By Chris Matulich, October 18, 2012
One of the silliest moments I've had as both a gamer and someone who likes to think he's a games journalist happened to me this year at NY Comic Con. Waiting in the press line like a rabid dog, as soon as the O.K. was given, I started running. Sprinting, even. For what cause, you ask? To play the one game that had an easy 3 or 4 hour wait at any time during the show - and it pains me to admit it - Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for the Wii U, which plays exactly the same as the 3DS version, which is also the same damn game as Monster Hunter Tri for the Wii. Folks, it's the same old song and dance, and clearly that's what the Monster Hunter community wants.
When I first sat down to write this preview, I figured I would publish two different previews - one for the 3DS version and one for the Wii U version. But then I thought, 'that's almost as silly as me sprinting to play this game'. The difference between them boils down to two basic things: slightly better visuals, due to the HD enhancement that the Wii version received, which honestly isn't much prettier than the 3DS title; and having use of a second control stick, which really isn't that necessary to begin with. While game content will surely differ down the road, in terms of gameplay, they are pretty much the exact same game. In fact, they are the same, because Capcom have taken a page out of Sony's book and included cross-play interactivity between the 3DS and Wii U.
Cross-play functionality that works in two ways. Firstly, the 3DS version of the game can connect with the Wii U, allowing for both players to inhabit the same world, though this is only archived through local wireless and not over a wi-fi connection. Secondly, if both versions of the game have been purchased (in which case it's likely that you'll own three copies of this game), you can carry over the save so you can always be monster hunting. It allows for greater accessibility when playing with a group of people, especially if you've got some friends who don't want to buy one or other platform.
Running around and endlessly hacking monsters apart feels relatively the same as it did on the Wii, though the size of the Wii U controller will definitely give people with smaller hands some difficulty traversing around. Both versions are definitely enhanced visually, as most of the jagged edges have been eliminated and other effects, like blood spurting from monsters, have received an overhaul. The colors are more vibrant, the lighting looks more realistic, and the textures around the dungeons don't look nearly as bland.
I played the hell out of Monster Hunter Tri and enjoyed myself thoroughly. But when hopping on the demo for the Ultimate re-releases, it felt more like a laborious activity rather than something fresh and exciting. There are some neat features that make room for accessibility and cross-play activity, but nothing new or game changing enough to really recommend outside of the rabid Monster Hunter community. There are a few new intricate and enormous monsters to take down that hold some great creative style, but is that really enough to get you to play the same game again, especially with a bunch of fresh experiences launching with the Wii U?