Monster Hunter Tri
As far as I'm concerned, Monster Hunter Tri was conceived in a smoky Nintendo backroom whilst Satoru Iwata, Reggie Fils-Aime and Shigeru Miyamoto played a bi-monthly game of poker. The game well underway, Fils-Aime mentioned to Iwata how many Wii owners criticised the console for lacking in respectable hardcore titles. There was an off-putting silence in the room after that, but as Cammie Dunaway brought Miyamoto his sixth mint julep of the evening Iwata tipped his poker visor and announced if fans wanted a hardcore game, he'd make sure they got the most hardcore game of all.
Fils-Aime and Miyamoto shared a glance, and a slow chuckle amongst the trio rose into howls of laughter and applause. Capcom was called the morning after and promised wealth beyond their wildest dreams, and thus Monster Hunter Tri was born.
Monster Hunter isn't the most difficult game of all time, of course, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a contemporary title that places such rigorous demands on its players' dedication and skill. In the same respect, it tends to either terrify its audience off within a couple of hours or engulf them completely.
But Capcom, to their credit, has gone to some effort to soften the initial blow. Whereas most games tend to ease the player into the action, Monster Hunter in the past has just thrown up hours of impenetrable text and then told the player to stop mucking about and just get on with it. I'm all for on-the-job learning, but the process was akin to teaching people to swim by firing them from a cannon into the Atlantic Ocean.
In Tri, however, that terrifying learning process has been dialled back to require much less faith from its userbase. It still takes about ten hours to start dishing out the meat and potatoes, but for the most part it's an enjoyable introductory romp through the basic mechanics. BBQ Spit + Meat = Win.
You're given free reign of the Moga Hills to begin with, a basic area devoid of the hulking buggers which riddle the rest of the game and a good, cheap source of the game's basic items - the Asda Smartprice of the Monster Hunter universe, if you will.
Your home, where you return to douse yourself in Deep Heat and take a good Radox bath, is Moga Village. It all starts off a bit grim, with the town devoid of population and supplies due to the recent trend of catastrophic earthquakes and nasty monster infestations. Inhabitants begin to litter the streets as you progress through your slaughtering checklist, unwinding a support network that provides access to the larger town management metagame.
Out in the wider world, the real one that has bills and mass obesity, Monster Hunter's infamous control system remains the same. This will come as no surprise to series veterans, but complex controls add another inescapable barrier to entry for unaccustomed players - even pointing your characters in the right direction has always been a bit of a cumbersome task, but like most things in the world of Monster Hunter the perseverance is rewarded. The camera finds itself much improved from previous iterations, too.
A major part of the challenge comes from obtaining a degree of competence with the ins-and-outs of your weaponry. Huge, lumbering swings come with whopping great cool-down periods, stifling any potential evasive manoeuvres when locked into frames of animation that cannot be cancelled. The player is often left as wide open for attacks as the monsters themselves.
The experience is far more palatable with one of Nintendo's new Classic Controller Pro's - the traditional layout of buttons and sticks provide a superior input method to both a Wiimote/Nunchuk combination and the PSP's ridiculous finger-crippling analog nub. It was very a good idea for Nintendo to pilfer the Playstation pad design, and dedicated Monster Hunter fans might want to consider laying down a slighter larger initial payment to scoop up the game and controller bundle.