Like most people in the West, I never really saw much appeal in the Monster Hunter franchise. It seemed very Japanese in design, with its animation priority and stiff camera. It also didn’t help much that all the entries were on portable devices without a second stick. It almost seemed like Capcom didn’t want the Western audience to ever give the game a shot. The latest entry, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate doesn’t really make any concessions in this direction but the fact that it was on the Wii U is what intrigued me the most. Having a Monster Hunter game in HD (well, kinda…) and having two analog sticks to control the game encouraged me to give it another try.
This series is one that requires some fairly intense wiki-reading and/or help from seasoned players in order to understand its systems. They really aren’t that complex; it’s just that there are a TON of them to deal with. This is going to be the biggest hurdle for anyone who wishes to give the series a shot. The first few MH games I played, this is where I got stuck and didn’t want to continue. I didn’t know what the game after the hump was like, but the part I was playing was very unappealing. This is also why I made sure to give myself at least a solid 10 hours of playtime before trying to give it up, if I wanted to.
I also found an interesting video podcast called My Fair Hunter that really aided in my learning. It features a pair of hunters, one a veteran and one a noob, and teaches the noob and the viewer at the same time. Seeing concepts in a visual form helped me learn things MUCH faster than if I had just read a wiki entry. I highly suggest it for anyone thinking of getting into the Monster Hunter series.
I am now 10 hours in and I finally understand the appeal of Monster Hunter. The controls and animation priority may be a little rough, but the satisfactory payoff when I downed a large enemy is pretty unique in my gaming experience. It is very much a game where you have to learn everything you can about the enemies you are fighting, their patterns and attack animations. The first time fighting an enemy is usually a bit rough, especially when you get to some of the larger boss enemies. After a few times, however, you can take enemies that gave you a bit of trouble down with ease.
The most appealing part of this game to me is just how dense it is. There is a STAGGERING amount of armor, weaponry, and items that can be crafted with parts of various creatures and enemies you fight. It can be a bit tedious to fight the same enemy over and again for pieces for new gear, but that repetition feeds back into the learning process. By the time you get those pieces, those fights are cake. It’s great practice for online. The gear is awesome looking too, based off the monster that you are crafting it out of. I’ve always been fond of Monster Hunter’s art direction from a distance, and it looks pretty sharp in HD. I would love to see a fully developed HD Monster Hunter game, but that will probably never happen, due to Japan’s fondness for portable systems.
Online promises to be a whole other can of worms to open, one I haven’t actually done yet. The thought of jumping online to fight a monster I have never beat on my own is a bit scary, which is why I’m waiting a bit longer. Still, the prospect of fighting these giant creatures with three other people sounds really fun.
Knowing what I do now about Monster Hunter, it is tragic that more people don’t give it a chance. I think Capcom is slightly to blame here, with their seeming unwillingness to change anything about the games to suit the Western market, but those people who blow it off without a second look are equally at fault. It may be a bit cryptic and intense but with enough help and perseverance it becomes a very fun experience that is quite unique.