Ode to The Claw - Destructoid

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10:59 PM on 05.26.2011

My first successful quest in Monster Hunter was with "The Claw." But let's go back a bit further.

My friend had told me about this cool game on the PSP that contained swords and monsters and quests, with amazing graphics to boot. And I was a bit skeptical. But then I saw some footage, and was immediately hooked.

The game play looked great, the weapons were impressive, and the monsters breathed fresh air into my then closed off exposure to video games. I was extremely excited to pick up the game for myself, and dive into this interesting new world of beasts and brawls. There was one thing I hadn't considered before buying the game: the controls.

Before my time with Monster Hunter, I had sporadic experience with Phantasy Star Online for the Gamecube. I'd go to my friend's house, boot up the Cubic system, and hunker down for the afternoon, shooting and slashing sci-fi aliens with guns and sabers. When I played Monster Hunter Freedom one, my first impressions struck a similar chord as Phantasy Star. I briefly tried to manually switch the camera forward with the L button every few seconds, like in PSO, but I quickly realized that there was something strikingly different. It was harder: much harder.

My time with PSO spoiled me. Shooting those cybernetic terrestrials with the lock-on system was such fun. I'd run through the halls, blasting away, watching those experience points slowly beef my character up into a maddening warrior, eventually being able to tear through the levels with ease. But there was one thing you never had to do in PSO. You never had to aim.

I realized this when I shot my first bullet with a Bowgun. It flew over the shoulder of the nearest Velociprey, slowly disappearing out of sight. Frustrated, I rearranged my character and tried again. This time it hit the Prey squarely in the chest. The Velociprey responded by leaping high in the air, landing with a thud on my leather plate, sending me reeling. Angrily I got back up and started wailing into him with my Normal S lv1 ammo. But the Prey wasn't dying. And more started spawning. They quickly teamed me, sending me running. After enjoying the show, watching me flee in despair, my friend belatedly informed me about the R button.

Burned by my horrible encounter with the smallest of enemies, I quickly switched to a Great Sword. Ah, now here was a ferocious weapon to possess! Oozing with newfound confidence, I brandished my Bone Blade into battle, running back to the pack of Prey with a vengeance. I easily disposed of three Velociprey, gleefully gazing upon their corpses, when their leader ran up behind me. After calling in for his calvary, The Velocidrome started running around me. Confused, I quickly tried to change the camera view with my left thumb, attempting to get a better view on this agile assailant. And then it did something unexpected. After I had turned the camera all the way around to finally gaze once more on the creature, the Velocidrome jumped clear over my head, landing behind me. By this time, the other Prey had circled me and started chomping me to bits, so once again I had to retreat.

It was after that when I finally discovered "The Claw." Hooking your index finger on top of the Directional Buttons, I had finally gained proper control of my character. After mastering this technique, my hand-eye coordination was on par to deliver the future Rathian body parts back to the village with ease. I was finally Head Honcho; the top dog. But then something I had been eagerly anticipating for a very long time happened. Monster Hunter Tri was released.

Words couldn't quite describe what I was thinking when I first set foot in the Sandy Plains of MH Tri. The series finally felt like a console game. After all that time on the PSP, the feeling of sheer grandeur was matched with the palpable feeling of solid controls. I had fond memories of playing RPG's like Kingdom Hearts II and Mass Effect. For the first time in my hands, the Monster Hunter series finally FELT like a true game.

And that, my friends, is why I cannot voluntarily go back to "The Claw." If MH: Portable 3rd (Freedom 3) is released for the PSP and the PSP only, then I will play it, and I will have that same feeling as I did back in Freedom one and two. But if there is even a slight chance that I can have the same experience as I did with Tri on a handheld platform, then, my friends, I don't think I will ever be able to return to "The Claw."

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