With over 500 hours of gameplay and previously unreleased monsters, weapons and missions, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is set to be the biggest game of the series so far. Via Ad-Hoc functionality, players can experience the social gaming phenomenon that’s gripping Japan and adventure with up to three friends for a thrilling and savaging multiplayer hunting party. From devising the strategy to executing the attack, team play with your friends is going to be key to hunting down the ferocious beasts.
WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!
I'm Jason Allen, and I'm a PR specialist for Capcom.
WP: The Monster Hunter series has been around for a while. It started back in the early PlayStation 2 days and has now made its way to the PSP. How has the series evolved, and with the newest PSP game, we're actually going back to some of the original classic maps. Why go back? Is this meant as a remake, a reimagining or an entirely new game? Where does it fit in?
JA: What we've seen is Monster Hunter has done extraordinarily well on the PSP in Japan. This latest iteration, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, which in Japan is known as Monster Hunter 2nd G, is one of the biggest-selling games, period. We realized that the camaraderie that comes along with being able to meet up with people in a portable realm really serves this game well. In Japan, people meet strangers on the train and just join hunts with them because everybody in Japan has a PSP and Monster Hunter. So Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, known as Monster Hunter 2nd G in Japan, happens to not only take the classic, most fun elements from previous Monster Hunters, but it also adds some of the toughest, meanest, most extraordinary monsters that the series has ever seen.
There are also a couple of other features that include mid-tier weapons that are upgraded and beefed up a little bit more strong than you would have originally been able to get starting off with the game. You have easier access to those kinds of weapons, which makes it a lot easier to perform. Also, there is the added experience of having your Felyne characters accompany you on all your hunts. Originally, playing by yourself was kind of tough; you almost had to have someone with you because some of the monsters were really hard. In Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, you have an NPC that follows you everywhere you go. You can customize their attributes and basically tweak them to suit your needs on how you want them to support you. So that iconic Felyne character that you've seen and know all the imagery and art surrounding Monster Hunter? That character actually comes along with you now.
So Monster Hunter Freedom Unite encompasses some of the best elements of previous games, plus some added features. It's the biggest Monster Hunter yet.
WP: Multiplayer supports up to four players via Wi-Fi, but in single-player, do you fight with AI players? Do you just fight solely by yourself? How does the experience differ in single-player versus multiplayer?
JA: Well, as I mentioned, it's rather tough. There's a lot of strategy that goes into taking down these monsters. People see this, and they're excited about the fact that this is an action/RPG, but as an RPG, what you find a lot of the time is that there's a lot more strategy involved than your regular beat-'em-up. What we have here is a host of weapons that people can use to take down these animals. Whereas one weapon, as a melee weapon, may be good for distracting the animal and hitting them up close, somebody with a ranged weapon can stand off and snipe at them and effectively take them down from there. You also have the added elements of traps and stuff that you can use to paralyze them and basically manipulate the animal so you have a better chance of taking them down.
In single-player, a lot of that strategy is lost on you because you don't have other players to pick up those other elements.
WP: So there aren't any AI bots?
JA: The AI bot's in the Felyne character. The Felyne character is driven by the AI, and they're rather smart. We've gotten good reception from the gaming community on how smart Sheva was in Resident Evil 5. Capcom doesn't cut any corners. In Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, the Felyne characters are just as smart and effective. They stay out of your way. They don't inhibit your gameplay experience. They're there to help heal you. They can throw bombs for you. There's just a bunch of things that they can do for you to help make that experience a lot more rich just playing on your own, so you feel like you're playing with somebody else.
WP: Speaking of weapons and items, how do we handle inventory management? There are a lot of bonus items and weapons to use, including healing potions, bombs and paintballs. How did you end up streamlining the management so the player isn't overwhelmed?
JA: Streamlining has been an especially good aspect of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. When you get your cards, essentially, you can send that stuff directly back to your inventory so you don't muddle with what you have on you. Newcomers may take that for granted, but it's one of the small things that we did for the gameplay experience.
WP: Area-wise, how many maps are there, and how many zones are in a typical map?
JA: Most of the maps that we've been playing with during the hands-on demo have been up to nine zones, but when you get out there, a lot of the time, it's not just about doing your hunts for the monsters. In the demos that we've done, we usually gather together and search for the monster, but if you get especially good and know how to handle your own, you can set off on your own, and people go off in three separate directions and explore all these different zones. When they come up on the monster, pull out the paintball gun, tag him, and then everybody sees where he's at, and they can converge on him.
It's cool to have up to nine different zones to explore. That seems pretty vast, and it is pretty vast for a portable game. This is one of the biggest portable games there is, but there is this added layer of being able to get out there and see how beautiful the world is. It's really immersive.
WP: What about trading items? Is it very easy to trade, or when you get cards and craft items, are they only for your character? What kind of player-to-player interaction is there?
JA: It's very easy to trade up. I was in situations where I thought I was all good, and then we start whooping on the monster and he gets pissed-off. He hits me once and knocks me down to an inch of health, and someone is able to come in and give me healing potion immediately. It's not cumbersome at all. It's really effective and easy, and the thing is that you really do win as a team, as a synchronized unit. This game really takes advantage of that.
WP: What's your favorite aspect of the game? Is it the crafting, the combat, or the actual design of the monsters? What keeps you coming back, besides work?
JA: (laughs) I can honestly say that the monsters themselves are one of the most compelling features for me personally. The cool thing about these monsters is that they're fantasy, but at the same time, they're designed in such a way that they have these real-world elements to them that are reptilian or mammal-like. They have these cool behaviors that make you think, "Wow, I can't believe they're doing this on a PSP." It's so amazing, and they're so detailed. You're standing there and they're kicking your butt, but you want to stare at them because they look so cool. I can definitely say without a doubt that the monsters are some of the coolest parts of the game for me.
WP: Does it hold up well when you're playing it on the TV? Was this title designed just for the PSP screen, or does it look just as good on the big screen?
JA: One of our community members at some of our events took it upon themselves to output it to television, and it looked really good. When he wanted to show off what he's pulled off, instead of having someone look over his shoulder, he would output it to the television and make it easier, so he could play and demo while the people looked at the monitor. It looked really good to me. My company surprises me all the time about how smart and sharp our developers are. It looks great on PSP.
WP: Is there anything about the game that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?
JA: Monster Hunter Freedom Unite comes out June 23. The Monster Hunter Freedom Unite demo is now available on the PlayStation Network. People can download it directly to their PSPs. The demo is so good that we've been showing it to press on our press tours. You get the vast loadout of all the weapons and armor that we have available in this game, and it's cool to select the cool characters and hop in immediately with a beefed-up character and see what it's like to take on all the monsters in Monster Hunter Freedom Unite effectively with the weapons that we provide you with. Check it out. Make sure you download it and get it on your PSP.
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