Weapon selection is your class, giving you your unique ability and attacks. Your equipment essentially determines your level, and the only difference between a seasoned hunter and a starting character is your equipment and how much you know about the habits of the monsters you're hunting. You craft all your own equipment from monsters you've killed, with greater equipment and experience allowing you to kill more powerful monsters. It's a nice spin on the RPG, and won't make you feel hugely inadequate when you're hunting with a friend who has put in a few more hours than you.
As you go out to fight your first monsters, you'll learn that there's a reason for everything your character does. What you thought were straightforward animations are actually balanced to take an exact amount of time, and you're expected to learn whether you have time to strike, or drink a potion, before your enemy's next attack. What you thought were just cool weapon swings are attacks that hit high and low spots on your enemy, slashing attacks for cutting tails, or bashes for smashing crests. You'll learn to identify when a monster is tired and could be knocked out, or when it's feeling cornered and will fight to the death. This is a game about learning, remember? Learning timing and when to make the right move is key, and in this way Monster Hunter is more like a fighting game than an RPG. The problem is that the game will teach you none of this, and you'll have to learn it from trial and error, or from reading it on the Monster Hunter wiki. The tutorial is still too long, and fairly uninformative, though the early missions have been rearranged to get you fighting boss size monsters before you've played the game for five hours.
Tri has interface problems, with convoluted menus and small text sizes that are hard to read. Most of these are solved by the customizable touchpad interface, where you can choose what buttons are available to you, like easy crafting or a minimap. You can even go HUD free and push all your information onto the gamepad, if you like a clean screen, and there's good reason to. The monsters look great in HD, and it's clear that some attention was lavished on their new models and textures. Sadly, the environment textures didn't receive the same upgrade, so they show their four years of age pretty clearly. It's not enough to distract you during play, but an update really would have made the graphics pop.
This is a game with a high barrier of entry, occasionally frustrating play, and poorly explained, byzantine mechanics, but there's nothing like taking down a gargantuan Rathalos, dodging its fire breath, poison sting, and sweeping dive attacks, knowing full well that fifty hours ago you wouldn't have come close. There's a certain thrill in saying: Yes, I have mastered this.
Bottom Line: While grinding and idiosyncrasies will get to some, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a great game. It shines particularly bright when played multiplayer.
Recommendation: If you liked any previous Monster Hunter game, this is a must buy. If you're curious, and willing to put in a little work, this is a solid entry point into the series.
This review is based on the Wii U version of the game.