IGN Review of Monster Hunter Freedom 2
Monster Hunter Freedom 2: if you haven't heard of it, you're obviously not from Japan. In March, the title sold 348,000 units -- that was 85 percent of Capcom's total sales in Japan for the month -- and became the first PSP game to sell a million units in the in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Now, the game that launched a million portables is hitting the states. With the exception of fearing Godzilla, America and Japan haven't always seen eye to eye. Can Monster Hunter Freedom 2's runaway success in a foreign land carry over to folks trading in their hard-earned
George Washingtons here?
No matter what happens on the sales charts, dedicated PSP owners owe it to their starving system to give this game a chance.
Set in the snowy Pokke Village, Monster Hunter casts you as -- surprise -- a monster hunter charged with keeping the village safe from packs of horrifying monsters such as the raptor-looking Giaprey and cousin-to-the-ape Blango as well as answering the general population's call for help gathering mountain herbs and mushrooms. You can get the strictly single-player missions from the friendly village chief who mills about her fire in town, or you can enter the gathering hall and grab quests for you to tackle on your own or take on with up to four ad-hoc friends.
What exactly are these quests like? Well, each set of objectives the village chief has are broken into ranked classes that feature three types of missions. Gathering quests have you collecting the aforementioned plants, hunting quests have you go after a specific beast, and slaying quests set you on a course to take out a certain number of specific bad guys. Once you've polished off all the quests in a rank, you can move onto the next set of problems.
From there, Monster Hunter gets complicated in the best possible way. You're going to farm, fish, hunt, slay, gather, customize, upgrade, modify, raise, treasure hunt and more before you get done with this title's more than 250 quests, more than 70 monsters, more than 700 weapons and more than 1,400 armor types. You'll name your character, choose a hair style, choose how your voice sounds and even get a house complete with a kitchen you can staff with meal-making cats.
Still, getting out into the wild and slaying a beast is what this game is all about. Let's say you've taken on a hunting quest for a Velocidrome, the blue and red leader of the Velociprey pack. You'll go to the village chief, look at the mission and need to ask yourself a question -- where is the quest?
See, your apparel affects how you play. If you run into the mountains in a light outfit, you're going to get cold, begin shaking and watch your stamina (the yellow meter that governs how much you can run or roll) begin to drop. If you go into the desert in your puffy mountain gear, you'll be too hot and suffer setbacks.
Remember how I said this game was complicated in a good way? This is what I was talking about. Let's say you ignored the "Where is the quest" question, took the job -- you'd have to pay a contract fee -- and ran into a snowy battle. You might get cold, but if you packed properly, you could drink a hot drink to fend off the frigid temperatures and eat a well-done steak to up your stamina.
Once you're in mission, the world -- of which there are ten-- is your oyster. If it's a gathering quest, you'll have to scour the map -- which is made up of a varying number of different zones -- looking for your objective; if it's a slaying quest, you'll need to go from place to place looking for the type of creature you need to kill; and if it's a hunting quest, you'll need to find the right monster to take out.
Now, the monster you're hunting is usually a bit bigger and a bit smarter than anything you've seen before. Earlier in my travels, I had taken out a handful of Giapreys -- birdlike carnivores -- with ease. However, when I was ordered to go after the pack's ruling Giadrome for the first time, I got a run for my money. Aside from having a more powerful attacks and a larger range, the giadrome knew when it was in trouble. When I'd nearly hacked it to death, the beast would flee the map in an attempt to either lose me or find backup. It's a great move that leads you to start packing paintballs, which can help track animals on the radar, and potions that help you find creatures on the map.
When the beast was beaten, I carved up the corpse and got some items -- depending on the creature, you'll get bones you can use to make weapons, hides for armor or some meat you can cook yourself.
If you get stuck on a quest -- a gathering hall quest -- you can always bring in some ad-hoc help. A GameSpy editor who shall remain nameless was having some trouble besting a baddie and called in the big guns -- me. We went into battle, I showed him how to use the BBQ spit and ability-enhancing armor seeds, and we kicked the crap out of some monsters.
Just like the overall game, multiplayer is simple but deep. You go into the hall, one of you accepts a quest, and the other chooses that quest off the job board. If you wanted to, you could sit in the hall, drink, exchange stat-recording guild cards and more. In a given mission, you can stick together or spread out and shout out a map section number when you locate a bad guy.
As deep and engaging as Monster Hunter is -- and it really, really is -- the title does stumble on its epic journey. Namely, the camera sucks and was the reason for me getting blindsided and killed more times than I'd like to remember.
I'll set the stage for you. I'm in the Snowy Mountains trying to kill a big ol' boar. In general this guy isn't tough -- he steps back, lowers his head and rushes at me. I roll out of his way and then begin slicing and dicing with my dual swords. Cake, right?
Problems pop up when another enemy enters the fight. Without a lock-on, I was left to use the camera-center button. It might not sound bad, but the camera doesn't rotate to the centered position; it jumps to that view. So, I'm centered on the boar coming at me; I roll and re-center; and then, I turn toward the boar and center again. Basically, I've made three camera moves that leave me with three snapshots of the battlefield.
That's not good -- especially when a Giaprey enters the level on a side I never got a snapshot of.
The beast jumps on me, it knocks me down, and the boar runs me over before I have the chance to get up. You could make the argument that I should've swiveled the POV with the D-Pad, but in the heat of battle, I'm not too keen on taking my thumb off the control stick in a game where my best defense is being fleet footed.
Beyond that, I personally felt the combat system was one of the downsides to the game. The enemy will launch its attack, and you'll roll to get to the side. As the enemy rotates toward you, you'll need to rotate toward them and slash from there. Lots of times, you'll start slashing and find you're not pointed in the right direction or not close enough.
It's frustrating, but my combat-related complaint might just be me projecting how I wish the game controlled. Although the turning and slashing irked me, when you get to gigantic monsters and dragons later on, you'll be relying on traps, bombs and objects far more than your puny sword.
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