Monster Hunter Tri Retrospective

A Look Back On The Game That Made Me A Hunter

Introduction

No matter which entry you started with, I think no one ever forgets their first Monster Hunter game. Despite getting into the series eleven years ago, it still feels like it was yesterday. I was a junior in high school and everyday after football/wrestling practice I would come home and play Monster Hunter Tri with one of my closest friends. Now it’s 2021, and I’m waiting with anticipation for the release of Monster Hunter Rise. With the title building on the blueprint set by Monster Hunter World, I want to take a look back on the game that made me a fan of this well received franchise.

Catching My Interest

Admittedly before Monster Hunter Tri, I had no interest in the series whatsoever. I was aware that the game was huge, but it failed to capture my attention. When I saw the the box art for Freedom 2 i assumed the game wouldn’t interest me, an assumption I realize was judgemental. About two years later, I would meet my close friend and to this day he is still my hunting partner. He was new to my school, and our friendship began by bonding over video games. We both had a PSP, and he recommended that I play Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, which I put on the back-burner due to being heavily into Dissidia Final Fantasy.

Later that year, we were talking about the Nintendo Wii in anatomy class. Neither one of us knew we both had the system, and that instantly lead to us challenging each other in Super Smash Bros. The exchange lead to us discussing upcoming games. At the time, I was really hyped for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, which i suggested he buy so we could play one another. He said he’d get it, but only under one condition.

He’d purchase the game if I would pick up Monster Hunter Tri, which was set to come out three months later. I agreed, confident that he would prefer my choice over Monster Hunter. My game came out, and I played it religiously for three months. About a week before Tri came out, I started looking more into the game. After seeing IGN’s review I actually got a little excited to play the game. My friend never got Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, but in retrospect it didn’t even matter.

Door To A Hunting Life

Official artwork from Monster Hunter Tri
Official artwork from Monster Hunter Tri

When I bought Tri on launched day, i was shocked at how much the game had hooked me. Within the first week, I was sucked into the compulsion loop that made the series so famous.I was drawn to the monsters, and their overall designs. Even after playing both earlier and later entries, generation three still contains most of my favorite monsters. This is not only due to design choices, but also how they can be fought. Tri, and it’s expansion Tri Ultimate are the only games in the series to feature underwater combat.

Even to this day, discussion about the underwater combat is polarizing to say the least. While some were fond of it, others simply did not enjoy it. I am amongst those who enjoyed it. Fighting underwater didn’t feel like fighting on land, and I feel like that’s how developers intended it to be. Monsters such as the Lagaicrus naturally should be more fearsome in their natural element. Whenever I fight the Lagiacrus in Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, it feels like I’m not fighting the creature how it was meant to be. With the underwater sections seemingly gone for good, I can’t help but wonder the future of monsters such as the Gobul, or Ceadeus.

I didn’t just obsess about fighting monsters, but also forging their weapons, and armor sets. Like every fan, I love the how rewarding the spoils from a successful hunt are. Both the armor, and the weapons served as an excellent visual reward for the time I put into the game. When it came to the armor, the satisfaction didn’t last long due to the set being superseded by stronger armor at higher ranks. Upgrading the weapons was a different story. I would spend so much in game money on forging, and upgrading weapons.I’d become so broke that sometimes I couldn’t even afford to start a quest. This became a long running gag that both me, and my friend still joke about.

A Real Multiplayer Experience

Picture of Loc Lac City, which serves as the game's online hub
Picture of Loc Lac City, which serves as the game’s online hub

If you had already experienced online multiplayer on PC, and other consoles at the time, Tri’s online might have seemed normal to you. For me however, Monster Hunter Tri was a huge upgrade from what I was accustomed to. Back then I pretty much exclusively played on Nintendo consoles with the exception of my PSP. My online experiences were strictly with the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, an experience limited by Friend Codes, and very restricted player interaction. Monster Hunter Tri  beat down the barriers that I felt had held down Nintendo’s online service.

I’ll never forget the feeling when I logged on for the very first time.After being shown a cut-scene of the games online hub called Loc Lac, I ventured off to hunt with players around the globe. For the very first time, I could chat freely with my online companions. Friend Codes were no longer necessary, since I could easily add other players as friends, see if they were online and effortlessly regroup for future hunts. Monster Hunter Tri was the first time I actually felt like i was part of a online community.

Looking back, this community was one of my all time favorites. Being the first game in the series to see a release on a Nintendo Console in North America and Europe, Tri served as an introduction to series for many. Coming into the community never felt intimidating because a good portion of it was relatively new. Aside from the loyal fans who jumped ship to the Wii, most players I met were learning the game just like I was. I rarely encountered any elitism or ego, and I only can recall one unpleasant interaction with another player.

The Final Days

Cut-scene From Monster Hunter Tri
Cut-scene From Monster Hunter Tri

Starting from it’s release, I would continue to play Monster Hunter Tri for a little over two years. My friend and I would log in nearly on a daily basis to meet up and hunt with other players. We took down every single monster together, from the Great Jaggi to the Alatreon. After every monster was slain, we started to play the game less and less. My friend was the first to go due to his little brother breaking his console. I continued to hunt for a few months afterwards to make the few weapons and armor sets I still wanted, but I would eventually leave around the time I bought a PS3.

About two years later, I learned that the online servers for the game would be shutting down for good. I was no longer a teenager attending high school, but instead a full grown adult working in a department store. Despite having to work the next morning, I booted up my Wii to see Loc Lac one last time. While it felt great to be back, the community definitely changed a bit. Not only was my friend absent, most of the players I had befriended weren’t online.

Hunters were also now more seasoned and experienced, and as a result there was a notable increase in egos. I didn’t let it deter me though, and I managed to find three cool people to hunt with until midnight. Like me they were veterans who came to say goodbye. I stayed up until midnight, but the servers stayed up longer due to me being in another time zone. I bid my comrades farewell, and retired to get some rest before work a few hours later. After a four hour shift I attempted to log back in, only to be greeted with an error code saying I could no longer connect to the servers.

Still On The Hunt

Official Artwork from Monster Hunter World
Official Artwork from Monster Hunter World

The Shutdown of Tri’s servers left me with a rather heavyhearted feeling. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized just how much time I had put into the game. For me logging in everyday to play with my friend had turned into much more than a occasional hobby. It was so frequent, and so planned that it became a routine. While Loc Lac was only virtual, I still managed to meet, interact and bond with a lot of players.

After Tri, I’d go on to play other entries in the series, both old and new. I became such a fan and advocate for the series that I even imported Portable 3rd HD for my PS3. My friend also would join me later on in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, as well as Monster Hunter World. Despite both being better in a lot of ways, we didn’t put as many hours into them like we had with Tri. Little of the reason has to do with design choices, but more so about growing up. Back then we were two kids with a ton of free time, and afterwards we were two adults trying to find our place in the world.

In a twist of fate, we both started to play Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate around the same time life began to fall into place for us. My passion for hunting is burning bright once again, and it’s even hotter after playing the demo for Monster Hunter Rise. The demo fixed almost every grievance I have with World and I’m excited for the new memories that will come with the full release.

Closing

Despite its age Monster Hunter Tri will always hold a special place for me. After going back and playing Tri Ultimate on my 3DS, I believe the underwater combat is still a reason for players to revisit both versions. While the maps are smaller, being able to pursue monsters even when they retreat underwater really adds to the thrill of the hunt. Monsters such as the Plesioth really reach their full potential and creatures such as the Ceadeus will most likely never make a return without the underwater mechanic. While I have seen many villages and gathering hubs there’s one thing that will never change. Moga Village and Loc Lac city will always be my home.


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I enjoy video games, martial arts, and great food.

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