Fucking 180°, bitch! No one saw it coming! Not even I!
Flash back to the PS2 when Monster Hunter came out. I never played it back then, but I heard quite a bit about it. It was a super hard game where you only fight bosses!
And I was like, “Eh.”
The earliest monster hunter is known as Generation 1. It was a modest arrangement of monsters but a game like this hadn’t quite existed before. The game sported only 13 monsters and their variant colors. There was a mere 7 weapons in the game.
Monster Hunter 2 was also on the PS2 and it opened up a totally new set of monsters and added new weapons. This game was known as Generation 2. The entire duality of weapons was built here: great sword/long sword, sword & shield/dual blades, etc. It added the Felyne companion system. The levels were slight rebuilds of older maps, but it included the newer and older versions in the same game.
This is where I jumped in on Monster Hunter: when Monster Hunter Freedom Unite came to America. The PSP title was my first Monster Hunter game and I easily dropped more than 1,000 hours playing it to death.
Generation 3 was an incredible explosion of new content. Boasting a roster of 24 new monsters and all new levels. This game gave us the nightmare known as underwater fighting. I, personally, hated fighting under water- but the fact that is was a thing was exciting and fresh at the time! It also gave us new exciting variables like elemental blights and unstable environments. The game became exciting and hard all at once since it did away with many of the clumsy elements of previous games as it was now on the Nintendo 3DS.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was to me the crowning achievement of this series so far. It was the flagship game for what is called Generation 4. It did away with even more clumsy combat issues and streamlined many of the aspects of the game to feel challenging but fair. There weren’t entirely new monsters but we get a good dozen or so and we had all new levels. It introduced a new vertical way to fight monsters! Jumping off ledges and climbing became combat staples instead of annoying speed bumps in my way. The game was an awesome storm of everything I’ve wanted with new, unique monsters.
The reason I bring all of this up is to show you how much innovation takes place in between games. The games took time to create and were carefully balanced. Things were introduced as needed or as a niche mechanic.
The core ideas of the games are exploration and monster hunting. Sounds a little on the nose- but new levels and new monsters make this game. Weapons and fighting mechanics matter incredibly less than the monsters and levels do.
The game plays like thus: you are a Hunter in Village X and its your job to complete hunting quests for the village. There is a job board in the village and you pick quests to do at your fancy. Totally repeatable and grind-able. As you do more quests you unlock more quests and eventually can rank up to the next set of quests.
The first like- 2 hunter ranks are dumb shit like “Kill 5 harmless beasts” and “Find and bring me 20 molten acorns.”
These missions sound boring, but they exist specifically so that you must go out and explore these new worlds and find all the hidden nooks and crannies where you can find materials on the field. Since later on the game is about to get really stupid hard they want you to feel accountable for yourself when you get there; none of that “I didn’t know this shit” crap. Its on you.
They slowly start to sprinkle in new monsters to keep you going. The excitement and mystery behind these monsters is a huge driving force of the game! Why are you going to want to do anything? Because there is a stronger, bigger, more badass dragon just around the corner. The feeling of the game is directly inside you- not some narrative. You as the player are getting better and more knowledgeable as a hunter; all of the rewards are directly because of your actions.
Recently Monster Hunter Generations came out. It came out almost exactly at the same time I was moving, so I didn’t get to jump in right away. But with the boxes packed and the bed assembled it was time to turn Generations on and begin a new, fresh Monster Hunter quest.
And it’s such a let down.
They’ve created one new level that I have access to so far. One. And its essentially a different colored rehash of a level called Primal Forest from the previous game. Its really flat and dull and feels like kit-bashed elements of older, better levels.
I didn’t find any new monsters in the early game so far. So I looked up the list to make sure I wasn’t supremely high or something. There are at a quick count 6 new monsters in the game.
And a majority of them don’t show up in the Guild or Village until you rank up to Hunter Rank 3.
The fuck is this shit.
“But Daniel!” one may cry out, “You just have to wait and then it gets really good!”
That is never what Monster Hunter has been about. My character (and me, the player, by extension) want to explore and hunt new and exciting things. The levels are all levels from the first 2 generations. I know where most things are. I’ve explored these to death already. I’m excited to seem them back, but they didn’t even look shitty back on the PSP so why is this supposed to be an upgrade? Oh yay new shaders that make it look all glisten-y and slimy.
And no new monsters to even make me curious for 2 more entire hunter ranks? That’s bare minimum in the range of 15 – 20 quests I have to do before the intrigue kicks in? The opening quests are all fucking chores and without something to make them entertaining they become just that: a list of chores I need to slog through.
“But Daniel!” one cries out again, “The Malfestio was new and it was in Hunter Rank 2!”
Pretzel and I killed that thing our first try. Like- really quickly, too. It has no interesting tactics and anything new it threw at me I was totally ready for. Its character rig was based loosely on the Rathian’s rig from every other Monster Hunter game. I was prepared for it before I even began the mission.
Granted, the Malfestio is really fucking cool. Its a giant owl-wyvern.
Killing it felt weirdly cathartic.
Not sure why it couldn’t just be a bird… but it was probably the same designer who made the Zinogre and called it a wyvern, too.
We even made its armor really fucking fast. My friends may say to me that we have become too experienced as hunters and we are too good for something of its level, but I’ll refer you to the previous generation. The monsters in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate screwed me up a lot. Devon and I spent a good couple afternoons dying and laughing because monsters were owning us. You reading this Devon? You remember our very first Najarala? That huge fucking one?
It is true though. A part of what I’m probably going to experience with all Monster Hunter’s moving forward is that when you have almost 2,000 hours of experience- little if anything at all will really screw me up. I have developed gaming skills that cannot be lost. In fact- I believe there is very little to innovate on when it comes to the weapons.
But they tried anyway.
This games biggest selling point was the introduction of new Hunter Styles. These new styles will grant you passive changes to your combat style! Also- we are introducing new attacks called Hunter Arts! Just built up your limit gauge and then you can use Omnislash!
Actually- yeah sure. That’s pretty much what it is. And the biggest problems with hunter arts and hunter styles is that it flies in the face of what the core game play mechanics were. You were a good hunter because you practiced and got good. You were a badass because you perfectly timed your attacks and intentionally (but more often accidentally) did some totally badass shit.
But no. Now you press button to anime.
Little pre-programmed animations and attacks that break up the flow of the game. Easy enough fix though. I don’t use them. Most of them are slow, clumsy, and really don’t do much. But that’s probably because I haven’t invested enough points into leveling my brand new MMORPG skills up.
If Monster Hunter gave me a wolf to ride all would be forgiven.
But worse yet are the passive styles. The Guild style is your vanilla “I liked how it used to be” move set. I was using that for a while before I realized how fucking broken Adept Style is.
Adept Style states that if you dodge at the last second of an attack you can pull of insta-moves. They’re difficult to pull off, but allows for devastating counter attacks.
Aww man. That sounds difficult. It’ll probably take me almost 2,000 hours to get really good with that style.
No. Instead I accidentally ascended to a hunting demigod. What happens if you dodge at the right moment is you temporarily become invincible and jump clear of the monster. You can then direct yourself for a counter attack.
So my normal dodge roll became an ultra dodge attack.
Most of the monsters in this game are from previous games that I’ve fought and killed hundreds of times. I know them like the back of my hand. So when I see an attack coming I run towards it instead because I know how to dodge it and thus abuse the counter attack system. I’m running towards attacks? Do you think that was there goal?
Monster roars used to be annoying because it stopped you to cover your ears.
The Gypceros using his annoying flash attack that stuns you?
The Rathian’s fireballs, the Rathalos’ raking claws?
Who even cares!
Monster walking past you bumps you and knocks you over.
You better believe that shit counts.
My own fucking hunting partner accidentally swung at me with a switchaxe.
You bet your fucking ass that counts.
Now you gotta kiss me.
Its all just dodge bait. Monsters that used to lock you down now just turn me into an untouchable Hunter God.
I am exaggerating a bit, but I’m trying to make a point. I’m not totally fucking hardcore like Gaijin Hunter or anything. But I do abuse this shit constantly. I’m not avoiding attacks- I’m jumping into them. I’m not protecting myself- I’m just running and gunning.
This represents to me another small step away from what made the earlier games great. They obviously can’t not innovate, those older games were really flawed. But the reward you feel from practicing and practicing and grinding and grinding to finally defeat the giant monster is what we love. The games were much more carefully balanced back then because the controls were shit. They knew this, so they timed the monsters down to the animation frame to make sure that even with crap controls you still had time. The monsters didn’t suddenly have huge, unblockable attacks- they might simply use them more or the dodge window shrinks. Something small and incremental. It was about being better than yourself every hunt. The ability to do all of this was locked within you and you simply had to become great to defeat the enemy.
But now you have hunter arts which are “Press button to look really cool.” You don’t feel cool, you just watch your hunter do something that you, the player, cannot normally do. You have hunter styles which break the games carefully crafted hunts. Its not about timing anymore. Its not about pattern recognition anymore or team work. Its characters from Bleach trying to be the first to knock the monster over and unleash their Bankai.
I stumbled on a rock. That poor, poor piglet.
I can’t knock them for trying something new. They have to continually top themselves and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was the total shit.
But where I feel like they need to spend their time isn’t the game mechanics or play style. Give us new and exciting worlds. Give us new and exciting monsters. The game played just fine; if you want to change a weapon up, do it in small ways, not game changers. No one asked for a game changer, we just want totally badass things to do– not new ways to do them.
I’ve got more I could harp on like how the new eating and kitchen system is fucking weirdly esoteric now, and how they added totally unnecessary steps to upgrading your weapons. There are newer versions of older monsters to fight- but for some reason you need to pay the village to hunt them which makes no sense since you pay me to hunt monsters.
There are four fucking hub world villages in the game. I haven’t seen a single reason for this but I guess its vaguely nostalgic. Thank god you guys spent time making a bunch of useless villages but only spent time making a handful of new monsters.
“But Daniel!” a million voices cry out in terror, “It’s called Monster Hunter Generations! It is showing us the generations that came before.” Then they were suddenly silenced.
You cannot have a perspective without a frame of reference. You aren’t capturing anything from the previous games with everything that you have changed. You just made a bouillabaisse of a bunch of old assets. You recycled. That’s what makes this a better game for newer players. They don’t have a frame of reference so everything is going to seem intriguing.
They should’ve given us a little bit of new stuff and then each new hunter rank opens up older monsters and older levels. Make us feel like we are playing through the Generations instead. This feels formulaic and uninspired.
I’m probably one small annoyed voice in an ocean of praise. And it deserves it. This is the perfectly fine game for new players to jump in. Monster Hunter Generations is a totally playable, fun monster hunter. Just probably not for me.