Release Date: September 2007
Monster Hunter Freedom 2 is quite the milestone title in Japan, where it currently stands as the only PlayStation Portable title to shift over a million units. That may change when Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII ships later this year, but until then, it remains the biggest reason the PSP has been able to stay (somewhat) competitive in a country enraptured by the Nintendo DS.
What makes Monster Hunter so irresistible to portable gamers? It plays out like a combination of Phantasy Star Online and Pokemon, two of the most addictive and endlessly satisfying releases of the last decade. Though the original Monster Hunter Freedom failed to find a huge North American following, Capcom is giving it another shot this fall with the numbered sequel that packs a considerable amount of single-player content, as well as four-player Ad Hoc play and the prospect of downloadable content.
It should shock no one that Monster Hunter Freedom 2 is a game about, well, hunting monsters, and as such, it doesn't seem to put much emphasis on narrative or storytelling. Monster Hunter is all about grinding through hours of hack-and-slash adventuring in the hopes of finding rare items and creating a brag-worthy hunter. Unlike most offerings of this sort, the character will not level up over the course of the game. Instead, players will continue to find and receive better gear with which to improve their respective hunters.
Adventuring with buddies is as simple as linking up through a local Ad Hoc connection and converging at the Town Meeting Hall. Up to four hunters can quest together, and having a crew will allow players to take down massive enemies and have a more effective hunt. Though the game seems perfectly designed for Infrastructure play, such support is only included for downloadable quests, which will be released gradually over time to extend the experience.
Thankfully, Monster Hunter isn't only about angering the likes of PETA through savage wildlife attacks. When not adventuring, hunters hang out in a quaint town setting where they can farm, fish, and create weapons and armor from captured materials. Players can also keep a pet pig and dress it up with outfits and the like. At some point in the game, a troupe of felines takes charge of your cooking duties, and the meals they create can enhance the performance of your hunter. For all the potentially rote combat, it's great to see a bit of quirky heart and humor in the game.
Monster Hunter Freedom 2 is being lauded for its in-game visuals, and based on what I played at Capcom Gamers Day last month, I would mostly agree with that assertion. While it still bears many hallmarks of most PSP titles, the game is surprisingly detailed for a handheld title, and it all moves at a very smooth clip, even when simultaneously displaying several enemies and player characters. A background loading system will be utilized to cut down on the in-game loading times.
Capcom seems energized by the international success of Monster Hunter Freedom 2 and will be pushing hard to help endear the experience to North American gamers. At Gamers Day, the company announced that it would be making "party kits" available, though it was not said what will be included or how they will be doled out to gamers. Come September, those tired of catching pocket monsters will have a chance to take 'em down a notch with Monster Hunter Freedom 2, exclusively for PSP.
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