My first experience with Monster Hunter was during my stay in Japan in 2005/2006. One of the other ryuugakusei bought a PS2 and Monster Hunter (I believe it was G, may have been Monster Hunter 2), and we would sometimes meet up and watch the madness unfold or see who can do things better.
I’ve been playing the franchise on and off since then, picking up Freedom for the PSP and playing Monster Hunter Tri with an old flatmate on the Wii.
Along comes Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate for the 3DS. It’s been years since I picked up a Monster Hunter game, and my 3DS has become my go-to gaming machine as I can play it as my wife reads/watches a movie, or during my meal breaks at work. This seemed like the perfect time to pick up the franchise again.
How wrong I was.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is probably the best one in the franchise (and there’s a list of reasons why; keep reading!), but there are a number of glaring issues that I just can’t stand.
Without further ado, here’s a mini-review/rant on Monster Hunter 4.
==Why I Bought It==
As I stated before, I’ve been having an on again, off again relationship with the series for years, so it’s only expected that I’d pick up this one after hearing so many great things about it.
First off, there’s FINALLY A STORYLINE! I cannot emphasize this enough. The previous games were just reasons to kill monsters as they got close to your village, or someone needs the monster parts. This time, you join one of the caravans that travel around the world as a “Kindred Hunter,” as the caravaneer needs some muscle to take care of monsters on his travels to learn what a McGuffin is/does. It’s not much of one, but hey, it’s a story!
Second, I’ve heard amazing things about the new mechanics. We see a pair of new weapons, mounting monsters to deal massive damage, an expansion on the Palicoes, and a number of online/group mechanics.
Speaking of, these are actually worth noting. Not only can you get the normal multiplayer experience, but you can also acquire “Hunter Cards” from those you streetpass. Each card gives you access to a hunter you can send out on missions to acquire materials (at a cost and a set failure rate based on level), as well as a special mission and a palicoe (a good way to build up your collection!). All of this really sounds appealing for such a long game!
Third, I absolutely love Nintendo’s support for this game. Every month, normally on the first Friday, Nintendo does a new patch that adds new gear, normally in the form of costumes (Link’s outfit for your hero, or Mario/Luigi costumes for a Palico), as well as new elements for your Hunter Card (poses, words, etc). These updates also include new quests, so if you think you’ve done everything, think again!
Fourth, a bunch of my friends were playing it and praised the multiplayer aspects of it. Sure, you can say it was peer pressure, but I like to see it as enjoying a game with friends that I only get to physically see once a year (normally convention folk).
Finally, the game itself was given some stellar reviews. Reviews tend to be a mixed bag, as people are often paid to give good reviews, but even those jaded by the repetition of the series still praise it, as there was enough new stuff added and new towns to hand around in to make it appealing. This gave me the hope I wasn’t wasting my money.
==Why It’s Sitting On The Side==
The game looks great, I know people playing it, and there’s plenty to do. So why do I hate it so much?
Primarily, it’s almost the same damned game. Okay, now that the swearing portion is taken care of, allow me to elaborate.
While the starting city is different, we see a number of familiar faces. Literally. Just about every character you meet is identical to the characters that served the same purpose in the previous games: the cook, the pet pig, the blacksmith, the wycoon, the general shopkeeper, and the guildmarm are identical in appearance and voices. Nothing’s changed there.
The monsters are almost identical as well; similar patterns, same appearance (with improved graphics), same sound effects, and we still start with the first official hunt being going toe-to-toe with a great jaggi.
Outside of the few new mechanics, the game still plays the same. You have the same health and stamina bars with the same items to increase them with the same causes of decreases. The weapons still have the same special moves and the same combinations, the items are the same as before (down to artwork, recipes, and effects), and the armor hasn’t changed a bit (outside of some new additions and a slight graphics upgrade).
The Ancestral Steppes, the first location you get to explore, is strikingly similar to the first maps you can explore in previous games. There’s some allusions to the Misty Peaks of Monster Hunter Tri, but so much of the environment is identical it stopped being funny. The same was true with the other maps; they pull a great deal from the previous games, making it familiar (albeit too familiar) for anyone who’s played anything prior to this one.
The second issue I have is, yet again, something that hasn’t changed: grinding. In this game, if you want certain weapons and armor, you’ll need to find some way to gather the materials. Most of the materials are random drops from the monsters you kill, and even capturing them alive doesn’t ensure that the item you need will be there. A friend of mine once griped about having to kill/capture the same creature more than forty times to get the drops he needed to complete a full suit of armor.
Even at the lower levels, you’ll be doing this for a while. I’ve lost count of how many Jaggis I’ve had to kill just to get the one item drop I needed in order to finish my Jaggi armor so I was a bit more efficient at sharpening my quickly-dulling weapons.
While you get some perks with the streetpass portion, there just isn’t enough to get everything you need in a timely fashion. Depending on the enemy, you might be there for a while, so the length of the game is based solely upon how many times you plan on killing a single enemy to get that suit of armor or weapon upgrade you really want.
That’s pretty much the entire game: go to an area, explore, hope to find some materials, kill the same enemies dozens of times with the hope of a drop, repeat. The game can be fun, and the multiplayer should add more to the game, but if you’re working an odd shift (like me; I work a psuedo-second shift), this becomes a moot point. There’s just not enough interesting gameplay here to get me to keep playing it over and over again beyond the hours I’ve already sunk into it.
Would I suggest it? If you are new to the franchise, sure. If you’re an old hand that’s growing apathetic to repetition and the lack of new elements in the game, then give this a pass.
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