In Japan, the release of a new Monster Hunter game is greeted by mass hysteria, with some restaurants even serving up Monster Hunter-themed meals. Millions of copies have been sold in the land of the Rising Sun, but it's a series which has never really taken off in the West.
Some blame the control system, some don't like the cumbersome weapons, while others are put off by the insane level of customisation and depth at the player's disposal.
So it's great to see developer Capcom throw their weight behind this third PSP game in the series, in a move which is sure to entice more gamers into the gaping jaws of this gem of a game.
Unlike traditional RPGs, there is no overarching story to Monster Hunter. Instead, the player takes on a series of quests to slay wild creatures, using their remains to craft elaborate and effective armour and weapons. This kill, gather and create element is at the core of what makes the game special.
There are thousands of items to craft, and the promise of acquiring a shining new piece of armour or a magnificent-looking Greatsword really spurs the player on.
Monster Hunter has always been known for its hardcore credentials, and getting the most out of the game requires dedication, preparation, patience and skill.
Choosing the right weapon is fundamental to your chances of success, and there are many to choose from. From hefty Greatswords and massive Gunlances, to stout axes and nimble bows, each weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses and each takes time to master.
Even when you feel comfortable with your weapon choice, simply wading into battle desperately pressing attack buttons will get you killed quickly. Instead, the player must plan ahead and take useful items with them on their travels.
Whetstones sharpen your weapon, a well-cooked meal boosts your stamina, hot and cold drinks keep your body temperature constant and traps and bombs are used to hinder your enemies.
Taking these beautifully rendered monsters down requires skill and cunning. There's no lock-on mode - something which has irked some in the past - but chastising the game for this would be missing the point entirely.
Monster Hunter is a game of skill, with the player having to study each creature's attack pattern before combat takes place. A lock-on option would only serve to dilute the experience.
Monster Hunter isn't limited to fighting either. The player can mine precious ore, go fishing, plant seeds, cook, forage and catch bugs. These raw materials can then either be fused to create items such as potions, traps and fishing lures or blended with items taken from downed monsters to create bigger and better weapons and armour.
Taking on quests is made considerably easier when there are a few of you playing together. However, while the game caters for multiplayer, it's limited to Ad-Hoc multiplayer, not full online play. It's a glaring omission from Capcom, especially when you consider this is the third game to appear on PSP and online play still hasn't been implemented.
As if to appease single players, Capcom have added a recruitable Felyne companion to accompany you out on the field. These helpful cats can be trained in combat, while others can also be recruited to your kitchen, where they will cook up hearty meals.
Visually, Unite is spectacular. The attention to detail makes the beautiful settings come to life, while some of the monsters are simply jaw-dropping.
The learning curve in Monster Hunter Freedom Unite can be brutal and frustration creeps in as another seemingly impossible monster wipes you out for the sixth time of asking. However, persevere, and you will succeed, which brings with it the most wonderful feeling of satisfaction and elation you'll ever encounter in a videogame.
With thousands of cracking looking items waiting to be discovered, visuals to die for and hundreds of hours playtime, Unite is one of the finest and most addictive games on the PSP.
I have had a promo copy for the last three weeks, and already I am 50+ hours in. So whether you are an Monster Hunter veteran, or a rookie hunter, Unite is an essential purchase.