Capcom is one of the few developers putting as much effort into pushing the Wii hardware as Nintendo. Their latest title, Monster Hunter Tri, shows off what the Wii can do - not only pushing the visual capabilities, but the online aspect as well.
To start off you create your base character, although customization is limited to only a few outfits and characteristics. Fortunately, said limitations are voided once you've equipped armour - which you'll be able to buy almost straight away. Then the story kicks off.
Monster Hunter Tri's premise is a simple one: your character has arrived at Moga Village, right after it was hit by a massive earthquake, and they enlist your help to rebuild. Along the way, you set out to do what you do best: hunt monsters. The chief gives you your first mission: gathering raw meat for his son.
The characters all speak in captions, giving nothing more than a "hey" similar to the Legend of Zelda titles. It can get a little boring reading through everything they say and you'll soon find yourself skipping every word, opting instead to look up your current quest objectives in the menu.
As you progress you will find that the avatar upgrade system is different from the usual 'grinding to raise your avatar's stats' typical of the genre. Instead, it's focused on harvesting from slain monsters, gathering plants, digging up ore, and using the resources collected to upgrade your gear at blacksmiths or selling it buy new ones. Some monsters won't even require killing to be harvested.
Monster Hunter Tri's world is vast and there's no shortage of animals to harvest or plants to gather - and the further you progress the more areas and larger monsters come to light. You start off hunting large herbivores to gather raw meat to cook and eat, and hunting carnivores for their resource value.
Monsters lurk in every part of Moga Woods - in caves, on land, even in lakes. As such you have a variety of weapons to buy and upgrade for every situation and hunt. Weapons on hand include bowguns, short swords for taking on smaller prey, larger swords for the bigger beast, and harpoons for ocean based critters.
After every hunt you file a hunt report which converts your kills into resource points - which in turn can be spent on catering to the villagers needs, and eventually rebuilding the town. Different items can be combined to create more useful ones - such as potions - from the menu screen.
The single player's gameplay carries over to the online mode in which you and some friends can head into a city, buy items - some of which are only available online - and slay monsters in groups. One of the best features of the online play is that it doesn't rely on Nintendo's 'Friend Code' system, instead using more traditional servers connecting everyone for online play. This makes it more viable to have a ton of players in game.
Monster Hunter Tri shows off what the Wii hardware is made of, then slaps you with a couple of (minor) flaws.
The most notable is the clipping. From the time you're talking to the Moga Village chief with your sword piercing your shield, to standing in the middle of a slain monster it's like a big scar on otherwise crisp visuals. Another is the loading screen between areas. Although short - a couple of seconds at most - it's most notable when you're chasing something. The immersion of the hunt is stifled when the loading screen hits.
Overall, despite the issues with clipping and load screens, Monster Hunter Tri shows off what the Wii is capable of visually. And when it comes to online play, this is the best for the system. Third party developers should take note of what Capcom has, and continues to, achieve on the little SD console in an 'HD generation'.