Hi, my name is Jon, and I'm an addict. Come join me.
For all the times that I’ve discussed the game on Radio Free Nintendo, I don’t feel that I’ve ever fully encapsulated my thoughts on the Monster Hunter franchise and what, in my opinion, makes it truly great. This is going to be an attempt to do just that, and it may tell you whether or not the game is for you.
First and foremost, everything in the game makes sense. Now, I don’t mean that it makes sense in a realistic manner - since chasing down 40-foot monsters with the help of a miniature mask-wearing tribesman isn’t exactly realistic - but cause and effect is always consistent. As you attack a monster, it gets weaker. Over time you observe physical damage on the monster that lets you know you’re making progress. Eventually the monster starts limping or exhibiting some other trademark behavior to let you know it’s weakened. Once you see this, you can press for the kill or set up for the trap. It’s methodical, somewhat predictable, and extremely rewarding when you execute your plan from beginning to end exactly as you intended.
This logic extends to armor as well. Killing monsters earns you specific types of loot such as lizard scales, feathers, or claws, depending on the species of beast. Earning this loot in turn allows you to craft new armor sets (designed to match the aesthetic of the monster from which the loot was harvested), forge new weapons, and create decorations (jewels that attach to armor to increase its stats). The armor sets not only look cool, but also serve as tangible proof of your accomplishments. More importantly, each completed set allows you to play more effectively against the next tier of monsters. It’s a constant cycle of effort and reward that ensures that very little of your playtime is ever wasted.
And that’s merely scratching the surface of the game’s underpinnings. Virtually anything collected on a hunt can be utilized for one of the game’s various crafting and gathering systems, encouraging the player to learn the intricacies of each in order to make their hunting lives easier. Don’t know enough recipes? Earn some money, buy Combo Books, and unlock them over time. Need specific herbs? Figure out what’s needed to yield them as a crop and plant them on your farm. Need some fish? Send fishermen out on a seafaring expedition to get them for you. Want to upgrade your Cha-Cha minion? Trade in some materials and splurge on him a little bit. There’s a lot to learn, but as you dabble in each area you’ll have eureka moments that will make you wonder how you ever survived without the knowledge you’ve just gained.
This accumulation of knowledge is ultimately what draws you into the Monster Hunter universe. You have to earn everything you get, but what you get is truly yours. With most games, if you can’t figure something out you can simply go to an FAQ file, read the strategy, and go through the motions to beat an encounter; not so in Monster Hunter. Even if you know exactly what to do against a creature, you still have to go out there and do it. Sometimes the beast doesn’t always cooperate; he may call in other monsters for help, or he may take the battle underwater or into a desert. He might hide and regain strength if you can’t find him. Every encounter is slightly different, and what might work on one occasion won’t work every time.
Speaking of time, Monster Hunter will slowly eat away at yours. It does so harmlessly at first; perhaps you get tired of gathering herbs or harvesting pelts during the early quests, thinking the game tedious and wondering what the hype is about. Then you face your first large monster and get your clock cleaned. It’s frustrating because the monster pretty much wipes the floor with you, but you decide to try it one more time. You still get beat like a drum, but you make it a little farther and notice the monster limping at one point during the battle. You also get some good shots in with your sword and feel like you were able to predict his attacks with more regularity. Maybe if you try it one more time you can kill him. And then after you kill him, maybe you can trap him. And you bet the whole thing would be a lot easier if you had some Mega Potions instead of those weaksauce normal Potions. Oh, you need Blue Mushrooms for those? You should make a note to double back and do some gathering and in that one particular area. And so it begins.
Bear in mind what I’ve described primarily encompasses the single-player portion of the game. Multiplayer takes hunting to a whole new level, allowing you to group with three other people to take on even bigger challenges. Taking on monsters with others requires coordination, strategy, and role specialization in order to take them down in the most effective manner. As an added bonus, grouping up with friends makes it much easier to farm lower-level monsters for materials. Hunting alone is fun, but hunting with friends is when Monster Hunter is at its best.
In terms of Nintendo systems, the allure of multiplayer online hunting likely makes Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on Wii U the definitive version of the game thus far. On the other hand, I’m absolutely in love with MH3U on 3DS because I can take it with me wherever I go. Quests have a 50-minute time limit, making them perfect for the train ride to work. I’ve had to restrain myself from cursing out loud thanks to a tough loss more than once, let me assure you.
And that’s the sign of a great game. The fact that I can get so frustrated with Monster Hunter and still come back for more speaks volumes. As much as the lows – like wasting my trap too early and having to abandon a quest for the third time in a row – make me want to spike my 3DS NFL-style, the highs – like finally trapping a stubborn monster after hours of learning his tendencies – will have me pumping my fist like no game before it. If that’s not a classic, I don’t know what is.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Barroth to kill.