Without a doubt, Monster Hunter is the most popular franchise available for the PSP. Monster Hunter 2 Portable (as it's known in Japan) is currently the PSP's best selling game, and it's only seen the light of day in the land of the rising sun. Clearly, Capcom has struck a chord with the PSP audience, how else can you explain sales of nearly one million games within two weeks of its launch? It's crazy stuff. Now we've got our second portable Monster Hunter title, and this one features even more than the last. Fans of the series will surely find a whole lot to love here.
The object of Monster Hunter is to go on hunts or quests and slay all sorts of monsters. Admittedly, this is the first time I've actually played a Monster Hunter game, so forgive me for not drawing any direct comparisons. Regardless of that little tidbit, I can still safely say that Monster Hunter Freedom 2 is perhaps one of the largest and most epic PSP games available, right now. The game reminded me a lot of Mark Hunting when side-questing in Final Fantasy XII. So if you've played Final Fantasy XII, then I'm sure you've gone on a hunt or two while playing the game.
Monster Hunter Freedom 2 is similar to that approach, in that you're contracted to slay a monster, and then you reap the rewards. The difference is that you have to pay a fee to take on a quest, and if you succeed, you are rewarded with more than what you put in. Furthermore, stipulations are featured per quest, so you aren't limited to only killing a creature, you may have to recover an item, artifact, complete the mission within the allotted time, or a combination of various conditions.
Monster Hunter's success thrives on its multiplayer aspects. And while the PSP versions have been limited to local/ad-hoc multiplayer, as opposed to proper online games, an exploit does exist for Freedom 2 allowing you to partake in combat with friends that aren't within five feet of you. The exploit is similar to that of an online tunnel, a technique used years ago on various non-online Xbox games. In any case, even ad-hoc multiplayer games are still fun, as Monster Hunter's gameplay is geared for a group of people to enjoy simultaneously. Think of it like a massively multiplayer RPG, but with a story and an ending.
If you don't have any friends nearby, or you won't be going online via hack, then you can always assemble an in-game crew to help you out during your quests. Generally, you're going to want that backup when you're going hunting, seeing as how a swarm of enemies can take you down fairly quick. Furthermore, there are five levels of enemies you have to watch out for: level one being the easiest, and five being the hardest. Progression in Monster Hunter is fairly similar to how most RPGs work. You can buy, enhance, and fuse your equipment in order to increase your character's strength and abilities.
All is not good and gravy, though. In case I haven't made it clear, Monster Hunter Freedom 2 is incredibly deep. So the first couple of hours of the game will require a lot of reading, and thus this kind of experience isn't for everyone. Like I said, it's very much like an MMORPG, so you have to think logically when going out on hunts and such. This is neither good nor bad, it's just an aspect of the game, one which I am not docking points for – so let's be clear there.
Where Freedom 2 does lose points is its crappy camera, and problematic controls. There is no way to spin the camera around in order to have a better scope of the enemies around you. Because of this, you may end up getting blindsided from various sides, in turning causing your health bar to diminish rapidly. There is also no lock-on button, and that really sucks. The more you play the game, the more you'll realize how much you really need it.
With that in mind, most of what was found in the first Monster Hunter Freedom has been carried over, but new additions total up to 50%. There's a lot to talk about with Freedom 2, and it wouldn't be wise of me to detail all of it, for the sake of my wrist and fingers. What you need to know is that Freedom 2 plays better than its predecessor, as well featuring a plethora of all new content.
Visually, Monster Hunter Freedom 2 may actually be one of the better looking PSP games. I immediately noticed how minimal the dithering is, as the image looks quite smooth and clean. Clearly, the showpiece of the game is its monsters, lots of them. And with that comes a lot of variation and some terrific art direction. The detail on the beasts you'll encounter is quite admirable, as is the detail around your landscapes. The framerate keeps up well, and doesn't suffer from any stuttering issues, as can be common with certain PSP games. Overall, Monster Hunter Freedom 2 is a great looking PSP game.
The game's sound consists of a solid soundtrack backing the entire experience. Monster Hunter Freedom 2 is an epic game, and it's only right that it deserves a nice audio score. Now, because the game is so large, I'm certain it's within the edges of filling up the entire UMD. That said, you can expect to not see, or rather, hear any voice acting. Your character will grunt as he defends and attacks (you get to actually choose from a range of voices), and that's about it. Sound effects are about what you'd expect, and that's about all there is to say about the sound.
In the end, Freedom 2 doesn't disappoint as a whole. The game has, arguably, the largest scope available on the PSP with anywhere between 50-80 hours of gameplay. This is a huge game and fans of the original will probably eat this up and beg for more. Aesthetically, it's also one of the prettier looking PSP games. It may feature control issues, and there is no voice acting, but when you have a game this large, the missing traits can be forgiven. Furthermore, Monster Hunter Freedom 2 also makes a great title to play on your TV via the PSP Slim's new A/V output capability.