Despite my best intentions and owning both of them, I skipped over the original Monster Hunter game and the third main entry in the series (on Wii) and instead got sucked into the game Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, which was released on Wii U and 3DS. The game is notorious for being difficult to get into, but I don't mind a challenge. I eased myself into it, and as a vegetarian I felt really bad about attacking and then carving up animals in the game, but eventually I got over it. I ended up becoming completely obsessed with defeating new monsters and planning out which weapons and armor I was going to try to shoot for next.
The game basically consists of boss fights versus the titular monsters, but there are many, many systems in play. Gathering makes up a large part of the game, whether it be from the various locales or trading and acquiring more resources from NPCs or various areas of the village. Resources can be combined, and trying to generate everything in the master combination list became its own obsession. Preparing for battle is a big part of the game (eating at the canteen gives various buffs, and you can also customize your AI-controlled helper character), and you can also save and switch various armor/weapon load outs. There's a huge number of weapons to try out although I ended up focusing on just one and switching to a second one to relieve some of the tedium of "farming" for specific material drops from specific monsters that I needed to forge better equipment.
New quests, locales, and monsters opened up at a fairly regular pace, although I did encounter periods where I had to grind for better equipment. The game is divided into village (i.e. story) quests and guild (i.e. multiplayer) quests. The guild quests can be played either solo, locally with 3DS owners, or online over Wi-Fi. I tried some multiplayer with strangers online and it was very uneven as is par for the course, but in general the people I played with were way overpowered and they pretty much soloed the monster we were hunting. While this was good for getting the materials I needed to make better equipment, it definitely didn't give me much of a sense of satisfaction. :p
As with Tri Force Heroes this was a game that I held off on diving deep into for a while, but when it became apparent that none of my friends were interested in playing it I went ahead and played it on my own. I got about a third of the way through the story quests, and although I was obsessively reading about the details of the game, the gameplay loop did get kind of repetitive and more boring since I wasn't playing with other people. Still, this is a game that is a lot of fun and one I can see myself coming back to regularly, and much more if I had more people to play with. I also sprung for a second copy of the game on 3DS, and being able to transfer my save to take the game on the go did prove useful (although I was always really worried that the transfer would mess up and I would lose my save entirely). Playing on a regular 3DS definitely felt cramped, but it worked decently well despite the text being notoriously small and hard to read.
I actually went ahead and tried out its follow-up Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on 3DS. That game streamlines a lot of things, and I'm looking forward to dressing my AI animal companion in dumb costumes, haha. Not sure when I'll dive deeper into that game, though, since it's pretty similar to this one and since I still don't have people to play it with!