I’ve been hearing odds and ends about the Monster Hunter series for several years now, and once I started seeing a lot of fan art for the series, and seeing certain adaptations of Monster Hunter concepts to some forum roleplaying games I participated in, I figured I would have to track down and play one of the games in the series eventually. Pity it was Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for the PSP.

If you haven’t played any of the games in the series before, and you’re thinking of trying Freedom Unite, my advice to you is to not. Instead, watch this video that I found when I typed “Monster Hunter Freedom Unite” into a YouTube search:

See, this is what you should be doing when you load up a game called Monster Hunter. Instead, what you’ll be doing is a lot of this:

(I understand the second video is from a different game in the series, so you’ll have to forgive me because the song that plays is different.)

I played Freedom Unite for over an hour and I never saw anything approaching the awesome action that was promised in trailers and in-game videos. Monster Hunter is an action game. Let me say that again, it’s an action game. There’s more action in the beginning of recent Final Fantasy titles than what I found in Freedom Unite.

Let’s put it another way: Diablo 2 starts you in the Rogue’s Camp in the beginning of Act I. You can be killing your first monster less than a minute after you’ve started playing the game, it might take as long as five minutes if you’ve never played before. I think I had to read through several pages of text before I was even allowed to roam the map in Freedom Unite, and then I had to go to the tutorial area.

Once in the tutorial area, I had to scroll through many more pages of text, explaining how boxes worked, how to unsheathe my weapon, how to sheathe my weapon, how to prepare a steak, and so on, and so forth. I’ve heard Team Fortress 2 jokingly referred to as a “military-themed hat simulator.” I would posit that the Monster Hunter series is in actuality a fantasy-themed barbeque simulator.

I played more than an hour of the game and didn’t finish the tutorial section. Let me stress again the fact that this is supposed to be an action roleplaying game. There is more action in the dice rolling in an hour around the gaming table than in the first hour of this game. Maybe this is harsh because I tried going through the tutorials.

But let me counter with this: the tutorials are what the designers seriously think you need to know. It’s more important for me to know how to slaughter a mammoth creature and grill a steak than hunt monsters. In a game called Monster Hunter. Maybe I’m just bitter because I never figured out the timing and burned a dozen steaks in the process. I still won’t bother with Freedom Unite any more.