It’s the thrill of the hunt, bringing out the skills to kill, exploring the vast locales, and having a blast doing it – or die trying. This in an inadvertent nutshell is Monster Hunter. After several days of research that includes: watching videos and reading wiki explanations, I made purchase of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate back in early April – my very first foray into the series. Admittedly, I was picking this up to see why so many people were fawning over it, but part of me was genuinely interested. And after putting in 2 months of on and off play sessions, I’m glad to say that have gotten a small taste of the game’s charm. It might not be for the same reason why many harden vets and enthusiast like it, but as someone coming in as a newcomer with relatively little knowledge of previous titles or this one, I think I can see the appeal from my own experience.
At its core, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (henceforth MonHun4U or MonHun), is not just one game genre, but amalgamation that takes concepts from multiple sources, and works so well together as a result. It’s a fighting game where your weapon attacks play out in a combo style and having to pay attention to your opponent (the monster) attack patterns, but also an RPG dependent on having equipment that matches your situation. It’s also something of a strategic puzzler of how to best utilize what you have at your disposable and either be a step ahead of your foe or effectively cripple them. Alone, all these elements – genres would constitute as a very dull and sane game, yet working in tandem as they do in MonHun4U is what makes it so unique, very difficult at times, but also rewarding once you get it all down. Of course, you’re not going to be able to pull off super cool combos, swiftly mount monsters, or even beat them blindfolded without failure – or if you are like me, research. Not only is MonHun4U a game that encourages beforehand research, it almost requires it. With so many different beasties in the game with their own intricacies to learn, knowing “stuff” and “things” you can do in this game is helpful. It explains a little of the core mechanics, but you won’t be getting any of the granule stuff. No, that is up to you to find out anyway you please and one aspect that makes the game a ton of fun. Looking up Youtube tutorials probably doesn’t sound like it, but not the only way learn if you are inclined to otherwise. Either way, unless you can do it in the game, watching videos or reading a wiki means nothing without practice backing it up. A lot of practice…for some more than others.
While it is doable just hopping into MonHun without prior knowledge and going toe-to-toe with giant adversaries, there is a little more to it than getting in and beating the living daylights out the target or you receiving the same treatment in kind. Remember that RPG style of preparation I mentioned? You’ll probably find yourself doing that more often than trying to rush into the thick of things. Everything from choosing the right weapon for the job, to equipment on your person, to having the items for said equipment and weapons, to getting pre-combat buffs through eating is essential – neglecting to do any of this will possibly put you in a bad position to get the maximum quest reward or even outright fail. Of course, even then, all the best equipment in the world and preparation fails without a plan of action and the practice in the face of larger than life foes. In one of the earlier quest to take down an ape-like monster called “Kecha-Wacha”, I will admit it was a formidable opponent with its acrobatic skills, swift movements, and raw power. I got overwhelmed so many times than I count – just hoping pure strength would be enough to take him down. Nope, I reset the game very single time. Of course, after taking a few days to reflect on what I was doing wrong, I came back with a new plan and armor set and with it – pulling off so many skilled attacks, dodges, and miraculous mounts, old Kecha wasn’t able to touch me. Being a tender soul, I decided to capture it using a trap instead of slaying it – a choice that yielded a greater haul of drops toward the next armor set. In hindsight and what I know now, that battle was awhole lot easier than I was making it out to be (especially when I taken on and slayed 3 giant monsters at once during an expedition), but probably would have never succeeded without taking the time out to rejigger my equipment and mindset before taking the quest on again. After all, MonHun is a game about building yourself up to take on near impossible behemoths. Once you build yourself up skill (in-game and out) and equipment wise, there is very little that stands a chance. However, acquiring both of those do take a considerable amount time – an asset that if you give enough of will see an equal return in.
Behind its deceptive difficulty, hardcore monster slaying, and rewarding atmosphere for both developing skills and learning what you are up against – MonHun4U also has a very impish and cheeky personality guiding the player along. Never taking itself too seriously – everything in the world from the characters to even your sidekick quest companion Palicoes have a very weird sense of humor that is endearing as it is palatable. And even though the monsters you face do seem to have an adversarial bent to them, they aren’t written off as villainous or even malicious – the game making it clear as it shows a clear connection between man and nature trying to coexist alongside one another. The whole world of the series is centered around the idea of togetherness and teamwork – a staple of the mulitplayer aspect of the game where players can team up to take on quest, but if any of the members die 3 times, everyone fails no matter what. You can probably guess that this makes play sessions somewhat strained, but it also does make players more accountable for their actions, know the roles they are expected to fill, and also function as a unit to achieve victory. While it is normal for most players to set aside the story quest until a certain point and begin work on their HR (Hunter Rank) quest via online, it is better to play solo for awhile. Add to the fact the mulitplayer lacks any voice chat (a game where it would be paramount), you are better off only playing with a group of close friends/acquaintances or wait until you reach the level where you can play well and not be a burden to other randos that will kick you from a quest if you are terrible. Still haven’t managed to play online since I have been too busy with the story and doing HR missions offline…so can’t speak about it too much.
In any event, for those that are looking in from the outside to MonHun thinking it to be some insane challenge, you can be assured that isn’t. As grueling and laborious as it may sound – it certainly is, but also provides a great deal of fun and sense of achievement once you finally begin to see yourself rising up to any quest and conquering it. I can’t say that MonHun’s style of harden and adaptable gameplay has been the biggest take away for me, yet as far as making things more interesting and forcing me to think slightly outside the box, it has been real satisfying. Even though I still have more of the story to cover (about to fight Gore Magala for the final time in the Cheeko Sands arc) and nowhere close achieving my dreams of making it to G Rank of any kind (HR 2 mission to kill Gore Magala), I have been loving every step along the way and do think that people who have been staring at it from across the room should give it a try. It won’t be easy, but definitely not impossible either. That is the way of the hunt and hunter after all.