Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate looks to bring Wii U and 3DS owners together

The Monster Hunter franchise is tremendously popular in Japan, and according to Laili Bosma, senior product marketing manager at Capcom, the series' Japanese fans often team up for local multiplayer action. That's the crux of the connectivity between the Wii U and 3DS versions of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, the upcoming definitive edition of the game that launched in Japan on 3DS in December as Monster Hunter Tri G — which was itself an expanded version of the 2009 Wii title Monster Hunter Tri.

Ultimate will mark Monster Hunter Tri G's first appearance in North America, when it launches next March. On Wii U, Ultimate will support up to four players online, and while the 3DS version has no online multiplayer support, as many as four people can sit in the same room and play together over ad-hoc Wi-Fi. Those 3DS players can also jump into a local wireless game with a Wii U console in the room to go on monster-hunting quests together. (However, you cannot mix local Wii U and 3DS players with Wii U players online; you must choose either a local or online game.) In addition, those who own both the Wii U and 3DS versions can transfer their save across platforms, so they can start a game on the console and take it with them on the handheld.

I played an early-game quest on the Wii U version of Ultimate at New York Comic Con yesterday. The visuals stuck out immediately: the game looks fine at its regular camera distance, but when it zooms in on your character — such as when you're switching between sets of equipment — the lack of fine detail becomes apparent, and you're reminded that you're playing an upscaled and improved version of a three-year-old Wii title. Here, the GamePad serves as an information screen, providing elements such as inventory management and a map.

The quest took me into areas filled with small dinosaur-like creatures that I quickly dispatched with my dual swords. Bosma explained that I could holster my weapons and harvest the animal meat, which I could later cook to make food that would increase or decrease my stamina — depending on how well I roasted it. I also noticed that two companions were traveling with me and joined me in battle. According to Bosma, you can't control or command them directly, but they'll occasionally chip in with a few attacks of their own, or provide you with buffs or health. Aside from the companions, I didn't see much strategy in combat — even fighting the monster I was hunting, I simply dodged a few attacks while hacking away with my swords — but again, I was playing an early, easy quest.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate will launch with the Wii U in Japan on Dec. 8 as Monster Hunter 3G HD Ver., and will come to North America in March 2013 on Wii U and 3DS.

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