Monster Hunter Freedom Unite Review
For veterans of the series, this game does not have as much to offer as it does to newcomers. It serves as an expansion to Monster Hunter Freedom 2, released on the PSP in 2007, and reuses a bulk of its content. Despite being an expansion, Freedom Unite does implement a lot of interesting additions to the Monster Hunter formula. There are of course the typical expansion fare like new weapons and armor, harder quests, and a handful of new monsters, but there are also a couple of drastic, welcome changes to the gameplay.
Perhaps the most noticeable change is the inclusion of an NPC Felyne fighter you can hire to accompany you on hunts. Before, the only way to quest with a party was with flesh and blood companions playing over an ad-hoc network connection, so being able to enlist the aid of an NPC is a huge plus. Your Felyne fighter levels up and gains skills as you progress through the game, and really feels like an integral part of your team.
Story (3 out of 5)
Compelling narrative has never been a selling point for the Monster Hunter games, and Freedom Unite does nothing to change this. You play as a hunter who bites off a bit more than he can chew while fighting a gigantic beast in the snowy tundra, managing to get knocked unconscious in the process. You awake in Pokke Village, discovering that the townsfolk have rescued you and tended to your wounds. You become the village’s resident monster hunter, taking on quests from the village Elder and the Guild Hall. If you’ve played Monster Hunter Freedom 2, this should sound awfully familiar as Freedom Unite tells the exact same story.
Though the story may be light, this is definitely a case where less is more. Without the hindrance of extensive cutscenes and dialogue, selecting a quest and jumping right into the action is easy. Despite the lacking story, you’ll still feel a personal connection to your character through the deep customization system. You can choose your hunter’s gender, voice, skin tone, hair style, etc. to tailor-fit your character to your liking. If you still have your Monster Hunter Freedom 2 save data, you can also import your old character directly into Monster Hunter Freedom Unite.
Gameplay and Controls (5 out of 5)
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite has a bit of a learning curve, but once you master the mechanics, you’ll find it has some of the most deep and rewarding gameplay available on the PSP. Thankfully, the game eases you into it by starting with some simple herb-gathering quests.
Though not the most exciting endeavor, these beginner missions get you accustomed to maneuvering around the world. The analog joystick controls your character’s movement, while the directional pad controls the camera. Having both movement and character control on the same side of the PSP is a bit awkward, but there is a compromise. Triggering the left shoulder button shifts the camera to center on the direction your character is facing, and can be a lifesaver in the middle of frantic combat.
Combat is deceptively straightforward on the surface. The triangle button covers most of your weapon-based attacks, the square button unleashes both recovery and offensive items, and the cross button initiates an evasive roll. There are eleven different weapon types, ranging from swords to lances, and hammers to bowguns. Each weapon type controls differently, and requires experimentation to master. Learning how to attack is not the difficult part however, learning when to strike is the challenge.
After your initial herb-gathering quests, you’ll be trusted with hunting some easy prey. These first few monsters can be dispatched by just mashing the triangle button, but this strategy will soon fail. As you move on to larger adversaries, your attacks will be relentlessly blocked and evaded. The key here is timing; watching the monster, observing its movements and waiting for your chance to attack. Each monster behaves differently, constantly providing new and exciting challenges.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is classified as an action RPG, though it differs from a typical RPG in many ways. Leveling up and improving your character is not achieved through gaining experience points, but instead by upgrading your weapon and armor. At the end of each quest, you will be awarded a combination of crafting materials and gold coins. You can use these to craft sharper weapons, build tougher armor, or buy new equipment from the village shopkeepers. Ensuring you are outfitted with upgraded items often means the difference between victory or death.
Graphics and Sound (5 out of 5)
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite sports some stunning visuals. The world is lushly detailed, and the character and monster animations are both fluid and natural. Each area you visit seems fresh and alive, whether it is an icy cavern atop a snowy mountain, or a seaside alcove flush with wildlife. When you obtain new weapons and armor, this change will be reflected in your character’s appearance, as there are hundreds of unique equipment models. Menus are clean, intuitive, and easy to navigate.
The game’s sound design matches its visuals, with great visceral monster sound effects, and sweeping orchestral music. The music is both stirring and intense, really driving the epic feel of the battles against enormous foes.
Lasting Appeal (5 out of 5)
With over 400 quests, Freedom Unite will keep you busy for a very long time. The game can be completed in anywhere between 100 to over 500 hours. If you have friends to join you in multiplayer ad-hoc mode, that time can be extended even further. In a generation where some games can be completed in just a few hours, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite stands out as fantastic bang for your buck. Despite its length, you’ll never feel bored due to the extensive variety of mission types, items to track down, and creatures to hunt.
Final Verdict (5 out of 5)
Though labeled as just an expansion, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite has something to offer to both veterans and newcomers alike. Those familiar with the franchise will enjoy the harder quests available, and those new to the series will get the most complete, well-rounded Monster Hunter experience available on the PSP.
The learning curve is admittedly steep, but sinking your teeth into Freedom Unite’s strategic combat and really mastering its nuances can prove both challenging and rewarding. Being able to bring along a companion, be it real player or NPC, provides entertaining new avenues of exploration and combat. Its vast wealth of content makes this title one of the best values on the PSP, and is a must-have for any action RPG enthusiast.