Perhaps the hardest decision a developer has to make has to do with niche sequels. On one hand, you have the enthusiastic word-of-mouthers telling their friends about their favorite game, hoping to get them involved in it. On the other hand, you also want to appeal to a wider audience, making it more profitable and better worth your effort. Do you make the game more accessible for newcomers or do you appease the already established fan base? A lot of companies have struggled with this dilemma, but none seem to balance the two as well as Capcom.
Monster Hunter Freedom pretty much threw the player into the game without any hint of what to do or where to go. I think that’s what drew in a lot of the people who loved it. The game had a very simple tutorial section that ended in approximately 10 missions. After that, you were expected to figure everything else out yourself. I’ll admit that it was a little frustrating at first, but for those of us who stuck to it, we found it one of the most enjoyable experiences on the PSP or any system for that matter.
The second game more or less holds your hand a little longer than the first and mixes up teaching you things. Instead of just telling you how to do something, one of the characters in the town will give you instructions while another will give you hints at monster weaknesses and such. This makes the first part of the game a lot easier, but thankfully they don’t tell you everything. It’s also good to note that Capcom did well by those who have gone through the first game by allowing you to import your old saves. You can’t keep any items over rarity 3, but you do get special tickets in return for some of your more precious items. These tickets will usually allow you make items sooner than you otherwise could.
This easier Monster Hunter is sure to snag some new fans, but people who played the original and found it too hard may already be too jaded to give this series another shot. For long-time fans, expect more of the same with varied monsters and new weapons. Capcom is even offering weekly updated quests via download. This is a much welcomed feature for the more regular hunters for more than one reason. True, they offer new content, but more than not you’ll find a slew of monsters together that would otherwise be in separate quests. Doing this makes it easier to harvest specific monster parts which are frequently used.
Graphically speaking, Monster Hunter Freedom 2 isn’t a big step up from the first one, but it does improve upon a few things. For one, there are fewer camera problems this time. Technically speaking, this isn’t really a graphic issue, however; I feel that this one deserves mention as one of the big culprits of the bad camera was the low canopies in some areas. MHF2 features a whole lot fewer of these low-hanging tree tops that obstruct your view.
Another big thing I noticed was the distance the player can see beyond their immediate reach. More often than not, you’ll be able to see an entire landscape off into the horizon, complete with foliage and creatures and other signs of life. It really adds to the whole sense of immersion and looks gorgeous while doing so.
The old monsters were touched up a bit, but mostly unchanged. Conversely, the new monsters look so great and make the game true to its name where the first one might as well have been titled “Wyvern Hunter”. The baddies you run into this time are much more varied. You’ll come across pink baboons, Moose-like quadrupeds, and giant crabs in addition to the more traditional wyverns and dragons. The new dragons have different strategies and unique attacks to keep you on your toes.
Speaking purely on the special effects like dragon breath and other attacks like that, everything seems to be slightly toned down a bit and you can notice a tears in the polygons and such. Still, due to all of the other effects that are going on like the heavy downpour/monsoon effects of the jungle area, you’ll quickly forget such things.
In this reviewer’s honest opinion, the greatest new feature added this time is the option of preloading the next area before you get to it. Sure, this drains your battery faster, but the amount it does isn’t as noticeable as you might think. I think you’ll drop your game time down by about an hour offline and by about half while playing via adhoc wifi. Essentially, what this does is cut almost all of the loading between areas and makes for a much more seamless game. Similarly, they’ve allowed you to pause the game which really does come in handy when you need to take a phone call or pay for the bus. I even find it helpful to pause before hitting the PSP’s sleep mode as it allows me to view my situation and gather my thoughts prior to being thrown back into the action.
Again, music isn’t as much of an issue as the ambient sounds are. I found the ambiance to actually be heightened a slightly this time around. While on the beach, just at the jungle’s edge, you can hear the waves crash against your boat. Meanwhile, you can also hear the distant sounds of the jungle taunting you to pave your own path through it.
What music is there is actually very enjoyable. The old Monster Hunter theme is still present as is the cooking mini-game tune. Piggie actually has his own music now and it’s a little harder to judge the timing at first as it’s not the same as making gourmet steaks using the same music. I’ve also noticed some really great compositions in certain situations. There are quite a few tunes this time around. In the last game, there were really only 2-4 musical scores. These tracks help make the game feel even more epic than before.
There’s quite a bit added this time around, but only a true hunter will realize this. The most noticeable enhancement would be the number of different weapons. Last time, you had the option of using a sword & shield, great sword, dual swords, lance & shield, hammer, or a crossbow. The crossbow had two types – light and heavy – which differed only by speed of shot and ammo load out. For Monster Hunter Freedom 2, Capcom added quite the arsenal at the player. All the previously listed weapons are still there, but this time we’ve got katana, gun lances (lances that fire a short ranged shot), horns (these are pretty much hammers that can be played to give you boosts to defense, health, stamina, resistances, etc…), and bows.
What’s really great is how different each of these items functions from their counterpart weapons:
Great sword and katana are in the same class of weapon, but function nothing like one another. With the great sword, you can block and attack with a charged strike for massive damage but you cannot run. The katana on the other hand allows you faster movement, but not charged attacks. It also has a meter that builds up as you strike. This meter lets you attack with a sort of furry like with the dual swords. Essentially, it speeds up your attacks and reduces the recovery, allowing you to more fluidly combo your strikes.
The hammer, works exactly as it did before, but this time hammers have a chance to dizzy monsters if you beat them in the head. Horns are their counterpart and function very similarly but have different stances that play one of three notes. Playing a correct string of notes will grant you and your party certain power ups such as those I listed above. This weapon isn’t as powerful as the hammer but it does make everyone else in your party more effective. With the right party, a horn user can be much more effective than the average hammer wielding party member.
Gun lances work like a combination of lances and crossbows, but they don’t pack the same power in either statistic. A good gun lancer will know when to fire off a round and when to thrust. It’s probably the most unique weapon available.
A new addition to the ranged weapon family is the bow. Yes, you read that right – a bow. This doesn’t function like the previous crossbow types. Instead of going into a first person view, you will get an aiming arc that shows you the path of your arrow. By holding the triangle button, you can charge your attack that will fire a spread shot of arrows, covering more ground and doing more damage if all arrows hit. This weapon also features unlimited ammo which is nice, but does very little damage without a coating. By coating your arrow tips with poison or other stat-affecting agents, you will greatly increase your chances of survival. Also, you can use an arrow as a melee attack in desperate situations.
Something that seemed to have been left out in the last game was the ability to upgrade your armor. This time around, you can not only upgrade each piece, but you can also put jewels in some of the armor that adds different abilities and whatnot. Being able to do so may allow you to have the armor you like with the abilities you need without sacrificing some bonuses. The combinations are endless and fun to explore, but really do take a lot of effort to maximize their effects.
Aside from the weapons and armor upgrades, they’ve added new quest types and completely new areas that seem more entertaining than the older ones. What’s more is they’ve added day and night changes which alter an area more than you might expect. For instance, the change to night in the desert can be fatal if you think it’s going to be hot there. It’s actually quite the opposite. The swamp also becomes poisonous at nightfall. This seemingly small change actually adds quite a lot of variety to the tried and true Monster Hunter formula.
I think everyone can agree that an online mode would have been a much welcomed addition, but for whatever reason Capcom left it out. Seeing that I’ve got quite a few friends who play this, it doesn’t affect me that much, but playing face to face is quite a nice way to hunt and still adds so much to the replayability of this title. The aforementioned downloadable content also plays a role in this game’s longevity.
In the end, I would say that Capcom has crafted yet another amazing piece of software for my favorite handheld. Keep them coming, guys! Some of us here really like this series and can’t wait for Monster Hunter 3…for whatever next-gen console. To those of you who fit that bill, this game will have to tide you over until that day.
-Originally Posted by Bloodspoor