If you look at the current catalogue of Capcom developed and published games across the many platforms in today's gaming world, you will see quite a lot
of variation from action shooters to bike racers, but if there is one genre you can almost always count on for some quality coming from Capcom, it's the
adventure/RPG gaming genre. This comes as no
surprise as adventure/RPG gaming is quite popular in Capcom's homeland of Japan and when it comes to the PSP and PS2, one of the more successful series
recent times can be seen in Capcom's own Monster Hunter Freedom as it is known by the western markets. The second PSP release is now out and
about under the title Monster Hunter Freedom 2, and while not a whole lot has changed, the same quality that makes this series such a huge hit in
Japan is definitely on display.
MHF 2 does not feature a hugely ambitious or epic background and story at all. Set in a world where man and beast exist together and rendered in
a typical third person perspective, MHF 2 is not about heroically stopping an evil overlord or saving the world from an invading alien race,
all you really have to do in this game is live the life of a hunter. After creating your character from an impressive selection of customizable options
when starting a new game, you must protect,
slay and, more importantly, survive any way you can and that's really all this game is about. With this simplistic approach in mind, there is still some
storyline involved explaining your purpose and origins, but as a whole, this game is about building your hunter character, taking quests, and killing
beasts, and not much else.
This doesn't sound like much, but what MHF 2 lacks in story is makes up for in gameplay. This game is going to keep you busy for quite a
while. As a newbie hunter brought in to service a village, you must first learn and earn your way through the game's training mission system, and there
are plenty of training missions to go through that basically introduce you to all of the game's major features including just about every weapon
type you will encounter from bone swords and
hammers to longbows and shotguns. Having a training section for this game was vital but the depth and detail on offer here is just exceptional. You will
leave a seasoned expert on this game by the time your training is up.
But it doesn't stop there, the whole game is just packed with the same attention to detail and depth you will experience in the content rich training
mode from top to bottom. One of the very first
impressions you'll get when playing this game is how much it not only looks like a PS2 game, but feels like a PS2 game. The graphics and the engine feel very
solid, and the world you run around in, whilst a tad repetitive, doesn't come off as your typical PSP adventure game world as it combines good size with
very decent load times. This is done by splitting the game's environments up into smallish sections so while loading screens are common, they don't manage to
detract from the game at all really.
However, the bulk of this 'PS2 game' feeling definitely stems from the vast array of features when it comes to items and
functions. All your usual RPG stuff is here like individual armor pieces and weapons as well as a progressing character, but it's some of the
smaller extra details that make this game so complete, like the presence of weapons losing their sharpness after use, or the ability to carry around a
BBQ spit for instance. In MHF 2 your character not
only has a health bar to maintain but also a stamina bar which can be influenced by physical activity and environmental conditions (such as the cold). To
combat this you must keep your energy intake up, and by that I mean you must eat. Sure, you could munch down on some rations you carry around with you, or
you could be a real hunter and slay a meaty beast to cook on your portable BBQ spit, which has its own (albeit not exactly exciting) mini-game that
determines how well it is cooked. I mean how cool is that?
This is the type of detail you can expect in MHF 2's gameplay from top to bottom.
When you're not busy chowing down on some well done steak, there's a good chance you're out and about looking to complete an active quest as that is
basically the primary purpose of the game - completing quests, which range from picking herbs to slaying specific monsters. Again, this doesn't sound all
that impressive what with 'open worlds' being all the rage, but there are so many quests and, in general, so much gameplay on offer I don't think you're
going to find a PSP game with more value than MHF 2,
or at least not by much. Better yet, the multiplayer components in this game mean you can join groups online or locally via the PSP's WiFi to complete
quests, not to mention download new quests and items for free right from the main menu. In fact the integration of online gaming in MHF 2 has got to
be one of the more prominent seen on the PSP, in theory anyway - unfortunately for some reason I was unable to see much in the way of other gamers online so
it is hard for me to say this was a huge asset
to the gameplay but even just being able to download new content (which did work fine) is cool enough.
However, the game does have a few areas that could be improved. First of all, as touched upon above, the environments in this game do become quite
repetitive and as does the gameplay to some degree. Enemy creature attacks are predictable and pattern based, and so are yours. The gameplay still manages to
be quite hard though, so it isn't a case of the game's challenge factor suffering, it's just a case of the game's initial fresh feel wearing off not too
far into the gameplay. In fact, given the game's
lengthy training stages, you more or less feel a little tired with the game before you even get into the bulk of the gameplay which is a bit of a shame.
The only other complaint I can really muster is the menu system, which feels much like your typical Japanese adventure game menu system, featuring seemingly
excessive multiple layers and pages not to mention it is not uncommon for a particular button to do one thing on one screen, and a completely different thing
on another screen. This naturally can make
menu navigation - which is a significant part of this game - quite confusing.
But these are only secondary issues. The bottom line is, if you like RPG's and Adventure games, then you'll really enjoy Monster Hunter Freedom
2. Just about everything from the visuals to the attention to detail and depth in this game lends itself far more to a PS2 gaming experience than your
typical PSP gaming experience so for this Capcom should be commended. The only real overriding issue I see with this game is it definitely has that
"built for the Japanese market" feel to it,
and this could repel some gamers in the PAL and US regions. You really shouldn't let this turn you away though as Monster Hunter Freedom 2 is really
up there as one of the better PSP games around, and it is a prime example of why this platform can be much more than just a portable time