Monster Hunter Freedom 2
It's not surprising how quickly Capcom is releasing a sequel to Japan's best selling PSP game...
Selling over a half million units, Monster Hunter Portable (known as Monster Hunter Freedom in the Western world) turned into a surprise hit on the PSP in Japan - its sales significantly outpaced the earlier PS2 Monster Hunter games. It comes as no surprise, then, that Capcom, being a company never shy to release a sequel (or 10), quickly commissioned a PSP sequel.
Monster Hunter Portable 2 ended up receiving a staggering number of preorders from Japanese retailers, yet still exceeded expectations when it was released this past February. It would go on to become the first PSP game to sell one million copies in Japan, and is still holding steady on Japanese charts, over six months later.
The series has not enjoyed the same level of success here in America - so much so that Capcom passed on localizing the PS2's Monster Hunter 2 and Monster Hunter G. Nevertheless, the company is releasing Monster Hunter Portable 2 as Monster Hunter Freedom 2 this week here in the states. Despite lacking mass market popularity, there is a group of hardcore Monster Hunter fans who are almost guaranteed to buy the sequel.
The best way to categorize Monster Hunter is as a mixture of adventuring, hacking and slashing, and RPG elements. When one hears the term "RPG," one probably assumes there will be level ups and lots of level grinding. Monster Hunter doesn't have character levels - the combat all takes place in realtime. The basic flow of the game is to take on quests and complete them. Completing quests and beating enemies gives you loot, and loot will slowly lead to more powerful items. Certain rare items will bestow significant stat upgrades.
Using only brute force will get you nowhere in Monster Hunter, since the game requires a lot of patience, skill, and careful observation to complete quests. New weapons can be created from the parts of creatures you hunted. Weaponry has an attack rating, sharpness level, and sometimes a defense bonus. Weapons can also contain elemental magic - some typical, some not: fire, water, poison, stun, thunder, sleep, dragon etc. Monster Hunter fans are especially fond of the fact that every equipped weapon has its own unique design, and is actually viewable on your character.
Since so many publishers are fond of porting PS2 titles to the PSP, one might assume Monster Hunter Freedom 2 is a port of Monster Hunter 2 on PS2. The game is actually closer to being a port of Monster Hunter G, although there are differences.
Refinements and improvements made to Monster Hunter 2 on PS2 are carried over to Monster Hunter Freedom 2. If you played the original game, you can upload the data save in the sequel to gain some items and some gold. Character stats are not transferrable, however. Still, it's better than nothing.
Monster Hunter Freedom 2 is loaded with content - over 350 quests to perform, over 700 different weapons, and over 1,400 pieces of armor all crammed onto one UMD. The amount of content should make the game twice as long as its predecessor. To increase longevity, Capcom is adding support for downloadable quests, as well.
Loading times are a big issue to those who played Monster Hunter Freedom. Although loading is common in PSP games, MHF's load times were especially cumbersome. This time around, the loading problem is said to be solved by loading the next area in the background, so a transition into the next area should be minimal. Unfortunately, using the background loading option will deplete the battery faster. Shortening the loading is said to be optional, so if you prefer fast loading, or if you prefer a longer lasting battery, you have a choice.
Taking on quests with a group of other people is usually the most enjoyable feature in a Monster Hunter game. MHF2 contains Ad-Hoc (local) multiplayer. Each player needs a PSP and a copy of the game in order to play multiplayer together. There is no infrastructure multi-player unfortunately, which the prequel also lacked. Talk has been going around about Capcom having a survey if people would buy Monster Hunter on PSP if it had infrastructure multiplayer. It's really unfortunate if you wanted to play a friend who lives a distance away. Finding another PSP owner with the same game can be difficult.
MHF 2 releases this week, up against some stiff competition. Here's to hoping the game can rise above the noise, allowing Western gamers catch Monster Hunter madness this holiday season like their Japanese counterparts.