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6/18/2012

Monster Hunter Tri (Demo) in a Nutshell

A bad game?  By Capcom?  In 2011?!  What are the odds of that?  (Very high, as it turns out)

Chapter 1: Great Jaggi

Okay, starting up I have my choice of control schemes. I went with Classic Controller A, because B's "Right Stick = Attack" setup sounded a bit too reminiscent of Rise to Honor, a titanic piece of shit on the Playstation 2. A bit of quick experimentation revealed that the Wii Remote + Nunchuck combination wasn't any good either. (Tilt left and press A for weak attack, Right and A for strong attack, tilt upward + A for a forward thrust, then realize that the A button actually does nothing and that every combat boils down to swinging the remote around wildly until you come down with a terrible case of carpal tunnel syndrome!)

I'm given only two choices for quests: "Great Jaggi Hunt", rated at 1 star, and "Ouropeco Hunt", rated at three. I decide for the former at first so I can hopefully get used to the controls and start off on an easy quest to get into the swing of things. I choose the guy with the giant bowgun as a weapon, because honestly, that gun barrel looks to be twice the size of the damn thing's head; one clean shot should leave it decapitated and me a few hundred bucks richer.

Tracking the monster is a pretty easy process; you're given a minimap, and a glowing red dot on it shows you the monster's position. So all I have to do is make a minute-long trek over there. Easy shit. Not to skip ahead here, but this is the only thing they managed to get right.

After reaching the monster, I take a moment to puzzle out how to use my weapon. Okay, so Y uses a potion (whoops, wasted one... oh well, I have nine left), B makes me roll, A doesn't seem to do anything... ah, it's X to equip weapon. Okay. Now what button shoots... Y? Wasn't that the potion button a minute ago? Whatever. Shoot the thing.

Well, that did nothing but piss it off; now it's charged right at me, knocked me on my ass, and fled to another area. So I pursue, shoot it a few more times, and get the exact same result. After repeating this one more time, the thing decides its had enough of me, sends all of its smaller minions after me and they frantically tear me a new asshole while I desperately try to retreat and use a potion, then learn the hard way that your weapon runs out of ammo after only six shots and you have to reload by pressing A. Oh, and you can't do your dodge-roll while you have your weapon out either, which kind of defeats the entire purpose of even having the damn thing. Isn't the general idea of a dodge command to allow the player to quickly evade attacks? Kind of hard when you have to stop, take two seconds to sheathe your weapon, and THEN press the button before it will have the desired effect.

So I cancel the quest, having remembered that guns are almost always useless in JRPGs, and decide to try again with something that hopefully packs a bit more punch. Like... that really big axe. That sounds good. So I find the monster (again), whack it a few times with the upward stab attack (via Y Button) and quickly get mobbed by his smaller minions again. After taking a few hits, I also discover that the A button can do a sweep attack that hits multiple enemies, which allows me to quickly wipe out the little fuckers. Hey, this is going pretty well.

Or at least it is until I hit him a few more times to absolutely no visible effect; he barely bleeds, he doesn't get knocked back, he doesn't shout in pain, NOTHING. In fact, he's still more than able to slap me around with his tail AND call in more backup to chew on me even as I bash him repeatedly in the spine and head with my axe. At this point I'm starting to get low on health, so I sweep his minions out of the way and retreat a safe distance to use a potion.

The problem with THIS is that every time I try, the fucker just runs up, bitchslaps me with his tail and takes off more health than I recover, because not only do I have to put away my weapon (a two second process) and stop dead in my tracks to use a potion (ditto), I THEN have to continue staying completely vulnerable to attack while my character slowly tosses the empty bottle aside, raises his arms into the air and cheers himself on. It becomes clear at this point that my hunter is Wimp Lo, deliberately trained wrong as a joke. Or perhaps Dan Hibiki.

So after getting hauled back to the village on a cart that looks like something out of the Flintstones, I decide to see if I can buy any better potions or heavier weapons. Nope. In fact, I can't talk to anyone. Oh, but pressing Minus brings up an item menu, where I discover that I have some Mega Potions. But how do I equip them? The menu only gives me the option to drop them or move them around the list.

Oh, maybe that "L" button under the icon is a clue. Yep, it brings up a window with some items. Now how do I cycle? It's not the D-pad, the left stick or even the right stick... oh, it's A and Y. Rather nonintuitive, but whatever, I've got some Mega Potions equipped; maybe these will work better. Let's find that fucker again.

On the way there, I discover that hitting the Plus key (Pause in most games) does a slow upward slash attack. Is this my power move? It sure looks like it. Guess I'll find out when I get there.

Okay, there's the bastard. And sure enough, my Plus attack is the only one to inflict some visible damage to the guy - he actually flies back and winces for a moment! So I do it again. Nothing; he just keeps attacking. And again. And again! Apparently it was a one-shot deal. Kind of shitty. But hey, at least I can recover more health than I lose now, even if I do get hit again during the unnecessarily drawn out process of using a potion. After a countless number of sword whacks, the bastard finally shows visible signs of pain and injury - and promptly runs away... through a solid wall. So not only does he have plenty of time to escape and (probably) recover health, but hitting him as he does so is useless because he's too fast to catch up to and he doesn't get stunned.

So I look at the included poster for hints, and I find out the axe can apparently also turn into a powerful sword. I'm not sure what the point of that is since you can just choose a sword as one of your starting weapons, but hey, I may as well give it a shot. After fumbling around with the buttons for a bit, I find the transform button, which makes me move really slowly. Well, I have played a lot of Team Fortress 2, so maybe this is a good sign; the rough equivalent to the Heavy revving up his weapon in preparation of unleashing an unstoppable hail of death.

So after (very slowly) making my way to the Jaggi's latest hiding place, I unleash the fury of my sword with a few Plus attacks, which, once again, results in no stun and hardly any sign of injury. But I'm running low on potions and the game's just informed me that I have less than five minutes left to complete my task, so I guess it's do-or-die time. After a while my sword runs out of ammo (uh... what?) and turns back into an axe, but by that point it's too late and the bastard finally decides he's had enough and falls over in defeat. After a few more sweep attacks clean up his minions, the mission gets declared a success and I collect my reward of... a plug for a game I've already had to preorder to get this demo disc. Yay.

Chapter 2: Ouropeco

Now I decide that it's time to take on our second quest, Ouropeco, who looks like some kind of retarded giant duck. I elected to pick the great sword this time; turning our big axe into a big sword seemed to have pretty good results last time around, so why not just start with a big sword, right? The description also tells me something about an unstoppable combination attack; again, sounds pretty good. Stunning the boss monster is nearly impossible, so I may as well pick a weapon that lets me dish out a lot of damage and prevents me from being knocked back while doing it.

So after a short trek to find the bastard, I run up to him... only to watch him fly up out of my reach and flee to another area. So I follow him again - same thing. And again. Same thing! Do I ever get to FIGHT this guy, or what?

Well, after wasting about five minutes of my allotted 20 minute quest time, he finally lands, allowing me to run up and hit him a few times. Or not, as he hocks a gigantic loogie on me, knocking me down before I can even get close. But I do eventually close the gap and stab him in the knees. As with my last fight, this does little outside of pissing him off, and he summons more of the mini-Jaggis the last boss sent after me. I was expecting mini-Ouropecos, but I guess the demo's too low-budget to afford those. Not a huge deal; let's just roll with it.

So after a few waves of those little bastards get dispatched, I continue to run up and whack away at him; again, he doesn't get stunned or slowed in the slightest, but one small nudge from him is enough to send me flipping back ten feet while my health meter turns purple and my character begins to spark like a damaged robot, and he continues to call in more and more monsters just to be a gigantic pain in the ass. So I decide to unleash the aforementioned special move, which I eventually puzzle out being tied to the R button. Yeah, R. Not Plus, as it was with the axe-sword. It's like they just mapped commands to random buttons, paying no heed to the fact that they did something completely different when you were using a different weapon, had your weapon sheathed, or are redundant to things already mapped (the D-pad AND right stick both control the camera, rather than one of them, say, scrolling inventory items). It's really sloppy game design, to say the least.

Sure enough, the R button seems to be the sword's one-shot knockback attack, which I can continue to spam to unleash a lengthy and (allegedly) powerful combo. But the "unstoppable" effect certainly doesn't work as advertised, as he managed to slap me out of it mid-combo and send me back to the village on a Flintstones stretcher once again.

What's with that thing anyway? If you can make bowguns and transforming weapons, shouldn't you at least have stretchers made of wood instead of stone and dinosaur bones? Whatever. I equip my Mega Potions and jump back into the fray.

Oh god, he's back to this run-down-the-clock routine again. So after dicking around to the point where I now have well under ten minutes to kill him and he has yet to even show any sign of weakening, he finally decides to stand and fight again. But after only a few hits, I get informed that for no real reason my weapon's effectiveness has been decreased; sure enough, the little Jaggis aren't even dying in one hit anymore. So what am I supposed to do?

After getting Flintstoned back to the village (again), I check my inventory and find a whetstone. Okay, I guess I need to sharpen my sword back up after I use it too much. Why that wasn't the case with the axe-sword is a mystery I'll never understand, but at this point I really don't care anymore. I just want to get this fucking demo over with.

...Alright, I'm good to go again. Back to the fight.

Oh the way there, I checked my inventory again and also found that I had some bombs. Thinking that maybe those could help (or at least STUN the thing momentarily where a giant sword repeatedly piercing its neck couldn't), I equipped them. Once I reach the monster again, I ready a bomb, toss it and... it does nothing. Absolutely nothing. Wow, thanks game. Why not just give me a handful of pebbles to throw too?

The third flurry of slashes-to-the-throat seems to have been the last straw, because NOW he's sunk to the ultimate low - calling in Great Jaggi again! I shit you not. The guy I just killed after more than fifteen minutes of hard work is, with no explanation, back from the grave and helping the guy I'm already having trouble even doing any noticeable damage to. Needless to say, they quickly rape me, the game arbitrarily decides to enforce a three-knockdown rule, terminates the quest, and sends me back to the same splash screen I was "rewarded" with for completing the last quest. Then I'm brought back to the select screen and asked if I want to try again. Fuck. That.

Spoony: This game blows. All of the control options are clumsy and unintuitive, combat has no discernible strategy outside of brute-force repetition, even the weakest monsters take way too long to kill, and I honestly can't imagine it being fun even with a group of people helping you out. Maybe I'm just missing something, or maybe you can get weapon upgrades and items that make these quests easier in the full version; I don't know. But the objective of a demo is to convince me that the full version of the game is worth my money, and this one has failed in that task. Hard. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to get a refund on my preorder.

Do not buy Monster Hunter Tri.