Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate for Nintendo 3DS

Monster Hunter is one of those Japanese franchises, like Dark Souls and Persona, which has a rabid fan base made up of people I respect that I’ve never been able to quite ‘get’. I wasn’t particularly interested in this game, but the rapturous critical acclaim paired with a desire to get some more use of my New 3DS after I finished with Majora’s Mask led me to go for it and I’m glad I did.

Monster Hunter 4 isn’t going to win any awards for it’s storytelling, but it gets the job done. You are travelling on a ship when it is attacked by a monster and your heroic actions convince the captain to enlist you as a monster hunter. You begin to earn a name for yourself as a hunter and begin to be drawn into the mystery of the new a deadly creature known as the Gore Malaga. It’s not particularly interesting, but the writing is sharp, funny and endearing. This is a good case of a game going light on storytelling but including just enough to contextualize your actions well.

Monster Hunter 4 does a lot of things, but at it’s core it’s an action-RPG. The player makes their way through a series of environments hunting and killing monsters both big and small. Some are simple herbivores but the game is mostly made up of the epic giant monster fights which are a true test of the player’s skill. These monsters are unpredictable and fast, meaning that this isn’t a game just about leveling up and getting good equipment; you must be genuinely skillful too. There are a wide range of weapons to choose from, both melee and projectile including the obvious choices like swords, axes and bows alongside more strange weapons such as the Insect Glaive. All play very differently but all are effective and the game makes it easy to change weapon types as you make your way through the game. Experimentation is encouraged. The fights are gloriously tense and difficult and I found the whole thing just too clunky in Monster Hunter 3. Monster Hunter 4 adds one big, brilliant change to the combat. The environments in Monster Hunter 4 are much more vertical and you can jump from heights onto monsters backs, which can trigger a brief event where you must stab the creature whilst clinging on for dear life. If you’re not thrown off, the monster is stunned and you can get in a few devastating attacks. This never ceased to be thrilling and added the extra ingredient that I needed to enjoy Monster Hunter’s combat. I was lucky enough to play on a New 3DS, so I had the right analogue nubbin, so I will warn that I imagine that things might be a fair bit trickier without that simple camera control.

Of course, Monster Hunter 4 isn’t just an action game, it’s also an incredibly deep RPG. You don’t level up yourself, instead crafting new weapons and gear from the various monsters that you encounter, as well as from missions where you gather materials or fish. Creating and upgrading new stuff is deeply rewarding, with a constant positive feedback loop that makes the game hard to put down. There’s a lot of grinding involved, but the fights themselves are so fun that it’s never really an issue. This is a tricky, complex game and you have a lot of things to manage, such as health and stamina and you’re encouraged to prepare beforehand. For example, before every mission you can eat a meal cooked by your feline chef which give you certain buffs. Combining ingredients the right way can have a real impact on your success and this is just one example of the micromanagement expected of you. There are a lot of systems at play here, but none feel superfluous, it’s simply about giving the player as much control as possible.

You’re not going to run out of things to do any time soon either. As well as a lengthy single player campaign, there’s a huge amount of multiplayer stuff to do as well and regular free updates with new gear to create and challenges to face. This is a very dense game, which can sometimes be a bad thing, but Monster Hunter 4 runs like complicated clockwork; every part is necessary to build up to the complete experience.

The whole thing looks amazing too; as is often the case with 3DS games, screenshots really don’t do it justice. The whole thing runs very smoothly with top notch character animations and detail. Although the areas aren’t truly open, they still feel really varied and interesting with much more interesting environments than what I had seen in the previous game. The music is swelling and exciting too, making the battles feel epic. The real high point has to be the monsters, which move in believable and intimidating ways which makes it all the more exciting to bring them down.

Monster Hunter 4 is a great game and the entry which has finally sold me on the franchise. Ok, I may not have become as obsessed with it as some have, but I certainly enjoyed my time with it and suspect that there are many people who would like it even more than I did. 

monster-hunter-4-ultimate-topper

Monster Hunter 4 is a great game and the entry which has finally sold me on the franchise. Ok, I may not have become as obsessed with it as some have, but I certainly enjoyed my time with it and suspect that there are many people who would like it even more than I did.

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