I can't count.

Kathrine: It is hard to count them all when they are so similar.

Jason: Anyway, that's over half, really.

Kathrine: The only monster that is truly 100% unique is the one you fight halfway through the online mode, to graduate to high-rank.

Jason: Well, sure, but that fight, itself, is just ugly.

Kathrine: Really? I enjoyed it, but it was a bit lengthy.

Jason: There's so many parts that just drag on and relinquish control from the player throughout it, I thought it was literally no fun. This particular fight is against a giant monster, and methods of attacking are completely altered for the most part.

Kathrine: Those methods aren't explained before the quest either, are they? You have to figure it all out on your own.

Jason: To attack, first you must gather an object, a cannonball or harpoon like missiles, where gathering is a process that takes a few seconds itself, and then you go and toss them through a cannon or a harpoon gun. And no, nothing about the fight is given any context. In fact, it took me about 10 minutes to figure things out on my own, when I had no idea what was going on.

Kathrine: And that is a third of the time allotted.

Jason: Had I just joined up a mission with other people, I could have easily lost it for them. There's very little breathing room in this fight. In my experience, it literally takes up almost every minute of time allotted. Anyway, as I was saying, so much of the fight leaves the player out of control. For example, cannonballs can't be aimed for effective attacks, but after firing one, the character goes through an animation where he or she covers his or her ears. Literally, with the harpoons, after each shot, there's an equally long downtime period where no movement is allowed.

Kathrine: It isn't much different than the basic fighting system, where there is a small delay after attacks and item use.

Jason: That's true, but there, you don't have to gather an item to attack each time. So here, you've got a delay before each attack, one after, and even worse is if you fall off the boat: In a process that takes a little less than half a minute, you slowly pull yourself back onto the boat, should you fall off, in order to climb back in.

Kathrine: Then don't fall off the boat!

Jason: Sadly enough, part of the fight requires hopping on the monster's back and attacking one of four soft-spots. From his back, he can toss you off at just about any random moment, resulting in that long period of downtime. Anyway, I'd definitely consider that fight to be pretty ugly, myself, but I can see how some would enjoy it.

Kathrine: Besides, my point about it was that it was completely unique. No reused monster poses or attacks or anything.

Jason: That's true, that's one boss that doesn't do the same old cliché tail-swipe!

Kathrine: Does it have a tail?

Jason: Probably. It's hard to tell, since it's so large. Regardless, it looks great. That's a point to make: The game, itself, looks beautiful. Every monster is highly detailed, each environment follows the relevant theme very well, and textures look great. Not just that, but animations are very smooth, both for the player's character and for all the monsters.

Kathrine: The hunters seem a bit exaggerated with their movements, but it strangely fits.

Jason: That's true, for example, the running animation just looks goofy. Oh, and speaking of the hunters, there's some very ugly parts to the cutscenes...

Kathrine: There are cutscenes?

Jason: Right when you start a new game, you're treated to a cutscene featuring several men's loincloths throughout. Basically, half the costumes don't have much covering the whole "groin" area, just because. It's not so noticeable in normal gameplay, but I definitely don't enjoy that part of the cutscenes quite so much. This would be a case I'd say there's a bit too much detail.

Kathrine: This would be a case I'd say you are looking too closely.

Jason: Maybe. I'd definitely call it an ugly, though, and Chris reacted the same way, too.

Kathrine: Don't forget clipping issues, that is another of the game's few visual blemishes.

Jason: Well, sure, you mean that monsters just go straight through things?

Kathrine: Yes.

Jason: Sure, you can be looking at a pillar and all of a sudden, there'll be half a monster face sticking out!

Kathrine: Like walls or rocks, and also usually your character and weapon if you stand underneath them.

Jason: True, too.

Kathrine: And shields, oh the shields. I hate having a big shield. It always goes right through the ground and beds and everything. I find it rather distracting, actually.

Jason: Oh, yeah, when my player rests, he lays down with his hammer, Which sticks that right smack in the middle of the bed =/

Kathrine: That looks painful. How could he get a good night's sleep like that?

Jason: I don't even want to know. Maybe it's good for their backs?

So, speaking of hammers, shields, swords and all that, unless you choose to play with a sword and shield, your character moves about as slow as molasses. That's a part of the strategy in the game, and it's not particularly a bad thing, in and of itself, but don't come into Monster Hunter expecting your character to move like Sora from Kingdom Hearts, or any other particular action-oriented RPG. The amount of time it takes to swing a hammer, for example, is literally about as long as it would take someone to swing a hammer in person.

Kathrine: So it is realistic?

Jason: I'm not so sure if I'd call it realistic, but I'd say it's a bit closer to reality, in that aspect, compared to most games.

Jason: But, here's my problem: Monsters are fast. They attack fast and have a very large range. Getting in an attack, as slow as yours are, takes a lot of pattern recognition and a whole lot of awareness, creating a huge learning curve for each monster, even the ones that have the share body-type. And, just like your attacks take about as long as they might in reality, these monsters do about the same amount of damage as you might receive from their attacks, if they were real, should you make a mistake and get hit. One attack from a few strong monsters, depending on your armor, could clear out over half your life bar! Again, there's nothing wrong with that, in particular, it just adds to the learning curve.

Kathrine: So you think there should be more room for error?

Jason: I don't know if I'd say it like that, I'd prefer to say that there should be a little more room for error-correction for this reason: There've been times where I've been hit by a monster, and when I've been standing up in recovery from the attack, before I could control my character, I'd be hit again. That second hit would stun me, and after that, I'd get hit a third time, all from one mistake. When each monster attack is as devastating as they are, getting hit thrice in a row without a chance to get away could take players from full health all the way down to no health, which really feels particularly unfair. I absolutely understand the emphasis on dodging and avoiding damage, but sometimes, those status attacks are particularly devastating.

Kathrine: So I guess you're saying it shouldn't be a one-shot deal. One mistake shouldn't lead to being killed.

Jason: Yup, you could put it that way. One mistake at full or near-full health shouldn't lead to death, especially since in most four-player quests, after three people die, you lose!

Kathrine: That isn't even one per person.

Jason: Not to mention, when you have to face two different monsters at one time, after you get hit once, it's pretty easy to be hit again.

Kathrine: That's because the monster's attacks don't phase the other monster one bit.

Jason: Right, so I'd have to say there's a little too little room for error, especially in missions with more than one monster, wouldn't you agree?

Kathrine: A roar will stop you all in your tracks, but the other monster will keep on attacking.

Jason: When you get hit by monster attacks, you go flying! When you get hit by allies' attacks, you go flying! Still, monsters will take quite some time before they show a sign of being stunned or staggered from attacks, even from other monsters. Oh, and don't forget, when a monster is charging, even if it charges straight into another monster, it basically brushes straight through it, much like the clipping problems we mentioned before.

Kathrine: That was made most apparent in the recent event quest with Uragaan and Diablos, where Uragaan would roll right through Diablos, or where Diablos would dig into the ground and pop up under Uragaan, and do nothing to it.

Jason: Right. Tactics like that just make parts of the game feel "cheap" and underdeveloped.

Oh, I almost forgot! Both monster and human attacks seem to have a bit more broad of a range than their actual models. It's a bit easy to both hit and be hit when the character doesn't physically touch the monster, or even the other player's weapon.

Kathrine: Oh yeah, what is that called? A "disjointed hitbox" or something?

Jason: Something like that. Now, I've read they've been improved in Monster Hunter 3 in comparison to other Monster Hunter titles, but I'll be honest, I'm not even happy with what's in here, in that respect.

Kathrine: To be fair, lag might be responsible for characters getting hit by other players when it doesn't seem like they were hit.

Jason: That's true, too, and I don't think we can particularly fault network lag, that wouldn't be fair.

Jason: Still, I'd say the hitboxes really add a bit to the learning curve, once more of each monster, since you can't always see where you'd be hit just by observation of the attack alone.

Jason: Time to move on to the weapons?

Kathrine: If that's next on the checklist.

Jason: Sure, let's do it.

Anyway, moving on, what is nice is that there's basically seven different types of weapons to choose from. Each one has it's own unique attacks and controls.

Kathrine: It gives a lot of variety to the game, helping to keep it interesting.

Jason: Certainly, and each provides a different element of strategy.

Kathrine: Using a different weapon on a monster really changes your approach.

Jason: Sword and Shield players, for instance, have to focus on getting as many attacks in as possible to cause damage, while a hammer player has to be careful, and aim for the monster's head for a chance to stun it. Perhaps what's most differentiating between them all is that some weapons can block, while others can't.

Kathrine: Blocking is easier, but it uses more stamina than rolling or dodging, so there is some balance to it.

Jason: That's true, but evading, in some cases, means sheathing a weapon to do a jumping dodge, where a block still allows you to keep your weapon at ready.

Kathrine: How is the jumping dodge different, besides looking dramatic?

Jason: The jumping dodge is the only way to dodge a few attacks, actually. You play mostly as a lance player, with a gigantic shield, so you can just shield them all, but the rolling dodge leaves the player vulnerable to some attacks, where the jumping one lets you dodge entirely until the animation is over.

Kathrine: The lance has a good balance of offense and defense, which is why I feel it is the best weapon in the game. Shields can't block every attack though, at least not without the Guard Up skill.

Jason: In fact, if you have no shield, it's the only way to avoid one of the flying monster's attacks. You can't simply roll away, it has to be a jump dodge, which takes the slow animation of sheathing, followed by the dodge. You've got to be very aware of the pre-attack animations, especially since that attack both poisons and stuns you.

Kathrine: You also have to be running away from the monster for the jumping dodge to activate. If you are running toward it, it will be a regular roll dodge.

Jason: Actually, since it's not explained in the manual, I believe you have to tap the "B" button at the same time as a monster attacks, or at least, that's in my experience.

Kathrine: I don't think that is true, I've done it when a monster was nowhere near.

Jason: Right, but the monster was doing an attack animation, I'm sure. It doesn't matter how close you are, so long as the monster does an attack, I believe.

Kathrine: I'm not sure. We would have to test it.

Jason: Yup, we would. Too bad the manual doesn't just say it!

Kathrine: The manual doesn't say a lot of things, but we won't go there.

Jason: No, it's not particularly helpful for anything other than button assignments.

*Editor's Note: After the conversation, we checked, and the dodge does, indeed, work the way Kathrine described.

Kathrine: Weapons!

Jason: Yes, back to weapons! Each weapon type has several choices, for instance ones that do fire damage, water damage, electric, dragon, or ice, or ones that can poison, paralyze, or even put monsters to sleep.

Kathrine: Having a weapon type that a monster is weak to goes a long way toward helping taking it down quickly. Be careful using them on a capture mission though!

Jason: Precisely.

Jason: The only unfortunate problem: A lot of hammers that do water damage look the same. It's the same with all the other weapon types, too. While there's tons of differently-powered weapons, many weapons of the same type and element look exactly the same!

Kathrine: How disappointing it is when you've finally gathered all the materials for a shiny upgraded weapon and you fork over the cash... only to find out it looks exactly the same as your old one!

Jason: Not to mention, no one online can tell which version of the weapon you've chosen to use!

Kathrine: A player's equipment should be listed on their info menu.

Jason: How are you supposed to flaunt new gear if it looks just like the old gear?

Kathrine: Use the "flaunt" gesture and hope everyone knows what it means?

Jason: Ha ha, they still can't tell exactly what gear you're wearing. =P

Jason: Okay, I need a bathroom break, why don't we end the first part here?

Kathrine: Fine with me. I need a glass of water.


 

Comments

Lukasz Balicki Staff Alumnus

05/14/2010 at 10:06 PM

"How disappointing it is when you've finally gathered all the materials for a shiny upgraded weapon and you fork over the cash... only to find out it looks exactly the same as your old one!"

There is a way to see a preview of how equipment looks like before upgrading. Just take a closer look at some of the options ;).

Jason Ross Senior Editor

05/14/2010 at 11:06 PM

I didn't even find the way until just now, searching for it, but really, the point we were trying to make was that it would be nice if each weapon was a little more individual from other ones in it's grouping.

For instance, I've had three versions of the paralyzing flower hammer, and all three look the same to me.

Lukasz Balicki Staff Alumnus

05/15/2010 at 10:57 AM

Yeah that's true but a lot of games have this issue. I remember back when I was playing Diablo 2 a lot of upgraded weapons looked the same except they tried to change the color a little bit.

Jason Ross Senior Editor

05/15/2010 at 02:58 PM

Whether or not a lot of games have the issue doesn't matter so much t me. This game still has it, as minor as it is, and so we mentioned it.

Our Take

Jason Ross Senior Editor

05/16/2010 at 04:40 AM

Turns out you can see what people are wearing! Lucky us, we figured out that tapping the D-pad while viewing an online player's page can show their gear.

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