Monster Hunter 3- Ultimate Artwork

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for Wii U may not be an entirely new game built from the ground up, but it’s fair to say that this upcoming expansion has a lot of gamers excited. Monster Hunter Tri was without doubt one of the definitive hardcore title for Wii owners seeking an in-depth experience, and MH3 Ultimate looks set to take this one step further.

Releasing March 2013, the title will also be available on 3DS; Capcom has already confirmed cross-play functionality between the two systems. Players will be able to move their save data back and forth, allowing them to continue their progress away from the TV, as well as use their 3DS systems to play locally with a Wii U system. When you take into account just how many hours you need to invest into a game like Monster Hunter, it makes perfect sense for Capcom to approach these latest instalments in the way that it has.

Nintendo Life was recently invited along to Nintendo UK’s offices to try out Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on Wii U, as well as get a first-hand look at some of the new content on offer; we naturally went along to see what we could learn about the highly anticipated release.

One of the first things we noticed was how this new title takes full advantage of the Wii U GamePad. The player is able to shift the majority of the HUD items to the GamePad screen, providing them with not only a clearer view of the game’s landscapes, but also with easier means to navigate the multiple menus and options on offer.

The Lagombi stalks the player by sliding around them

You can fully customise what appears on this second screen, be it the map or health bar or less vital menus such as gestures and combo lists. It is perhaps most useful, though, for accessing the item pouch; no longer must you frantically trawl left and right through a long list of items in order to find that health potion you desperately need. Everything is immediately accessible via the touch screen menu, although it’s worth noting that this doesn’t provide any additional in-game benefits as such; players will still need to sheath their weapon before they can use anything.

Perhaps the most noticeable difference, however, is the game’s visuals, which are now displayed in glorious high definition. Ultimate's graphics haven’t been rebuilt, and what you see is essentially a re-textured, sharper version of Tri. As a result, character models and environments look far more detailed than they ever did on Wii, although it’s still very clear that this is an up-ported Wii game. It lacks the polish and smoothness of other HD titles, but the frame rate remains consistent throughout and the game now looks much more at home on larger screens.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate promises new monsters for players to hunt, and we were fortunate enough to have a stab at battling it out against some of these.

The first new quest we got to experience involved hunting a Lagombi, - a vicious monster that resides in the Tundra region and looks like a cross between a rabbit and a bear. The thrill of Monster Hunter has always been to find new monsters and learn how they move and fight (something which usually involves investing a lot of time on the player’s part). In this regard the Lagombi didn’t disappoint, moving with a surprising amount of speed and freedom in comparison to monsters that have come before it. Despite its lumpy shape, the Lagombi gets the upper hand on the player by sliding around on its belly and launching icy projectiles. It’s by no means one of the toughest monsters in the game, but it’s fair to say that it will offer a good and refreshing challenge around the halfway point.

Watch out! Those fists pack an explosive punch

The Brachydios is an entirely new monster created especially for the Wii U and 3DS versions of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, and is the flagship monster for each title. We got to battle this creature in the Volcano area, and veteran players will likely appreciate its inclusion due to how immensely difficult it is to beat.

Compared to previous monsters, Brachydios’ design is very adventurous. This hulking blue beast has glowing green arms and frequently charges the player with speedy physical attacks, making it difficult to get multiple hits in against it. It can form puddles of explosive plasma on the ground and — more worryingly — this substance will stick to the player if they are hit by one of Brachydios’ physical attacks. This creature is utterly relentless and even four highly skilled players will have a tough time conquering this beast.

Zinogre is another vicious beast that will be making its first appearance to Western audiences, and was the last creature that we had the painful misfortune of crossing during our preview session. This monster is basically a giant electrified wolf covered in spikes. Despite its large size, it — like the other new monsters we tried — moves with astonishing speed and has the most acrobatic attacks out of the three. For example, one of its attacks is a devastating black flip that is designed to crush the hunter; we’d refer to it as glorious were it not for the fact that it repeatedly caught us out.

When battling this creature, it will frequently try to electrically charge itself up in order to increase its attack damage. Not only that, but as it takes damage, it becomes much stronger and quicker. We especially liked how its visual appearance changed as it became enraged; all of its hair stands up on end as electricity surges erratically throughout its body. It’s a monster that appears towards the upper end of quests available to the player and this — along with the Brachydios — shows that Capcom is clearly putting a lot of effort into prolonging Ultimate’s endgame for more advanced players.

The Zinogre is shocking

It’s worth mentioning that we also played a couple of quests that were originally available in Tri – “Leading the Charge” (hunt a Barroth) and “The Wrath of Rathalos” (hunt a Rathalos). While these quests didn’t present us with any new challenges or surprises, it did help us to appreciate the visual differences between Tri and Ultimate. We can confirm that both monsters look even more terrifying thanks to the improved textures and resolution granted by the Wii U.

Based on what we’ve played so far, it would seem that the speed and manoeuvrability of the monsters appears to have been a key focus for the developers with regards to upping the challenge. The benefit that players in the West have is that the majority of them won’t have had the chance to play the 3DS or PSP versions of the game, meaning that these experiences will mostly be new to them.

We do not yet know how much new content actually appears in the game. However, if other additions are as well thought-out and creative as the ones we demoed, then Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate will definitely have something new to offer to even veteran players of the franchise.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is currently scheduled to release in March 2013 in Europe and North America for both 3DS and Wii U. A specific date for either region has yet to be announced.