Last year, Capcom put out Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, the best Monster Hunter game to be released thus far. In addition to the usual gameplay cycle of gathering resources, tracking, hunting, and crafting, the game overhauled the prolific series in multiple fundamental ways – namely the addition of vertical surfaces, mounting, a masterful tutorial, and a more substantial story component. Monster Hunter Generations, treated as a celebration of the entire series, observes these mechanical shifts and forgets some while pushing forward with others.
While the game features a whole lot of monsters and locations both new and old, Generations is, at its core, Monster Hunter 4. It looks like Monster Hunter 4, it sounds like Monster Hunter 4, and it plays like Monster Hunter 4. Monster Hunter 4 players can look at this as a new set of quests that will last them another 100-200 hours between both offline and the series’ staple online with friends. Capcom must have known this was a game for the Monster Hunter 4 player, as most of the Monster Hunter 4 maps and monsters are placed into the later parts of the game – a wise move.
What feels less wise, though, is the lack of any story mode similar to the one present in Monster Hunter 4. The story in Generations is paper thin, asking you to “research” monsters before sending you into the same quest loop from previous games with extremely minor differences (and this is being generous). Eventually, big special monsters show up and you’re going to be asked to hunt big special monsters.
Although the story wasn’t necessary Oscar-level in 4, it provided an excellent vehicle to dole out quests and ease players into the world as a supplement to the intuitive, respectful tutorial. This game still has such a tutorial, but the story has all but disappeared. Without such a story, Generations feels like a content pack for its predecessor, and this title becomes much easier to recommend to Monster Hunter 4 players than Monster Hunter newbies, who still have a perfectly viable option released just last year.
It doesn’t feel good to add such a qualifier to this recommendation because, fundamentally, Monster Hunter Generations is yet another enormous package. Hunting monsters still feels as exhilarating and challenging as ever, and new monsters – alongside a solid number of new variations on old monsters – give the game a bit more life than it would have if it was just a collection of old monsters and maps. But the celebration this touts itself as doesn’t go very far; you get to go to villages from previous games and fight some old monsters in slightly-updated old locations. Make no mistake – this is a good Monster Hunter game with a lot of great content, but it feels like a good Monster Hunter game way more than a beautiful trip down memory lane.
Generations allows you to play as Felynes in the game’s Prowler quests, which are the cats that act as the series’ mascot. This is a big step up from last year’s game where you send your cats off on quests, off-screen, in order to gather extra resources. Now, you can go on real quests playing as the cats who support you in battle, and thankfully, they play exactly like the support Felynes you bring with you. They aren’t an enormous part of the game, but it’s a new way to play a game that needs new ways to play.
Hunting Styles and Arts are the most significant addition to the title. Hunter Arts are super moves that change based on your Hunting Style and weapon of choice. Some of these moves allow players to escape conflict or heal their party, while others are ultra-powerful signature moves that can bring a Ludroth’s skull face-to-face with a glowing, spinning hammer. These damaging attacks are enormously satisfying, and encourage more close-combat ground play than Monster Hunter 4 did. In 4, the ease of mounting monsters made it often preferable to find a ledge and jump off onto a monster’s back until it stops getting up. Having intricate super moves that require specific timing and targeting on the ground forces players who want to maximize damage to keep their attacks more varied.
Another stellar addition comes in the form of the aforementioned Hunting Styles. While playing, you can pick one of four Styles at any time (and can switch out both Styles and Arts any time not on a mission). These are: Guild Style, which allows you to play this Monster Hunter like every Monster Hunter game you’ve played before; Aerial Style, which is for those who enjoy mounting and toppling monsters; Striker Style, for attackers and those who love to utilize Hunter Arts; and Adept Style, requiring split-second evade timing in order to gain enormous counterattack opportunity. They all work exactly as intended, and allow a greater form of combat personalization than this series has ever offered.
While not an enormous step forward nor the celebration of the past we were promised, Monster Hunter Generations pushes its franchise forward with a number of combat enhancements that change the way Monster Hunter is played. Moreover, it grants access to an enormous number of locations and monsters, making for the most content-diverse entry this series has ever seen. And if there’s anything a 12-year gaming legacy needs, it’s more content diversity.