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Monster Hunter Tri G: Worth buying a Circle Pad Pro for?

Is that a monster in your pocket or are you pleased to see G?

We'd never advocate applying the lessons learned in games to real life, but you've got to love what virtual bloodsport Monster Hunter teaches. Kill animals slowly and painfully. Destroy their children first. Try to lengthen their suffering by damaging individual limbs. Take their corpses and make outfits from them. Kill them with friends for the ultimate thrill!

Monster Hunter is incredible fun, and a big part of that is casual sadism: they're not just monsters, but gigantic walking resources waiting to be strip-mined by hungry little players. Hunters don't track things down and get chopping: they kill beasts with incredible expertise and beautifully judged weapons designed to maximise their prey's weakness, and death takes time.

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And why does this matter? Because if the 3DS is lacking anything at the moment it's games of real substance - the kind you can sink 100 hours into without seeing nearly everything. There have been surprise packages like Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (also a Capcom game), but Monster Hunter Tri G promises to be much meatier.

It's largely based on Wii's Monster Hunter Tri, which has subsequently been redone for PSP as Monster Hunter Freedom 3. These reworkings have always been how Capcom have done Monster Hunter, releasing a 'proper' sequel every once in a blue moon and then refining it over instalments. While it's easy to take the pursed-lip view, the fact is that these aren't just the same game in a new box: each one substantially adds to and refines the original. Monster Hunter Tri is the best Monster Hunter game yet, and the 3DS just might be the best platform for it.

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First, new content: the enormous Bracchidios is Tri G's flagship monster, a Brute Wyvern that happens to live in a volcano, who's always had difficulty making friends thanks to his green plasma-tipped arms and horns that coat the surroundings in exploding slime. Certain monsters are returning from earlier iterations of Monster Hunter, like the half-shark half-lizard Plesioth, but where they had to be fished out of the sea to be fought in the old games, now the fight's beneath the waves.

A key feature of Tri was underwater combat, which was lost in the PSP's Freedom 3 before its triumphant return here in Tri G. Fighting underwater is magical, a slow-paced ballet of darts and sluggish strikes that at times seems almost peaceful. The underwater locations in Tri G are further bolstered by new subspecies of the underwater monsters, as well as a beautiful new area first seen in Freedom 3, the Mountain Stream, which can now of course be swum in.

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