Monster Hunter, a franchise loved by millions around the world. A series that created the “Hunting” genre and inspired wonderful games such as God Eater and Soul Sacrifice. Monster Hunter 4 is the franchise’s second entry into the realm of Nintendo 3DS. Have Capcom improved since last time?
Story has never been the strong point of Monster Hunter and the developers know that. However with Monster Hunter 4, they tried to give the player some motivation to push through the game. The story, while simple, works very well with the game. You, the player are one of the many hunters in the world. You are a junior hunter in a hunting guild. During a trip on the desert sea with your guild master, a gigantic monster attacks your ship. However, due to the direction of the guild master and your hunter’s skills, the monster was defeated. This is merely the introduction to the game and you’re already taking on a colossal sized monster. Unlike the previous game, the story in Monster Hunter 4 is constantly progressing and changing. As mentioned earlier, the plot is quite simple but works well with the overall game. You start as a newbie hunter learning how to cook, fight and survive against gigantic beasts but by the end of it, you’ll be able to take down multiple beasts at once.
Gameplay. Gameplay is the absolute highlight of the game. As the title suggests, the goal is to simply hunt monsters. What sets Monster Hunter a part from other action games is the execution of its gameplay. The overall feel of previous games is still around but they have been tweaked slightly to improve the experience. One of the strong points of Monster Hunter 4 is the feeling of control you have over your actions. It’s smooth and flows well. When swinging a giant Great Sword, you can feel the enormous weight of it. You can feel the rush as you slash away at a Yian Kut-Ku with dual swords. Unlike action games such as Devil May Cry 3 or Dynasty Warriors, the animations of your character must finish before doing another action. This may make it seem slow but it makes every action count. If you try to heal yourself just before a monster attacks, you will be punished. While the game is focused on action, there is an immense amount of strategy involved. Monster’s patterns must be remembered, their attacks, their speed, reactions to powerful attacks. You as the hunter must act accordingly. A new mechanic has been added. That is, jump attacks. This may seem simple but it adds a large amount of focus on the environment. There is much more environment interaction integrated within monster hunts now. Monsters climb walls and destroy parts of the area. Instead of waiting for a monster to come down from the wall, you can climb onto a wall and make it come down.
This brings up the next point, the improved environments in Monster Hunter 4. Areas no longer just flat plains with grass and snow put on top. You have areas ranging from mountains high in the sky to magma caves. Capcom went all out with developing areas for the game. Every single area is just breathing with life and immerses you into the world well. Outside of killing monsters and harvesting their hides and scales you’re visiting villages. Within villages you are given a number of outlets to customize your hunter’s equipment. You can craft armor and weapons from the spoils of your previous hunt, making your hunter become stronger. Aside from that, you can talk to NPCs for random bits of info or even take on villager requests. Last and most certainly not least is the Felyne Canteen. There, you can fill your hunter’s stomach with food in preparation for the next hunt. Doing this gives benefits such as increased health and increased resistance to specific elements.
As with every Monster Hunter game, multiplayer is the strongest point of the series. Monster Hunter 4 is no different. Despite previous games on portable consoles having no in-built online mode, this game has one. Guild hall is the main lobby where you and other hunters around the world gather. There, you take quests, eat and shop. There are also gestures that you can do in the Guild Hall to mess around with your fellow hunters. Even though this is on the 3DS, there is still a chat function available where you make use of the touch screen as a keyboard. Unfortunately, the character limit in chat is fairly low and makes it difficult to communicate full sentences to other players. Plus, there is chat function while hunting however you are not able to use the keyboard during hunts. This is solved by using pre-made words that you made beforehand. This makes it simple for communication during hunts but it can be difficult to say something very specific if you don’t already have it down before the hunt. Once you get started, you and three other hunters are working together to defeat a monster. You can feel the synergy as you and your team coordinate your attacks to defeat the monster. The best part comes from emerging triumphant in the hunt. When you and your team have defeated the monster, it’s time to go over there and carve some materials off your prey. The feeling of satisfaction that you get is amazing.
Now all this comes down to one thing. Atmosphere. What makes Monster Hunter 4 such a wonderful experience? Atmosphere. The atmosphere is absolutely perfect in this game. The soundtrack is absolutely filled with orchestrated scores when wandering around areas giving the world a feeling of grandeur. The moment you encounter a monster, the volume of the music suddenly increases letting you know that the fight has begun. Depending on your foe, the battle music can range from blood pumping to downright frightening. All this combined with wonderful environments and beautiful art direction. It’s amazing how immersive the game is.
A completely new feature has been introduced to Monster Hunter 4 and that is Guild Quests. Guild Quests take place in the “Mysterious Forest” where the area’s layout is changed every single time you enter. You can access the Mysterious Forest offline where you get quests from completing it offline. You can then take those quests online and level them up. As you level them up, the stronger the monsters within the quest become and the better the rewards become. You can also share Guild Quests with other players as well. This sounds very fun however this is where the negative points of Monster Hunter 4 come into play. While not as common now, hacked Guild Quests were a problem. Hacked Guild Quests are usually level 100 and the monster would be in the starting area not reacting to the player’s presence. This allowed players to kill a high leveled monster and take the rewards with no effort at all. Fortunately, at this time of writing, Capcom have released a patch to prevent hacked Guild Quest monsters being killed. Preventing people getting rewards from those hacked Guild Quests.
There is one last issue that must be addressed. Despite what has been said so far, the game is simply not for everyone. If you are new to the Monster Hunter series then you will need to spend quite some time getting used to everything. On top of that, Monster Hunter 4 is a game that will use a lot of your time. To get the most out of it, hundreds of hours need to be spent. Yes, the game is good from the start. However, the game constantly progresses and more content keeps revealing itself. Even after spending over 130 hours, there is still much more to be done. Plus from the outside looking in, Monster Hunter 4 seems like a constant farming fest. Kill this monster for materials, kill another for materials, make armor set, go kill more monsters. It seems redundant but, it does not feel like a chore because of how the gameplay works. On top of that farming materials with others can be done much faster now that this has an online mode. Saying that, Monster Hunter 4 is the best entry in the series yet and is the easiest to get into if you’re a newcomer.
Despite having some flaws, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Monster Hunter 4 reminds the world why it is beloved by many, why it has sold millions around the world. An immersive world. Precise and tight controls. Absolutely beautiful soundtrack. Immense amount of content. Absolute must have if you’re a fan, most definitely worth a shot if you’re new.