Bargain Gaming – Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite

Posted on Feb 17 2011

When I first purchased my PSP there was a period where I didn’t really know what to do with the dang thing. Truthfully speaking there weren’t that many great games for the system and I just didn’t have the funds to experiment with a bunch of unknowns in order to find the gems available at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my first few games like Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? and Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble, but there was a stretch of several months where I just couldn’t find any games worth picking up for it. It was towards the end of this period that I was chilling in my local game store with a friend when he suggested we both pick up Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite for our PSPs, saying he had heard really good things about the game. Personally, I knew very little about the Monster Hunter series at the time and was thus rather reluctant to pick it up. Thankfully he was able to convince me in the end, and I’m glad he did as that game quickly became my favorite game for the PSP and quite possibly one of my all time favorites.

Don’t get me wrong now, if you’re looking for a masterful story or intricately wrought characters full of depth then this is not the game for you. The story is rather minimalistic, serving only as an excuse for what is happening in the game. You are a rookie monster hunter assigned to a small village in the mountains, and as you slay bigger and badder monsters you are rewarded with even more dangerous hunts than ever before. And that’s fine! The story of this game is not its narrative, but the struggle between your character and the various monsters. As you hunt down the beast’s location and engage it in battle, pursuing it across the entire map as you try to deal the final blow before your resources run out, you develop a real sense of urgency and competitiveness that even the best narrative would struggle to match.

And that is where this game really shines: in the actual game play. While the controls can be clunky at first, as you grow accustomed to the PSP’s interface you quickly discover that you have an incredible range of motion and techniques at your disposal. And you’re going to need all of them if you hope to emerge victorious. One of the coolest features of this game is that YOU gain the experience as opposed to your character, as the game forces you to learn new tricks and strategies to combat the increasingly difficult monsters that you must face in order to progress. It’s an incredibly rewarding feeling when you finally manage to defeat a monster that you’d been struggling with due to a change in strategy or equipment load out, which brings me to another key part of the game: customization.

And when I say customization, I mean it. Everything from your character’s individual armor pieces to the items you bring with you for the hunt affect your effectiveness as a hunter, to the point where the difference between victory and defeat can be whether or not you brought enough cooling drinks with you to the battlefield. And with eleven different weapon types to experiment with, there is a lot of variation to be had in how you set up your hunting style. And this isn’t even going into your ability to hire out and train Felynes to assist you during your hunts! (personally I took a bomb happy one and trained it so it could heal me and would become stronger as the battle progressed, but that’s another story) But the Felynes are really only a replacement for the real support characters in this game: your friends!

That’s right, by using the ad hoc multiplayer connection on your PSP you can connect with up to three other players at once and go on hunts as a team, taking on monsters that would be unthinkable to challenge alone. This is yet another high point for this game, as suddenly the game gains a whole new level of strategy as you work with others to take down these monstrous foes. And even if you choose to fight as individuals it is still fun to yell at your friends as you all try and take down the same monster without getting in each others’ way. After all, playing by yourself can be incredibly rewarding and fun in its own right, but it’s always nice to know you have the option to team up with others when a particular hunt begins to become tedious. All in all it adds an option that, while not a game changer, only serves to make a fun game even more fun.

But none of this means anything if the game doesn’t have the atmosphere or monsters to back it up, and boy does this game have a style all its own. Whether it is the preposterously oversized weapons your characters bring to bear against the monsters or the even more gigantic monsters you are trying to slay with them, there is always the sense that your character is in over his head here and the only thing keeping him alive is you. The village itself even has a unique feel to it, with the designs based off the Ainu traditional garb from northern Japan lending the village its own sense of cultural identity and uniqueness. This helps give the game world not only its own sense of self and identity, but also serves to allow the player to be absorbed into this world of both conflict in the surrounding wilds and tranquility in the village itself. And while you never truly feel that you’re the only thing keeping this violence out of the village, it does strike a nice contrast for the player while they are in game.

The sad fact of the matter is that I could go on and on about the interesting monster designs and unique battle strategies and sheer replayability of the game, but that would simply take too long. Instead I will sum up the sheer amount of content available within the game with the following statement: I have put more than seventy hours of gaming time into this one title, making it by far the longest amount of time I’ve spent on a PSP game to date. And honestly I’ve only scratched the surface. I’ve heard people online say they’ve put hundreds of hours of game time down to get everything this game has to offer, and I believe it. This can be an incredibly involved game if you let it suck you in, with enough monster types, areas, and variations to keep you coming back for more again and again. And God help you if you’re a perfectionist that wants to collect all of the in game items and equipment!

My verdict on this game should be painfully obvious by this point, but in the off chance you somehow missed all of the praise I’ve been heaping upon this title then listen up! If you own a PSP and don’t have either this or some other version of Monster Hunter for the system then you need to do yourself a favor and go pick up a copy. I got mine used for $17.99 about a year ago, so there’s no reason not to at this point. You’ll certainly get your money’s worth out of it, especially if you have a group of friends you game with regularly. So get out there and get to hunting! And remember…

If you fall seven times then you get up eight!

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  • Jubilee February 17, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    Great job once again! 😀

    I am enjoying these! ^_^

  • joegoku February 17, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    Hey really, thats a great thing you did, thank you. I couldn´t say it better then you^^. Monster Hunter Freedom Unite/2ndG is really one of the best PSP games I ever played till now. And Monster Hunter Freedom 3 is right infront of the door, this will be a great piece of Game, too.
    Don´t miss Monster Hunter 😉

  • drewid February 17, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    Probably the psp game i’ve put the most time into. Great article mano. And if your looking for other good psp games I can give you a list of solid ones.

  • EagleEyes February 17, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    So many Kitty Cats o.o

  • Tyto February 17, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    Good intuition on you’re friend there! 😛

  • Bargain Gamer February 17, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    Glad to see you all enjoyed it! And lol Tyto, just lol.

  • Kusari February 17, 2011 at 9:14 PM

    @Eaguru There ARE a lot of cats!
    And Monster Hunter is probably my favorite game series of all time. Back from Monster Hunter on the Playstation 2, to Tri on the Wii, or to my newest installment: Portable 3rd for the PSP!(Yes I have to play it in Japanese but it’s not ALL bad. ^^; I’ve played long enough to tell what’s what). Oh and Bargain Gamer: In Portable 3rd you get TWO cats to fight with you! And you can tell the lady what attack preferentials you have.

  • Rafflesthief February 18, 2011 at 6:27 AM

    I’m one of the people who has clocked over 100 hours on this game (515 to be precise) I’ve got to HR rank 9 (the highest there is) but I’ve still not collected all the weapons and there are still a boatload of other quests I haven’t completed yet.
    I didn’t have anyone else to hunt with either (because none of my friends liked it), but even then I’ve enjoyed every minute I put into it.
    Its probably the game series which I have invested the most time in, because in Monster hunter freedom and freedom 2 I invested about 200 hours a piece, and something similar for the wii version.
    Its definitely one of the most fulfilling games I’ve ever played, its just as fun as it was when I picked it up, more so actually, I’m hunting stuff which can demolish castles now XD

  • Kusari February 18, 2011 at 7:49 PM

    Oh yeah, I should note my times into the game to back up my love for this undying passion! Monster Hunter for the Ps2: 999 maxed the hours for one character, lost my memory card and started over upto 600 hours.
    Freedom One was only about 80 hours because I got my PSP shortly before Freedom 2 came out.
    Freedom 2 I had a male and female. The male had about 140 hours and the female’s got 400 logged.
    Freedom Unite has about 400 hours a piece for a male and a female, then another female that wore no gear but the weapon with 100 hours.
    My Tri chars are upto about 300 hours on my female and 70 on my male.

    Currently upto 10 hours on a male on Portable 3rd, 11 hours on one female, and then 25 on my third(Didn’t like the face I gave my first female).

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