Monster Hunter Freedom 2
Will Japan's most popular PSP game work here?
I remember playing the original Monster Hunter on PS2 back in the day. I didn't have a network adapter and to me, this made the game thoroughly pointless - it certainly had potential to be fun, and I could imagine the joy of taking down a massive dragon-monkey thing with a group of friends. It sounded like fun. It would be fun. The PSP has a built-in network adapter, meaning you can connect Monster Hunter Freedom 2 to the interspazz wirelessly wherever you are in the world, as long as you're in a hotspot or have a router or whatever - this is a game that was initially created with online play in mind. IT'S A MARRIAGE MADE IN THE OPPOSITE OF HELL.
So why, oh why, oh why is there no online mode? There is an ad-hoc multiplayer option, but no one in the world knows more than one other person with a PSP. We've established this. It's ULTRATRUE. Maybe in Japan, where the game manages to sell the system off the strength of its name, but not here. People hate everything here. It's an immediate wasted opportunity, and it harms Monster Hunter so very much - it feels impotent without a true online mode. There's nothing to it. Can you tell it annoys me? Bah.
But come on now - there's a game in there nonetheless, and one that can be played just fine in singleplayer. In the most part, that is (a number of missions are literally impossible alone. Hmm). MHF2 sees players taking control of a character, either man or woman, customised as they see fit, and hunting monsters. Shocker. Quests are taken, things are done, stuff happens - item gathering quests can be partaken in, objects can be created, bought or sold and a farm can be tended to. There is a fair bit to occupy players, that's for certain. But it doesn't take long for the problems to become apparent, and it takes even less time for them to ruin the game altogether.
Monster Hunter is based around hunting monsters, which means combat, which means the combat engine should be up to scratch. When it becomes immediately apparent that the fighting engine in the game is a broken mess, rosy is not how things look. The lack of a lock-on function would be laughable if it weren't for the fact that this omission instils murderous rage in anyone unlucky enough to play the game. The camera control is impossible whilst moving too, meaning you can't successfully keep your eyes trained on the prize. Throw in the fact that half the time your character doesn't even do what you want them to do, thanks to the clunky, unresponsive controls and you're off to a flying combatitive start. Frustration + handheld = expensive (anger-induced) accident.
Where else do we fall down? Well, the game doesn't work properly, it takes forever to load (even with UMD caching turned on in the ingame options), there's no online mode, the item creation system is ridiculous - going into it blind, with hundreds of items available to create, is not a good system in the slightest. The farming part is half decent, until you realise you have to play the game to progress in this mode. Dressing a pig is less fun than it sounds. The weapons are godawful. There are more reasons why this is an abortion of a game, I'm sure, but the red mist has descended and all cognitive functions have been temporarily suspended.
Let's cover some good points, get this mist cleared and the ol' brain working again. As 'working' as it can get, at least. The game looks lovely - the environments are pretty much stunning and really do a good job of drawing you in to things. The localisation effort is pretty decent too, and whilst it isn't literally-piss-yourself-til-you-die funny, there are some cute touches. The guy that trains you raised a fair few smirks, to be honest. The main good-o factor comes with multiplayer - if, if, you can get a few PSP-owning mates together and tackle some of the hunts the game comes into its own. It manages to transcend its many faults and becomes a fun experience.
It's just a shame no one outside Japan will ever play it this way (LITERALLY EVER). It's also a shame that it needs a mode like this to make it worthwhile - it isn't saying much that multiplayer saves it. Multiplayer saved Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee for me. If it can do it for that, it can easily save this.