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“Look out! He’s charging after you!”
“I see him! I’m setting my shock trap! Get your bombs ready!”
“Quest complete! We got him. Congrats on slaying your first Tigrex, buddy.”
This is the kind of thing you would hear in my living room, at least twice a week back when Monster Hunter Freedom Unite was released on Sony’s PSP, back in 2009. At the time, I was fortunate to have three friends who owned the game and we would meet up regularly to have a few beers, talk about life, and hunt a lot of really angry monsters. I learned a lot about my fellow hunters during those hunting sessions. A lot more than I knew about them before we started getting together to play. Sure, the main event was teaming up on elder dragons and wyverns, but as an added bonus, we became closer.
It always reminded me of the time I would spent in arcades as a kid. My buddies and I would stop at any video store or pizza place that had an arcade cabinet on our way home. We congregated around many a Street Fighter and Samurai Shodown, Metal Slug and Tekken. Before that, on some weekends, I would go to the arcade at Coney Island and dump quarters into multiplayer titles like Dungeon’s and Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara, The Simpsons arcade game, and – of course – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time.
See, back then, there was no such thing as online multiplayer. If you wanted to play on a team of fellow gamers, or compete against your fighting game rival, you had to do it face to face. We’d bark out strategies during hectic boss battles in Gauntlet. . Trash talk each other after a good match in King of Fighters ’94. Or just gave each other a good old high five after taking down a tough boss together. Maybe even do something like this:
So, what does this old man’s nostalgia for the arcade days of yore have to do with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate? Simple. MH3U’s lack of online play is a good thing. It allows players an opportunity to physically get together in a shared experience. Not only is every hunt completed by a team playing together in the same room filled with shouts of excitement, verbally plans of attack, laughter, groaning and handshakes, you’ll also get some real social interaction out of it.
While some would argue that playing online offers the same kind of interaction, I’d say it pales in comparison. Sure, I can play Super Street Fighter IV online against some faceless opponent, and yeah, maybe if we have a good match we can say so on some cumbersome text message. And trash talk certainly still exists, albeit in the form of foul mouthed and homophobic 12 year olds with headsets. But it doesn’t come as close to that long gone arcade experience as playing with friends in person, passing the controllers around and watching and commenting on each others match ups.
While the decision to not include online play with MH3U for the 3DS was likely made due to some technical limitations, it does not make it unplayable. As someone who has spent hundreds of hours on previous entires in the series, I can honestly say that even if the 3DS version did have online play, I’d probably ignore it and only play multiplayer locally. Some of the quests demand precise strategy and communication, and are a cinch to complete when everyone is on the same page. Allowing owners of the 3DS version of the game to play with players on the Wii U also makes it easier for fans of the series to meet up with other hunters for the best possible experience.
Granted, not everyone who owns the 3DS version will be fortunate enough to know people in their area who also play MH3U. While they might lament the lack of online play, there is still hope. Use the internet. Check message boards. Fans of this series love having others to play with, and might even leave their house (*GASP*) for a meet up at a local coffee shop or bar. Younger gamers who may be used to all of their favorite titles having online play may consider this an inconvenience, but for those of us who remember taking a bus to the arcade or pizza place after school to meet up with friends who loved games as much as we did, it really isn’t too much to ask.
And if you think going out to find three other people to huddle around 3DS’ with is weird, just remember that not that long ago, we used to rub elbows with complete strangers huddled around one of these: