It still stands as one of the main reasons for the PSP's success in the region - regularly outselling the Wii and occasionally overtaking the DS. There have been Western Monster Hunter releases in the past but rarely have they come close to even matching 10% of the franchise's Japanese success. With Freedom Unite Capcom have put a lot of marketing behind the game in the hope of sparking a similar cultural effect in the West.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is essentially a "mini-MMO" where players are deeply involved in quests and item management. Co-operative play is a big part of the experience where team work and communication is paramount to working through the 500 or so hours of available gameplay. Freedom Unite debuts new environments and new monsters, aswell as tons of new armour and weapon upgrades.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite's campaign will last upwards of 500 hours with four-player ad-Hoc multiplayer providing infinite replay value.
Despite being an extension of Monster Hunter Freedom 2, Freedom Unite packs an absolute wealth of new content. Over 30 hours in fact. There are 50 new quests to tackle and an absolute treasure chest of new items to play around with. Monster Hunter Freedom 2 players can even import their character from said game making Freedom Unite a no-brainer for those already invested in the franchise. Newcomers will find upwards of 500 hours of gameplay in Freedom Unite — getting through just the basic tutorial took us nearly 5 hours. The trade-off for such a depth of content is of course the game's fiendish learning curve.
From the swooping orchestral scores to the breathtaking vistas and character animation - Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is a real treat to the senses. The opening setting, a snowy-mountain, boasts a beautiful lake reflecting the distant sun's glare while pitching a scalable mountain in the background. It's linear, but it's beautiful.
Despite being a bigger game than Monster Hunter Freedom 2, Freedom Unite significantly cuts down the loading times by providing an installation option. This allows important data to be copied to the Playstation Portable memory card and as such cuts load times by around two-thirds.
At times Freedom Unite can feel like a bit of a grind while playing alone; the addition of ad-Hoc multiplayer corrects this. Playing co-operatively not only inspires great camaraderie, but it also unlocks a hidden appreciation for the game's complex nature. Learning together is a big part of Monster Hunter's gameplay and it makes it infinitely less frustrating as an experience. While we understand the decision to make Freedom Unite ad-Hoc only - it's better being in the same room as your team-mates - we do hope Sony bring ad-Hoc Party to the West allowing the game to be playable online. Not everyone has Monster Hunter buddies in their proximity y'see.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite controls fine when you're not being chased by a dozen monsters, but what about the times when you are? The camera is clunky, the controls are unintuitive and the game still lacks a simple lock on button that would make combat 100% better. The fact is, no matter how much content is in Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, there will be people that won't ever access it because they can't get over the basic control issues. We hope Capcom sacrifice 50 hours content for decent controls next time. We really do.
Despite being a cultural smash in Japan, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is not for everyone. We really can't stress that enough. The game has a massive, massive learning curve and provides little to no advice on where players are going wrong. Despite providing a 5 hour tutorial section, players will still not feel entirely ready to tackle the full world of Monster Hunter. If you're a newcomer expect to spend a good 25 hours or so of frustration. Overcome that and you will be rewarded, but it's a big ask.
Much of your time playing Monster Hunter will be spent in menus. As such, we really do wish Capcom would have streamlined them a bit. Many options are not clearly explained and needlessly longwinded. If Capcom want Monster Hunter to be a success in the West they have to make it more accessible.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite probably won't capture the imagination of as many Western gamers as Capcom hope, but those who put in the extra mile will be rewarded by one of the deepest video games to date.