Preview: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is the first great RPG for Nintendo 3DS

At New York Comic Con 2012, Capcom finally allowed American gamers some hands-on time with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, the much-anticipated action RPG for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U consoles.  The game promises to be the definitive Monster Hunter 3 experience, and will even allow players to transfer their save data between both versions of the game. As a longtime fan of the series, I made sure to swing by the Capcom booth to enter in the MH3U tournaments they were running, getting a chance to put my hunting skills to the test and check out how the game controls on the Nintendo 3DS.

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The "tournament" entailed a simple 2 vs. 2 race to see which team could defeat the chosen monster first. I found myself teamed up with a man dressed as Louis from Left 4 Dead, and we quickly discussed some weapon strategy before the match began, him choosing a hammer weapon while I chose the trusty great sword. After starting the mission my teammate neglected to fully investigate the contents of the mission chest, leaving it up to me to snag the barrel bombs and electric trap he had left behind.

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Being that our tournament was the "easy" bracket, the monster we were fighting was an Urcusis, a giant snow rabbit-type beast which originally appeared in the Japan-only release of Monster Hunter Portable 3rd. Urcusis doesn't hit tremendously hard, though slows down the fight by trapping unwitting hunters in the giant snowballs he throws. As a solo hunter this can be a serious annoyance, though both of us  knew how kick the snow off of a partner so they could rejoin the fight. It was definitely awesome to be able to coordinate my attacks with a teammate in real time, though it's still disappointing to know that the game won't offer online play.

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The most important thing to note about MH3U is the controls. To be quite honest, I had a bit of difficulty not accidently hitting the camera controls (mapped to the d-pad) while frantically dodging the Urcusis' attacks. Of course, most Monster Hunter players have wrestled with bad camera controls before on the PSP, so it's likely it will just take some getting used to. Of course, the best option will likely be to invest in a Circle Pad Pro, an accessory that was preety much designed specifically for the game. Not only will the right stick allow players to control the camera with ease, but the added shoulder buttons add some additional functionality as well. I also had some trouble using the touchscreen to navigate through items while in the thick of battle, and I hope playing it on my 3DS XL will make this easier.

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After some serious combat, me and my partner managed to take down the Urcusis, claiming our prize: a copy of the game. I'll be waiting for my hard-earned copy to arrive in March 2012, though I'm sure I would've paid full retail price regardless. The game definitely continues the Monster Hunter legacy, and though it isn't a truly new title, it should fill the hours I'll spend waiting for Monster Hunter 4. So, if you're looking for the first truly great RPG for Nintendo 3DS, start saving your money now! 

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Vito Gesualdi GameZone.com Senior Editor, DraftMagic.com Editor-in-Chief, NoNoComedy.com Contributor, and the hardest working man in show business. King of video walkthroughs for new games. Follow me on the twitters @VitoGesualdi.
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