(ED- This post is not by Gareth Newnham but guest writer Evan Cook – Enjoy!)
I have always enjoyed a love/hate relationship with Capcom’s Monster Hunter series. On one hand we have a superbly deep RPG based around hunting monsters of unusual size; on the other hand the monsters have teeth – large teeth – And teeth are scary.
For those new to the series and looking to be caught up quickly Monster Hunter’s combat will feel very familiar to anyone who played through Dark Souls – especially those that used the slower, heavier weapons. The games have never had a focus on story and whilst more time has been spent making the offline quest chain more interesting this time around, it is still a relatively basic affair, with little carry over from the previous games. The advantage of this, however, is that you have nothing to miss by jumping in now!
This new title has you take on the roll of a fully customizable, fresh-off-the-boat hunter and dumps you in at the deep end on a sand-ship that is currently under attack from a colossal sand whale. While fighting for survival the game takes the opportunity to teach you a few basic mechanics and also introduce you the ship’s captain who will be giving quest cards throughout the game. A good taste of what is to come later in the game, rather than just having you start with the normal gathering and small monster hunts that make up the traditional tutorial. Of course these quests are still present, it is Monster Hunter after all, but you clear through them with a much better idea of where the game is headed.
Monster Hunter has often been criticised for being overly complicated and explaining very little and there has definitely been some truth to that in the past. For this round though Capcom seem to have been listening. A wealth of optional training quests (one for each weapon type) have been included to teach you combat, and improvements to the status window have helped mitigate some of the confusion surrounding weapon skills. The difficulty curve of the offline quests also felt smoother to me than in Tri and 3U. Each progressive monster presented to you introducing a different set of required combat skills that can later be combined to fight larger more dangerous creatures. The new jumping and mounting mechanic, for example, proved very effective against the beetle-like Seltas and perfecting those techniques helped greatly with later, larger monsters.
Wearing your fallen foes has always been a core part of the experience and that remains just as true here. Suits of armour, weapons and skill gems can all be crafted from the spoils of victory. Keeping your gear upgraded and current can often mean the difference between success and failure on a hunt. Aside from offering protection some of the new weapon and armour models look fantastic.
In fact the game as a whole looks great when played on the New 3DS. Unfortunately though the lower VRAM in the older 3DS units does limit the texture resolution presented in game. Framerates remain high on both systems which is arguably more important. But I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed by the textures on the older 3DS systems, which in places look worse than those found in the 3DS version of Monster Hunter 3U. It was by no means unplayable but it was an issue I wasn’t expecting to run into.
Monster Hunter 4U sees the return of the ability to play online directly from your 3DS. Monster Hunter thrives on its multiplayer hunting and the omission of this feature from 3U had many scratching their heads. Playing Monster Hunter online, whether with a group of friends or a random hunting party was honestly some of the most enjoyable gameplay I have experienced in a long time. Your weapon choice determines your party roll with ranged hunters applying status effects, sword users cutting off monster tails and hammer users trying to shatter skulls. It all works incredibly smoothly; even without direct communication as there is an auto chat feature that relays a lot of the vital information for you.
Whether you take the game online or not you still have access to the multiplayer quests. You have access to a team of Palicoes (small humanoid cats) that you can recruit throughout the village quests, to be taken along to fill out party spaces. Although they aren’t perfect they do a decent enough job of making up for the lack of players. Or you could attempt them solo, but this route is not for the faint of heart. Combining online and offline quests brings the total number of hunts up to a staggering number, and plenty of play time for your money.
However you decide to play (solo, or online) Monster Hunter 4U is a greatly rewarding experience. If you have the time to invest and have been yearning for something to fill your long held Dark Souls craving there hasn’t been a better time to get into Monster Hunter.