Monster Hunter Tri Hands-on Preview

Capcom and Nintendo are trying to finally trying to hit it big in North America with the Monster Hunter series, wildly popular in Japan, through the new Wii-exclusive Monster Hunter Tri. The previous versions, available on PlayStation 2 and PSP, have enjoyed niche success outside of Japan, but Tri is easily the most accessible entry to date.

I got to play a quick 30-minute demo of the game on the floor of GDC 2010 with the help of a Nintendo employee's direction. It was this simple instruction by another human being that made the game suddenly click for me. I had dabbled previously with Monster Hunter Freedom Unite on the PSP, but didn't stick around long.

Now, the demo equipment and items granted to me were more than what a player would have when first starting out, but it wasn't anything ridiculous. Mid-level equipment, I'm told. The biggest adjustment for the demo was the tagging of my target: a large, velociraptor-looking monster. The tagging showed its exact location on the map allowing me to hunt it down quickly in my limited session.

Once I found it, the battle began and this is where the hand-holding stopped. There is no life bar for the monster and its attacks change as it takes damage. When it suffered too much, it would turn and flee to a new area leaving me to give chance after healing myself and re-sharpening my hammer.

Giving chase, I tracked the monster through different locations as it called for help from smaller monsters, which I easily dispatched. Since I had opted to use a hammer, which turned out to be strong against this particular foe, it was possible to stun it for longs periods of time if I landed a nice shot on its head.

Finally, I killed the creature and was able to harvest it for crafting components. I cannot truly explain why Tri was so much more accessible to me as it had all of the same gameplay elements as previous series entries, but it just worked. It is also being sold bundled with the new Classic Controller Pro, which is a must-buy for any Wii owners that use a Classic Controller.

Throwing in free online play for America (it's a subscription-based game in Japan) sweetens the deal even further. Finally, the online system is skipping the Friend Codes and using a name and ID system unique to Tri. If any game in the Monster Hunter franchise will bring the phenomenon to America, it will likely be Tri, which will be released on April 20, 2010.

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