Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: February 13, 2015
Full disclosure. I am the biggest Monster Hunter hater there is. I“ve played tons of MonHun clones, most of which I“ve always enjoyed far more than I“ve ever enjoyed a Monster Hunter game. And I“ve tried! Oh my God have I tried. But I“d never been able to get over the beginner“s hump that so many people warn you about. So believe me, I know very well why many people simply cannot understand why this game is nothing short of a phenomenon in Japan, and certainly gaining significant footholds here in America as well.
And for once, Capcom seems to be taking it seriously, bringing a Monster Hunter promotional tour to several cities in the US as well as PAX and temporarily hijacking Magic Mountain at Six Flags and turning it into a Monster Hunter themed roller coaster. So this time could be Monster Hunter“s chance at a debut worthy of the cultural significance (not a word I throw around lightly) it has in Japan.
So why exactly has it failed here in the past? Well to say the game isn“t very user friendly can be a huge understatement. Previous iterations could be downright unplayable if you were new to the franchise and didn“t have a friend to explain how things work. And while this game tries to alleviate that somewhat, the fact remains Monster Hunter is not a game you can play without outside help. Mostly, that means someone to play with, but it also means guides and resources. The amount of info the game gives you is minor, and even trying to find out where to get a specific material for your new armor or weapon upgrade can be maddening without outside resources.
And by maddening I might as well mean impossible. That Jumbo Bone you need? Without the internet you could spend days trying to find out where to get it the hard way, which is basically killing and carving anything and everything until you get one. Thankfully there is at least a plethora of tutorials for the Monster Hunter basics, one for each weapon, and other stuff like Meownster Hunters (a game where your cat partners go off and kill monsters by themselves like the kitty kill squad you deserve), combining, decorations, and Hunters for Hire all have pretty decent optional tutorials to read. So not everything is shrouded in mystery, only the most important stuff like the best armor sets to wear, where to get the items to make those armor sets, and other stuff like the nuances of combat when playing with other people.
Which leads me to multiplayer. While you can play this game on your own, and finish the â€œstory modeâ€ the real meat will always be in multiplayer. And while for a number of reasons that“s true, the main one is the game was designed from a combat standpoint, to accommodate multiple players during a hunt. Certain weapons are very difficult to play with on your own (look no further than the majority of ranged weapons) and there are certain nuances to combat that can only be experienced through the teamwork of two or more players. The Great Sword for instance has a few moves that actually knock other players around.
While this sounds like a drawback, one of them can be used to launch a player into the air, setting him up for a jumping attack which typically can only be achieved by using ledges in the terrain. This is particularly awesome because jumping attacks can sometimes lead to â€œmountingâ€ a semi-new addition to the game that allows you to ride a terrible beastie like one of those coin-operated rocket ships in front of safeway (do they still have those?). Other weapons, like the Hunting Horn become increasingly more valuable in online as it can provide bonuses to all the players in the hunting party. So when people tell you that you“re missing out on stuff by playing soloâ€¦well you are.
And while Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for the 3DS did not have any form of online play (forcing players to play locally, or buy the Wii U version instead) Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate finally brings multiplayer to your handheld. And thankfully... it”s actually pretty good! I“m pretty impressed at how stable my numerous hours playing online have been. Part of that stability can be attributed to how the game handles information. Larger monsters show up on the same part of the screen for all players, but smaller monsters are handled differently. It looks really hilarious to see a jaggi drop dead on your screen out of nowhere, when another player half the area away has just killed it on their screen, but the result is multiplayer experience that is smoother than gargwa eggs. That was a little monster hunter humor for you yolks (folks)!
One thing I think Capcom could improve on is making the game“s community feel as large as it is. Unless you have a great local community of hunters in your area, it“s hard to understand how big the player base for this game can be. Multiplayer lobbies can only fit four people at a time, granted that“s the same number of hunters allowed in a during a multiplayer hunt, but wouldn“t it be amazing to have something like a hub world by now? It“s a stretch I“ll admit, but at this point I“d settle for some sort of native voice chat function, something the same sorely needs. Capcom hasn“t shied away from post release support though, with tons of (completely) free DLC content that has released every month and shows no signs of stopping soon!
So at this point if you haven“t already made up your mind you may be asking if Monster Hunter, specifically Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is for you, and I would answer your question with another question. What kind of gratification to you expect from a game? If constant or immediate rewards for the time you put in is your preference, MH4U may not be for you. This game requires dedication, a slow burn. Not to mention you gotta git gud. But if you pay attention to other hunters, do your research, and find the weapons you“re best with there“s no doubt MH4U will make you as swift as the coursing rain. You“ll hunt with all the force of a great typhoon. Carve with all the strength of a raging fire. So if you think you can get with the program Monster Hunter can make a man out of you, not unlike Donny Osmond. So let“s get down to business and defeat the MonHuns!
+ Fun and challenging multiplayer experience
+ More accessible than ever before
+ Surprisingly smooth online play
+ Impressive weapon and combat options
- Limited communication options
- Barrier of entry still exists
- Clunky character movement presents a challenge
- Online and Solo missions have separate progress
Overall Score: 8.5 (Out of 10)
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate“s many improvements and post release support make this the most accessible and appealing point of entry so far.