Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is Japan's most popular video game and with multiplayer games being played all over the streets of Japan, the game has even been described by some as a phenomenon. According to Capcom, in Japan this PSP game is bigger than Pokemon and Wii Fit!
Now Capcom, with the help of a very large advertising campaign hope to replicate that success in the UK.
For gamers in the UK, it's quite shocking that a PSP game can be the most popular game in Japan. It's hard to believe that title would not be given to a PS3 game or even a Wii game. In the UK sales of the Sony PSP handheld console have always lagged behind that of the Nintendo DS and DSi and we've never seen a PSP game at the top of the charts.
Although this game is virtually unheard of in the UK, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is the third game in a series of Monster Hunter games. Monster Hunter 1 and Monster Hunter 2 were released on the PS2 in both Japan and the UK. In Japan where the take up of PS2 online Internet services was much higher than the UK, these games did quite well. This was mostly due to the fact that the games lend themselves very well to online collaborative play. In the UK the games did not fair so well, as a solo game they were nothing
When Monster Hunter Freedom Unite was released in Japan on the 27th March 2008, the game took off in a big way, selling 690,000 copies on its release day and 1.5 million copies by the end of that week. Capcom's US blog even mentioned that the game lowered Japan's productivity that week! Since then, Monster Hunter festivals have been held in all of Japan's major cities, attracting many thousands of players.
The success of this game was almost certainly due to how well this title does as a multiplayer game. In Japan where we're told that the cities are clean and safe, people can take out a PSP virtually anywhere to team up with other people and track and hunt monsters online. You can see people playing Monster Hunter on their PSP's all over Japan, in cafe's, MacDonalds and even on the tube.
In London there are many places where you would not want to answer your mobile phone in public, let alone get your PSP our for a 20 minute gaming session. To kickstart online Gameplay in the UK, Capcom have setup a 'Gathering Hall', a kind of Monster Hunter drop in center where players can meet and play Monster Hunter together. They can also download exclusive quests, attend tutorial nights and maybe even meet some of the game's developers.
The Gathering Hall, open 7 days a week from the 3rd of July, is located in a three story building, just one minutes walk from Tottenham Court Road tube station on Charing Cross Road. Entrance is free (and exclusive) to anyone with a PSP and a copy of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite.
121 Charing Cross Road
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Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is an action/role playing game where, as the name implies, the player takes on the role of a monster hunter. The game is played through a series of quests where the hunters are required to track and for the most part, slay a number of different monsters.
In a typical game, players would first meet in the local pub before deciding on a quest to take. Once the quest has been chosen, players can then head off to their houses to 'kit up' before the big hunt. Players must also choose the role they will play in the team and then choose from a selection of armour and weapons to suit that role and the quest they are undertaking.
For solo players without the help of online friends, there is an AI companion, a cat with armour that is almost as good in battle (but not quite) as a real person.
Before the team can kill the monster they have to track it down. Monsters will not come to you and actually don't want to fight (and we thought the monsters were the bad guys!). Players must track the monsters through swamps, deserts and forest and then decide where they would like to do battle. Sometimes it is best to lure monsters out into the open before attacking.
Taking these huge monsters down is a real team effort. Each monster has its own unique behaviour patterns, fears, strengths and weaknesses. For example if the team were trying to slay a Nargacuga, a winged panther like creature with a dangerous tail, they might first try to stun it with flash bombs and then cut off its tail.
The Nargacuga can be surprised by loud noises and the flash bombs should distract it enough to enable you to get a few clean chops at the tail. After removing the tail the creature is far less dangerous and all three players can concentrate on bringing it down.
There's a lot you need to learn to play this game properly, but the built-in Encyclopaedia Gigantica contains all of the information you need. There's also and online resource, the Monster Hunter Wiki that you can check for more detailed information and tips - http://monsterhunter.wikia.com/wiki/Monster_Hunter_Wiki
When a monster is finally defeated the team can pillage the dead creature's carcase for bones, spike and scales etc, using these resources to build new armour and weapons. Failing that the money you get for completing the quest can be used to pay for new weapons and armour sets.
In Monster Hunter, unlike some RPG's there is no levelling up. You don't have to play 24 hours a day to be competitive. This means that novices can join in, hunting monsters with their more experienced friends.
In terms of longevity, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite could hold your attention for months, even years. Capcom's own stats have shown that players have spent 400 hours on average playing the game. Impressive figures for a battery powered device.
The demo is available to download direct to your PSP now via the PlayStation Network and for PSP owners with no wireless Internet access Capcom will send you a demo copy on a UMD. Limited number of demo packs available - http://www.capcom-europe.com/MonsterHunter/ .
Remember, you need to be 12 years or older to play Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. It's scary stuff! ;-)
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