Cockatoo Island, Sydney. I was lucky enough to be invited to a special preview of Monster Hunter Tri held by Nintendo Australia. Here’s how it went down. Everyone invited met up at Circular Quay as per directions on the invitation, but nobody really knew what to expect. We knew we were headed to Cockatoo Island via ferry, but nobody expected THIS!
Which is good, because we went on this.
As the ferry took off, we were spoken to by a man dressed in monster hunting clothes who gave us a brief rundown of the games weapons and monsters, all while staying in the character of an ancient warrior. Until he started talking about TV shows that is. Total BUZZKILL! Regardless, it was now apparent Nintendo had put a lot of thought into this. About 20 minutes later we arrived at Cockatoo Island… and were escorted into here.
A dark cave. Believe me it was dark, that picture is accurate. After a good 50 metres or so of darkness, dim lights started flashing on the sides, revealing dead animal bones. Loud dinosaur roars then BOOMED through the tunnel and bounced off the walls to create some truly terrifying sounds. Awesome! And I haven’t even seen the game yet! We continued walking until we finally saw some Wii’s set up with Monster Hunter, all spread out through the rest of the cave, with a lovely Nintendo person stationed at each one to introduce us to the game and teach us the basics of play.
First though, we all gathered around the Wii at the very end for a demonstration. It was quite cramped as about 50 people all stopped in the same place, I’d guess more than half couldn’t see what was going on. Very cavey and atmospheric. Here, Nintendo proudly announced the games release date, April 29th, at a price of $79, or $99 with a Classic Controller Pro bundled with it. Not too shabby, only a week after America. Everyone clapped. Now it was game time.
Jamie from Nintendo welcomed us all and took us through a brief playthrough of the game. The lucky bloke had spent the last week playing the game. First thing I noticed was how impressive the graphics were, the monsters in the game animate with a nice subtle realism that almost makes you feel bad when you hit them. There were 7 different weapon types to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, ranging from a short sword for quick slashes and a wieldy lance for strong pinpoint blows.
There were two different modes of play to choose from, one was a split screen coliseum battle against one huge monster. The other was a quest mode, which had 4 Wiis down the cave linked together over Wi-Fi playing online. There were 3 quests to choose from, all specifying a different monster to hunt. Incredibly enough, there wasn’t a single connection drop the entire time, which is impressive considering the game shown wasn’t in it’s final state, and that we were in a cave in the middle of nowhere. It was very stable and lag during gameplay was minimal as 4 of us hacked away at a giant enemy at once seamlessly.
The gameplay itself is very straightforward, run up to a monster and try to kill it. The purpose of destroying these beasts is to use their remains to carve new weapons and armour and harvest new items. You have a few different attack moves to choose from, and there are combo possibilities that I didn’t get to explore fully. It’s also very easy to die, as I found out multiple times. Running up and spamming the attack buttons won’t always yield the desired result, as I played more I started moving back and hovering around the enemies waiting for the right moment to attack. There’s also a block button, but it didn’t seem to do me any good as a giant dragon thing charged into me head first at full speed. These monsters all have names by the way, they were just too extreme for me to bother learning. Think dinosaur names. The whole atmosphere of the game is reminiscent of the dinosaur era, the land is brimming with life, with helpless herbivores grazing, and herds stampeding in the distance. It’s a very impressive experience complimented by a great deal of exploration on both land and sea. Swimming is seamless and there’s just as much life underwater as there is on land.
Overall there’s still a lot about the game I’m curious about, but I left very impressed with the game, and with Nintendo’s dedication to the event. They had staff serving everyone free food and drinks throughout the entire night. At the end of it all they gave away 3 black Wii consoles to 3 lucky people drawn randomly, to celebrate the launch of the black Wii which happened to be today. Monster Hunter Tri is definitely a game I’ll be keeping my eye on come April 29.