Format: Wii

Publisher: Nintendo

Price: £44.99

Release: 23/04

It’s a series of earthquakes which prompts the chief of Moga Village to call in the hunters and so begin Monster Hunter Tri. With the seismic activity throwing off the natural equilibrium between species and triggering the arrival of vicious beasts of Godzilla-like proportions, it falls to the monster hunters to investigate the cause of the tremors, drive off the invading behemoths and restore the balance.

Opening within Moga Village, a tranquil fishing port and main hub of the single-player quest, hunters will be able to buy items, select quests, upgrade weapons and later direct the fishing fleets, oversee trade and local farms. Aside from these administrative tasks the village is also the place to hear rumour and conjecture, most of its inhabitants only too happy to share their thoughts.

Once fully acclimatised it won’t be long until you embark on your first assignment. Once outside of the village you’re truly in the wild, the plains and deserts of the world overflowing with carnivorous dinosaurs, giant insects, blood-sucking leeches, sharks and more. Between them and a hunter-shaped meal stand your wits, armour and a collection of unwieldy yet devastating weaponry.

Before setting off in pursuit of the leviathans of the deep and giants of the plains it’s necessary to advance your equipment. By carrying out Hunter’s Guild’s quests – hunt a certain monster, gather a certain mineral, etc. – you will earn the money and natural resources necessary to do just that. Fallen beasts can be harvested and their bones and hides turned into weapons courtesy of the smithy. In a nice touch newly forged weapons each have their own distinct look; particularly important for showing off when playing online.

Combat feels oddly sluggish at first but soon improves as combo lists are purchased, allowing sword strokes to be linked seamlessly. Every stroke needs to count if the larger beasts are to be subdued; while online even the combined efforts of four simultaneous hunters are seldom enough to take down the game’s giants. In fact, battles with all but the most docile creature are refreshingly tough and carrying a fully-stocked pouch of curative items is essential if heath and constitution are to be restored. One oddity is that the Wii’s much vaunted motion controls add little to the experience and rather, in retro-style, combat and camera control is much tighter with a control pad.

There are also some clever behavioural routines on show, particularly in the way monsters will react to not just the player’s actions but the presence of each other. For instance, attack an aptonoth – a herd dwelling herbivore – and the remaining members of the herd will gather around the threatened animal, similarly the velociraptor like jaggi’s will emit a call for assistance if backed into a corner. The larger meat-eaters will even prey on weaker creatures within their local area – it’s like a psychedelic episode of Planet Earth at times.

Another plus are the lush visuals, subtle lighting effects, magnificent monsters and beautifully drawn environments. Having been born into the world of the Xbox 360 and PS3 however it inevitably lacks the ‘wow’ factor it might otherwise have carried. Still, there is plenty here to delight in and for the Wii it’s a dazzling spectacle. The online mode’s bustling city impresses too; a place to relax or team up with fellow hunters in pursuit of the game’s deadliest creatures.

MHT’s strength lies in what is becoming rarer and rarer as far as Wii titles go: a steep learning curve and the freedom to explore. Too often Wii games are sugar coated for the so called ‘casual audience’ and having a game of substance and style to enjoy which doesn’t go out of its way to hand-hold is a delight. Gaming enthusiasts will have long had MHT on their shopping lists. If you bought your Wii for Wii Sports and it has been gathering dust since then you could do worse than try this for something new – after all, you might like it.