Monster Hunter Generations Review – Once more, with feeling

There’s something to playing Monster Hunter that no other game provides. I’ve been hunting since Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii, and I still haven’t been able to pin just what exactly makes the series so special. Maybe it’s the amount of things you get to do at any given time, with ample opportunities to get yourself in something way over your head and not realizing it until it’s way too late. Or maybe it’s the incredibly personable and charming localization, which plays with puns like no other. No matter the reason, it’s safe to say that Monster Hunter Generations is yet another fantastic addition to the ever growing and practically yearly franchise.

Like the more recent additions to Monster Hunter, Generations adds a few new features that improve the overall enjoyment of the game, making the previous release mostly obsolete. In this year’s game case, it’s the hunter arts and styles that do just that. By picking a particular style and weapon, you’re dealt a variety of special arts that you can pull off during hunts after you fill their meter up. These range from a host of defensive and offensive moves, as well as buffing up stats. They unlock over time, as you progress through the quest trees, which works well easing you into the idea of using them. The styles, on the other hand, are all available from the start and serve the purpose of specializing your hunter depending on the situation. Since they can be changed at any time, say, picking the aerial style when a fight hinges on mounting a monster, or striker when armor needs to be broken through, it’s paramount that you play around and experiment.

The hunts themselves take you throughout a host of different environments, and as is tradition, each of them provide a different set of challenges you have to take into account before and especially during quests, such as the need to cool yourself in a desert or keeping poison in check as you wade through a dark and muddy swamp. Some players might rejoice at the news that aquatic battles have been torn away from the game entirely, a divisive design decision in Capcom’s part, considering how much of the maps are still covered by bodies of water from which you’re now only allowed to fish out from and not explore. Fans of the series may also recognize villages from previous Monster Hunters. It’s where Generations distributes its quests in, via many returning NPCs, my favorite being the rugged village chief son from Tri.

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When taking on the bigger boss monsters, there’s an amount of care you have to take in preparation to fights, on top of keeping in check with the environment they take place in. Each of these guys and gals have their own set of moves and behaviors that change throughout the fight, as you get closer to defeating them. Fighting them not only works as progression for increasingly more difficult missions, it also provides much needed crafting materials. There’s no leveling up in Monster Hunter — you grow as your armor and weapons get better thanks to materials that come from practically every creature you take down, as well as the things you mine, pick, catch and fish around the maps you visit.

Monster Hunter Generations‘ crafting is deep and absurdly involved. It plays with the notion that you’ll be constantly on the lookout for resources and taking down monsters, new and old. It’s impossible to craft a set of armor or fully upgrade a weapon with a single monster kill, so if you’re after a particular complete collection, expect to spend a lot of time repeating actions in this game. The interesting part of Monster Hunter, though, is that repetition isn’t as dull as it sounds. It’s very rewarding to realize how strong your character becomes with each new piece of gear, and how quickly foes start going down the more you learn about them. In a way, play experience and muscle memory also factor into your enjoyment of Monster Hunter, so if you’re into the idea of really diving in and enjoying a game to its fullest, you’ll find a lot of meat to gnaw on.

In case you feel lonely, the game’s got you covered. Throughout your single player adventure, you’re able to recruit and train up to two palicoes, the lovable cat people that have been part of Monster Hunter for a while. They’re fully customizable, down to the shade of their fur and shape of ears, not to mention which skills they use during encounters, including support magic to perk you back up when needed. Each of these guys fits into one of a few archetypes, so there’s plenty of possible combinations for your team depending on the situation. You can also craft and upgrade armor and weapons for your furry friends. While not nearly as involved as hammering down your own equipment, the creation process for the felines is still in depth. And for the first time in the series, you’re now able to take control of one specific class of palico, the prowler, and play an exclusive set of missions that yield rewards not found anywhere else. Prowlers play wildly differently than the usual hunter, with less health and attack power at the added benefit of being much more agile, thus giving you the edge on some fights.

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You’ll also want to take your hunts online. There’s an absurd amount of content to play with or without a group at your side in the multiplayer lobby. Having a well balanced four person group not only makes multiplayer quests much more manageable, but also incredibly fun. It’s during online hunts that Monster Hunter really shines. That’s especially true if you happen to have a battle horn player at your side like I often seem to. Their ability to buff party members, making them stronger, faster and more resilient is extremely useful, all the while dealing a whole lot of damage themselves. Multiplayer obviously is better if you gather three friends to play with you locally or online, but if that’s not the case, you’re likely not to run into many jerks online. Monster Hunter‘s community is probably one of the most welcoming around, and is usually eager to show the ropes to new hunters and help them gear up. But even if you do, it’s easy enough to quit and search for someone else to hunt exactly what you’re after, thanks to a generous list of search customization options.

The part that might make things a little annoying for you to play Monster Hunter Generations is the system that it’s on. I’ve grown accustomed to the cumbersome nature of the Nintendo 3DS when handling a free camera game like this, but it’s something that came with insistence and the lack of any other alternative to keeping up with the series. A ‘New’ Nintendo 3DS probably plays this a little better, but it’s smart to take breaks every so often regardless. My hands are usually numb after an hour or so of playing due to the intensity of minute movements and the placement of buttons. It’s also a little annoying having so many hurdles when it comes to communicating with online players thanks to the touch screen, a big limitation of the platform this game’s on. Sure, being hard to control is an aspect that’s inherent to Monster Hunter, considering its path through the PSP and the infamous “claw” that Japanese and import players had to pull off while playing, but taking into account the series’ growth in popularity outside of Japan over the last few installments, my hope is that Capcom will consider bringing Monster Hunter to consoles next time and rid the series’ of these annoying limitations, and at the same time, garner even more new players.

Until that happens, though, Monster Hunter Generations is the best the series has to offer both online and off, something very few Nintendo 3DS games, if any, can claim. Its hunts are exhilarating as they’ve ever been, and the new hunter style and arts make the series’ established gameplay even more varied and a whole lot of fun to experiment around with. Have at it!

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