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Explaining Monster Hunter

by Jon Lindemann - August 14, 2013, 8:33 am PDT
Total comments: 10

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.

Talkback

roykoopa64August 14, 2013

Very good read!

I think I put in about 40-50 hours or so in the Wii version, and I felt like I was just scratching the surface. The game really is a lot of fun, and I do appreciate how wonderfully designed the game is, but I just can't dedicate that much time to a single game, given my lifestyle. Hence, why I haven't purchased the Wii U version.

Evan_BAugust 14, 2013

Monster Hunter is the kind of game that could last forever- the amount of content in proportion to what you HAVE to do in order to complete that content could take up to 300 hours- and it's a shame that people feel games need to be burned through and completed so quickly in this age of FAQ frenzy and forum boasting posting, because if I were stronger-willed, I'd buy Tri U and play it when there were lulls in the Wii U release date. But even times inks like this game can be burned through like any MMORPG, and not having a community that grows at a slow pace hurts the longevity of Tri U's best feature- its online. The community is helpful, sure, but once you've moved past the struggle of obtaining the best equipment to tackle the various Rank-boosting challenges, it can drain the fun for you and those you're trying to help.

It's mechanics are sound, at least.

CericAugust 14, 2013

They took out some of the Complexity out of U from the Wii game.  Which is unfortunate for the longevity.  As I said their is still stuff for me to do but, I really like the online its a blast playing with a group but time consuming and I just don't have the time now.

azekeAugust 14, 2013

Okay explain this, please.

Why are areas so tiny? Why do we have to see loading screens each time we move from one location to other?

I realize it has some use when you can easily communicate where monster is just by saying the number of an area, but seeing so many loading screens is silly.

I've seen many hours of Monster Hunter gameplay and that's one of the things that bothers me the most.

Monster Hunter to me looks like yet another series who got so much it's own ... history and tropes (Zelda is another example) that it refuses to get with the times and is even somewhat proud of how archaic it is.

For instance that ridiculous small areas thingy is actually exploited by many players, like when monster leaves the area, then you follow him, but after loading screen, when you come to area you come first for some reason and monster comes behind you, so you can use it by setting a mine or something and then luring monster right into it.

This is beyond silly. Abusing uber clunky mechanic and making it official and encouraged mechanic.

CericAugust 15, 2013

That Particular Mechanic is that way for the Purpose you just stated.

Zones are labeled for communication.

3rd Gen is based off of the PSP mechanics so they have not shifted much.  Yeah they did add water battles but that is being deemed a failed mechanic.

Monsters have gotten more complex and the ain't broke don't fix.

Monster Hunter 4 is the next Generation so we'll see changes their but its still a Portable game at its core so think what the 3DS can do is what it will be designed around.

Things look to be more fluid but if you take out zoning you'll need to introduce a much more intensive hiding mechanic.  I expect that to eventually be in the game but probably next generation.

azekeAugust 15, 2013

What's stopping stopping them from keeping the zones on the map but making it one area without loading screens?

Lazyness, intertia or just general hatred of common sense?

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterAugust 15, 2013

the 3rd gen introduced more realistic AI for the monsters in interactions with eachother. I once saw two Bnahabra buzzing along and picking on one of the herbovoreous creatures (an Aptonoth to be exact) like a bunch of gnats. from what i've been told they also will attack larger monsters although they are so small most people don't notice them.

MASBAugust 16, 2013

I've been tempted to try MH3U 3DS or MH3U WiiU and this article makes it even more tempting.

Between this and Greg's last article on Castlevania and Subspace, when RFNers who don't often post articles, do write them, they make them count! I'm sure this'll be in the next Powered Off as well it deserves to be.

I tell you, I don't play MH3U every day, but it's always lurking there. I always carry it with me just in case I get the itch. I got beat down by a Gobul earlier this week and I'm kinda licking my wounds, but I'm gonna get that bastard one day soon. His time is coming.

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterAugust 22, 2013

Quote from: NWR_Lindy

I tell you, I don't play MH3U every day, but it's always lurking there. I always carry it with me just in case I get the itch. I got beat down by a Gobul earlier this week and I'm kinda licking my wounds, but I'm gonna get that bastard one day soon. His time is coming.

ahh the gobul, yes let me think... i still haven't picked up G so i need to ask, do you have access to a weapon with the lighting element? the wii game did not offer us that courtesy so we had to resort to fire.

just do what you can to get it out of the water,(if you can fish it out you're golden) and keep your eyes peeled.

probably bring some traps so you can get the free hits, try fishing it out for 15 seconds of free hits, take out that lanturn as soon as possible(so it can't stun you) and be ready to deal with paralysis...

trust me the gobul is a nuisance at best if you know what you're doing(i went through his sword and shield chain in tri). just keep an eye on your health and hammer on through.

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