It all started back in 2004. That year the Earth was introduced to a brand-new threat, one that could prove detrimental to the enjoyable existence of human beings but one that is a necessity for it’s survival. The first Monster Hunter game hit the PlayStation 2 with one hell of a bang and ever since then it’s only grown more and more popular. It’s one of those video games that people love to hate. Much like Dark Souls, Monster Hunter pushed gamers to their limits as they blazed their own trail through a world overrun with deadly wildlife. With a simple story and some incredibly deep gameplay mechanics, Monster Hunter quickly grew to be a series loved by people around the world.
You, the player, fill the shoes of a rookie Hunter trying to make their way in a dangerous world. While dangerous creatures roam every forest, every canyon and every swamp, life goes on. It has to. Industry must continue to prosper, people must continue to live and hunters, well…they must continue to hunt. The monsters of this world, though ruinous, aid in the development of the known world. With their tough hides and their rare innards, hunting and harvesting one of these creatures can mean a everything to a small community but those same creatures can also mean the end of what once was a safe enough place to raise a family.
It’s now 2015 and a lot has changed in the world. Monster Hunter has stayed mostly the same, the only difference is that it has continued to subtly evolve and rock audiences with every now title released. The latest, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, is nothing short of a video game masterpiece and it’s through this review that you’ll understand why. The series has always been about banding together and doing what needs to be done as professional Hunters, so in the spirit of that us here at SnapThirty have decided to work together to write this here review, much in the same way we’d take on a Hunt in-game.
Monster Hunter was always something that eluded and intimidated me for years, and yet I was always fascinated by it. This feeling goes as far back as the PlayStation 2 era, when the series first made its debut 10 years ago in 2004. I bought the original Monster Hunter, and it was overwhelming. I was never thrust into such a vast and deeply intricate video game world in such a manner, it was like being dropped into the ocean without learning how to swim. That first foray into Monster Hunter pretty much scared me off, and yet I respected it so much, respected the dedication and hard work that its community put into making sense of it all and creating this ethos. Monster Hunter is no ordinary video game, it’s a lifestyle where you embark on an odyssey as a hunter, and form a special bond with comrades along the way.
It wasn’t until Monster Hunter 3 that I gave the series another chance, and even then the vagueness was pretty overpowering, but by that point I was a seasoned enough gamer to appreciate it. Now Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was something I expected to be largely similar to Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (3DS/Wii U) but I am pleased to be wrong here. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is at least five folds better than its predecessor, and it’s a sight to behold considering that it is running on the original 3DS hardware. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is such a technical wonder that it almost makes you wonder why the New 3DS was even necessary.
The best part about Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate— that gives it enough appeal to unsuspecting newcomers– is how sublime and seamlessly integrated the online features are. Monster Hunter has always demanded to be played with friends, as hunting the behemoths that populate its world is simply futile to do on your own. Monster Hunter has always been about playing in a team, and anyone who says video games don’t encourage socializing or teamwork couldn’t be more wrong. Play Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate alone and you’re only getting 30% of the experience.
However, setting up an online session has always involved jumping hoops in the past, and it just wasn’t ideal. This time however, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate offers the most flawless online experience. The transition from solo to online and back is just so simple, and within moments of starting the game you can look up your friends and go on your first hunt. The ease of engaging in online multiplayer thanks to the streamlined interface makes a world of difference, and the netcode is shockingly stable and perfect, no matter who you’re playing against.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is perhaps the best the series has ever looked, and the best part is that it’s fully mobile and online. It may have began life as a console title, but this latest 3DS exclusive iteration proves that Monster Hunter has found its home within the palm of your hands, without any sacrifices made to its ambitious scope and vision.
As I pull back the string of my bow I look around at my team: They’re all in place, they’re all doing their parts they’re all ready for the hunt. I unload a single arrow into the skull of the unaware monster. It turns, startled and frustrated, to attack the one the dealt it such pain but it is only met with the force of three other, well-trained Hunters. The perfect start to any good hunt. There is no game that will give you better stories to tell than that of this one.
My experience with the Monster Hunter series isn’t one that goes back very far. On a whim I purchased the title released before this, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, but was delivered nothing but confusion and frustration. It simply wasn’t worth the money I paid for it, I thought. Something possessed me upon the release of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate; I simply had to have it but I had no idea why. Thank the Lords above I did get my hands on a copy because this may possibly be one of the greatest Nintendo 3DS titles I’ve ever had the privilege to experience.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate takes everything we were given in MH3U and outshines it in such glorious ways. Everything I hated in the last game has now been chopped, changed and tweaked in such a manner that they are now the things I love the most about the series as a whole. As far as overall gameplay goes; MH4U is smoother than and aged scotch and about as exhilarating as an actual hunt. Amazingly, the game manages to visually outdo it’s predecessor despite being developed for the exact same system, as my co-writer Jahanzeb has already mentioned. The music, the grunts, the slices, the explosions, the audio as a whole is about as impressive as the visuals and any semi-astute player will clue in on that immediately.
At the risk of repetition I must mention the wonderfully seamless online mode which basically mirrors the hunts you’d be able to embark on in solo play but this time with the added enjoyment of actually playing with other Hunters. At a comparatively small thirty hours in I’ve barely touched solo gameplay and I’ve had nothing but great hunts and even better fun simply playing the game with others, some who know what they’re doing and others that need a little help.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is truly a work of absolute perfection. Night after night it keeps my attention long after I would’ve given up on any other video game title. It is a title that has a clear but scaleable learning curve that actually promotes research and growth as a Hunter. It takes a little bit of smarts to play and a great deal of patience but it is all very much worth it at the end of a big hunt. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, from this day forward, will be the game I use to compare to and judge all future Nintendo 3DS title. It doesn’t get any better than this.
My first foray into the the challenging world of Monster Hunter began roughly two years ago. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate had just been released when a voice spoke to me and told me to buy it. Unfortunately, that voice belonged to Frank Inglese and it was one that led us down a path of annoyance and barely contained fury. Sure we managed to perform a few successful hunts, but the fun was slowly whittled away until it no longer existed. Thus my hesitation when Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate hit the shelves. Luckily however, I overcame this reluctance and wound up buying a game that is actually fun to play.
On the surface, MH4U doesn’t seem intrinsically different from MH3U. The overworld is the same, the quest system exists just as it was and the item mechanics still hold true. That being said, there’s just something about this game that makes it more enjoyable than the previous entry in the series. Now you may be thinking; Couldn’t it just be that you have matured as a gamer? A very good question, but I assure you that I am not the maturing type. Rather, it is the franchise that has developed. Where as MH3U saw to it that your spirits would be crushed in the earliest portions of your adventure (I’m looking at you peacock dragon creature), MH4U at least has the decency to wait before it drives you into the ground. But by that point you’ve played enough of the game to want to continue, to try different strategies, different weapons, anything that may help you eke out a victory.
Now, if anyone played MH3U, they’ll remember a little something known as aquatic missions. Those wonderful little treats that sent hunters into the murky deep to take on Leviathans, demonic fish and whatever else calls the liquid realm home. Sounds awesome right? Unfortunately, the overall control scheme of the 3DS put a limiter on the situation by making the controls difficult to manage. So MH4U decided that the water was a wasted effort, and headed upwards. Not into the sky, but rather up walls and cliffs, a change that provides tiered battle zones and aided in the introduction of what is now my favourite mechanic: Mounting. Should you manage to leap onto a monster from above, and provided you strike the correct spot, you will be thrown into a power struggle that sees you riding these tremendous foes like they were a bucking bull. Alternating between stabbing and holding on for dear life, you are able to feel these creatures in a supremely satisfying manner that makes you feel like a pretty decent hunter.
Just briefly, since it has already been mentioned twice before; online play is awesome. It’s just so cool being able to take on these monsters with a band of hunter buddies. It makes you feel as if you’ve actually prepared for this, like you have a plan. Admittedly, online can turn into a bit of a crapshoot and you may wind up with three ultimately useless companions, but when it works, man is it awesome. Just you, three random people, who could be across the world for all you know, fighting the good fight. Slaying monsters and taking their parts so that you can build some sweet armour, a facet that lies at the very core of Fashion Hunter…I mean, Monster Hunter.
In case I’ve been a little too vague, allow me to succinctly explain my viewpoint; Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is awesome. Be it the well designed foes, the cool weaponry or the resounding sense of accomplishment that washes over you when you see the words “Main Objective Complete”, this title knows what it’s doing. Look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it isn’t a challenging game, because that would be a lie and lying is wrong. But I will say that, compared to the last title, the difficulty scales pretty darn well and makes for a very interesting hunt. Besides, if your current mark ever feels like too much, simply return to a lower level of prey and witness how much stronger you’ve become. There’s something satisfying about decimating a monster that once cause you trouble. Something I refer to as catharsis, because labelling it spite would make me seem like a petty person…which I’m so not.