Review Review - Monster Hunter Freedom (PSP)

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Flashback Fanatic
Dec 29, 2003
Monster Hunter Freedom, my first experience with the MH-series. And I like it, I like it a lot and cannot quite understand why it is that I haven’t heard of the series before - with some of my friends playing PS2 and having owned one myself for 1½ year before getting rid of it.

Anyhow, let us not discuss my gaming background but get down with the game instead. The title ”Monster Hunter” tells you exactly what the game is all about - tracking down and slaying monsters of various sizes, using a handful of different weapons, items and traps. When you first come to life in this game, after having spent a decent amount of time with the surprisingly well made character creation system, your character wakes up inside his house where there’s a bed (duh) for saving the game, an item box for storing whatever you wish not to carry around, and an info magazine where you may read up on things like how combat works, some notes on the areas where you’ll be hunting, and other topics that should be of great interest to a newcomer like myself.

Outside is the village in which you seem to be living and apart from having a couple of merchants and ordinary people wandering the streets, there’s also the Guild Hall where you embark on quests offline as well as ”online” (by which I mean ad-hoc, more on that later), a sword stuck in a tree stump, and a road that leads to a farm where you may do a number of activities without the risk of getting ambushed by Velicoprey or crushed by a descending Yian Kut-Ku. From what I have come to understand, the Kokoto Farm is a new feature even to veteran players and here’s a brief description of what it’s good for: planting seeds, mining resources, fishing and catching bugs. At least that’s all you can do at the start of the game, but as you buy and sell wares - you’ll gain Kokoto Points for helping the village grow and these points are used for expanding the farm. Not only will you be able to get more out of the stuff already mentioned above - but it seems that you can open up new activities as well. I recently added a Mushroom Tree allowing me to gather different types of mushrooms, for example. Kokoto Farm is a neat little feature that will allow you to get some resources without having to embark on a quest.

Because that’s the only way to leave the village - by embarking on a quest... Wandering off to the village border will only result in discovering an invisible wall, unless you’ve accepted a quest and thus will have the option to leave by pressing the square button. There’s no need to worry though because there are a couple of simple delivery quests available that are impossible to fail and these only seem to serve as a way of leaving the village for resource gathering and weapon practicing.
Quests are provided by the Village Chief and, naturally, the Guild. It is suggested that you go speak to the Village Chief first, since his first quests will serve as a tutorial where you learn more on combat, healing, combining items, traps etc. All quests provided are divided into five levels of difficulty, represented by an equal number of stars, and contains a number of quests ranging from 8 and all the way up to 20 (from what I have seen so far). Each quest has a reward, a contract fee (except for the first five missions given by the chief), a time limit and both goal and fail conditions. Quests are also divided into five categories: Gathering, Hunting, Capture, Event and Special and take place in one of five maps: Forest & Hills, Desert, Jungle, Swamp and Volcano. Each map consists of a number of areas - once you leave an area, you’ll have to wait until the next has loaded (think Fable).

So, you’ve accepted and embarked on a quest and thus are now standing in the camp; a place to rest up, do some minor resource gathering, and equip yourself with whatever starting equipment that the Guild or Chief has provided you with - which can be found in a giant, blue chest. Usually you’re given a map of all the areas, something that will restore your health and stamina, a whetstone to help keep your blade sharp, and basic ammunition if that’s the road you’ve taken. For inside your house, at the item box, you have no less than five different weapons to choose from - all with their own advantages, weak points and combat strategies. There’s the ”weak” but very mobile Sword and Shield, the strong but very cumbersome Great Sword, the lance for keeping a distance without losing too much attack power, the extremely powerful though slow hammer, and the only ranged weapon available - a crossbow gun (heavier versions are available). You should try at least two of these before deciding on which to use. A sixth weapon does exist but you’ll have to find it first: the dual swords with their lethal combos.

Combat and advancement
Attacking is as simple as one, two, three. Mastering your chosen weapon, however, isn’t. Believe me when I say that newcomers will wonder why the hell you’re unable to lock-on to creatures... But once you get the hang of it, you’ll forgive them for wanting to make a more realistic game where aiming and timing is of most importance. Unsheathe your melee weapon by pressing triangle and then unleash combos by pressing triangle, circle or both together to perform different types of attacks. Timing is not a must here - simply bashing the buttons will do. But it won’t take you too long before you know exactly when to press the next button in order to extend your combo.
The more you use a melee weapon, the sooner its edge will become dull and this will affect the weapon’s attack power. There are four levels of sharpness, presented in colors when examining your weapon (red, orange, yellow and green) and by a changing knife-icon when wandering around the map. Green sharpness gives you a 1.125 damage modifier, yellow is 1.0, orange 0.75 and red will reduce your damage by half.

Once you’ve slain your first monster, you’ll want to cut it open. Stand next to it and press circle to cut the corpse with your hunter’s knife. This will typically provide you with a fang, some hide, raw meat or something else like that. It is also the main reason to why you hunt - to gather resources from both creatures and the nature itself (piles of bones, honeycombs, plants etc). Fangs are good for both weapons and ammunition, hides and scales will let you create new armor, and herbs can be eaten or combined with blue mushrooms to brew healing potions, for example. There is a ton of stuff to create in this game, it’s just a shame that you don’t have a clue on how to do it... I miss having recipes for what items and potions can be created (however, once you do manage to pull something together, you’ll receive a recipe for it). Thankfully, when it comes to armor and weapons - the shops let’s you know right away what the requirements are.

Monster Hunter Freedom also has an interesting way of developing skills: all armor will raise a certain skill by a certain number. So what you do is combine pieces of armor in order to raise a skill up to 10 points or more (the next step is 15, then 20). This will activate the skill and you are then able to e.g. carry more, can withstand knockdowns, or are resistant to stealing - just to mention a few of the skills and their various effects.

Visually the game is very impressive, as you’ll come to understand the moment you embark on a quest. The environment is highly detailed and monsters do both look good as well as move and behave like you expect them to do (hitting and slaying one Aptonoth may very well cause the rest of the herd to flee in panic). So far I haven’t had any slowdowns either - be it five Velocipreys or one, big Yian Kut-Ku attacking me, the game runs perfectly fine.

But there is one thing that slows the game down significantly, and that’s the frequent loading times. Entering the game as well as loading your next quest can take up to 30 seconds and while a map’s different areas thankfully only takes 4-10 seconds to load, they are all quite small and thus walking across the map will take you some time to do.

More so, I would like to mention that the font and overall quality of the text in this game is pretty poor... It's not quite as bad as the case was with Kingdom of Heaven/Paradise but still, they really should've done something about it before releasing the game because I feel that the font chosen is too narrow and even looks just a tad blurry. But maybe it’s just us near- and farsighted who might experience problems with this. I thought it would be worth mentioning though because they could’ve done a lot better on this point IMO.

And last but not least, I would like to add that there are two modes in multiplayer: either you and up to three of your friends takes on a quest from one of the five categories given at the Guild Hall, or you and just one more Hunter can search for rare treasures instead. So you could say that there are actually six categories, because Treasure Hunting will reward you with equipment that cannot be found elsewhere in the game. Supposedly, the game itself can and will also reward you for spending a lot of time playing with others and making friends, instead of going solo all the time. At least that's what I heard while playing the game (from a villager), and the manual also briefly mentions it.

Overall, Monster Hunter Freedom has been a great experience to me. It’s an incredibly fun and addictive action-RPG and definitely one of the top games out for the PSP. Very appealing visually and the sound isn’t too bad either, with good ambient effects and a nice (though short), Celtic soundtrack. It’s just a shame that they didn’t include more tutorial quests, left out Infrastructure (though ad-hoc play naturally is very enjoyable!) and that the gameplay is plagued by such time-consuming load times. Still, I can definitely recommend this game to anyone who finds the concept interesting! Just be aware of that if you’ve never played a MH-game - you’ll probably have a hard time grasping the controls and may only think of it as an “OK game” the first hour or so, until you’ve completed at least the first five tutorial quests given by the Village Chief and thus have learned more about the game (even though you’ve still only scratched the surface).

RATING: 8/10

• Detailed environments
• Good character customization
• Item creation
• Rich on content
• Ad-hoc play
(• Downloadable content?)

• Load times
• Somewhat hard to get into
• Some areas are a tad too small
• Infrastructure left out
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