I’m out of health potions and time is running out. There’s no place for cover in this abandoned tower, and I barely have a chance to regain my stamina before dodging another attack from a hidden enemy. I’m Lucent Nargacugahunting a Lucent Nargacuga, an agile beast who has the ability to turn invisible. Its invisibility coupled with its already aggressive nature makes this an uphill battle.

I’m scanning the ground for small clouds of dust. The creature may be able to turn invisible, but it can’t hide its tracks. While I manage to dodge a few blows with this tactic, its unrelenting attack leaves my stamina drained. I barely have enough left to properly hold my shield to block the next blow. Time to try something crazy…

I hastily scour my inventory for something, anything that can help turn the tide of battle.  Digging through items I finally come upon it: Dung Bombs. Yes, just an exploding grenade of poo. Hunters use this to annoy monsters into leaving an area, but considering this is a closed off tower, that would be useless. Despite that I ready myself and as the Nargacuga comes to attack I fling it like an enraged howler monkey. It’s a direct hit.

After its pounce the Nargacuga goes invisible once again, but this time there’s brown fumes rising from its fur. That’s right, I can see you. I manage to evade the next attack and time a flash bang grenade just right. The Nargacuga catches it point blank and reels back, momentarily blinded. I get enough time to mix together a make shift potion and down it.

I might actually be able to pull this off…

It’s these kinds of moments that litter the world of Monster Hunter, a game where players find themselves in perpetual boss battles against unique creatures. The impact of these hunts is amplified when players take a look back at their humble beginnings at the start of the game:

monster-hunter-bbq-oCollect 10 blue mushrooms.
Bring back 10 herbs.
Find Honey.
Cook a well done steak.

It may seem like a dull shopping list for players just starting out in the series, but everything serves a purpose. Like Mr. Miyagi teaching Daniel-san the intricacies of waxing a car, Monster Hunter prefers to ease players into the mechanics of the world.

Those mundane tasks help players learn the basics of survival; they learn to make potions, cook food for stamina recovery, mine for whetstones to make sure their weapons stay sharp. After a while players will get sent to take out a few smaller monsters. Again, while these cleanup quests may seem monotonous, they help give players the practice and familiarity they need in order to tackle the bigger baddies that roam the world.

After a few clean up missions, players will usually encounter their first big baddie. Sometimes it’ll be a giant boar, other times they’ll be faced with a massive gorilla. Regardless, it’s usually a creature that resembles the small fries they’ve been taking out up until now.

While the creatures may be bigger and meaner, their attacks should be fairly recognizable to the hunters. Suddenly the monotony of all those hunting missions turns into muscle memory as players recognize the patterns. They can identify the tells of a charge or a tail sweep and before they know it, players are matching these creatures blow for blow.

velocidrone

Velocidrone (center) alongside the smaller Velociprey.

There’s a feeling of accomplishment that becomes almost addicting as players rank up and take on bigger challengers. While early missions will prep players to take on some enemies, later on they can be blind sided by bigger and badder monsters stepping up to the plate. But when that happens, hunters just wipe the dust off and try again. For every death that occurs, hunters learn. They learn how far certain wyverns can leap, they learn how many seconds they have between attacks, they learn when to jump in and strike and when to sheath their blades and retreat.

The ability to learn is especially important in Monster Hunter, a game where players never level up. Instead, they’ll need together materials from their hunts to build up better armor and weapons. And while better gear means dishing out as well as defending against more damage, that gear will only take players as far as their skills permit. Unlike other action RPG’s where players can eventually outgear content, Monster Hunter ensures that players are always paying attention, less they fall prey to their own hubris. As a result, hunters learn to develop their own play styles and combine it with gear and armor skills that compliment them in order to make it through some of the more challenging hunts. And those hunts will only continue to grow more challenging.

Zinogre

Zinogre, aka Thunder Puppy

Zinogre armor

Thunder Puppy armor

 

The monsters themselves ensure that no two hunts will ever play out the same. The creatures that inhabit the world of Monster Hunter feel truly organic. Everything from the way a monster will run away to eat and recover stamina, to the way creatures will sometimes fight each other, the world of monster hunter always feels alive.  Luckily it’s a world that players don’t have to tackle alone. The multiplayer aspect in Monster Hunter is one of its greatest strengths, where other hunters are always welcome but never a necessity.

Multiplayer

4 vs 1 sounds fair

While everything in the game can be done solo, having an extra set of blades can help hunters tackle on tougher challenges in different ways. Roles can be assigned, strategies can be formed, with more hunters in the party players are given more options on how to approach a hunt. One player may be in charge of tracking the monster, whether it be through the use of paintballs or an armor ability. Another hunter can take charge of clearing an area of smaller vermin, so the bigger prey can be taken out with little interference. In the end, the game helps create an atmosphere where every player feels like they’re contributing.

The game isn’t perfect of course. The controls can be off putting to new players, the camera can sometimes be as big of an enemy as the monsters players chase, and sometimes the grind for rare parts to build armor and weapons can be seemingly endless. It’s sad to say that some hunters never make it past the first few introductory quests in the series.  But for anyone that’s planning on picking up the game, or has a copy they’ve just let gather dust in the corner of their rooms, I urge them to give it another shot. For all its flaws, the Monster Hunter series manages to create a game experience that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. It instills a sense of glory, satisfaction and comradery between hunters who manage to work past that initial wall. It is a series that only gets harder as the game goes on, and for players who stick with it, they welcome the challenge.

Look forward to our review for Monster Hunter 4U, coming early this year to Nintendo 3DS.

 

 

All images courtesy of Monster Hunter Wiki

 

About The Author

Enrique C
Editor-in-Chief

There's no problem that can't be fixed with fire. Doesn't matter what game. If that doesn't work, use more.