Monster Hunter

30 04 2010

I’m gonna start this post off like this – you, reader. What is the matter with you!? Do you not like good, in-depth, hardcore games!? I guess not, considering why I’m doing this post.

How can you not be interested in this?

So, now that that’s out of the way, lets get down to business. Monster Hunter is a game from Capcom that has yet to find an audience here in America. For those who are uninitiated, Monster Hunter is a game in the truest sense of the word.  You go around, fight monsters, use their parts to make armor and weapons so you can fight more and bigger monsters. If it sounds familiar it’s because it is. Monster Hunter is an RPG, but unlike pretty much any other RPG out there, and it’s basically bigger than God in its native country of Japan.

Why is it that Monster Hunter can’t find a home among the pantheon of awesome action-RPG’s here in the West? For many, the game’s camera was an issue. In the first outing on PS2, the second analog stick didn’t control the camera, but your attacks. For a fixed-camera game, that’s fine, but unfortunately Monster Hunter is fast-paced and you often need control of the camera to see what’s happening, so it required your hand to form some weird claw to be able to move and manipulate the camera at will. The second, but by far the loudest gripe from would-be fans is the lack of lock-on targeting. As mentioned, this is a fast-paced game where player skill makes all the difference between life and death. For Western gamers weened on games where you can easily lock onto an enemy and see them at all times, not being able to felt like going into battle naked.

The latest entry, Monster Hunter Tri (3) fixes one of the problems. Using a Wii Classic Controller (or Pro), the second analog stick can be made to move the camera around. This simple addition makes the game infinitely more playable and easier to comprehend.

That’s not to say the game is simple. By no means. Remember when I said the path of the game? Kill monster, get its loot, make weapons and armor, kill bigger monster? While this is true, know this: Monster Hunter is one of the deepest games you will ever play. Yes, you go out there, find a beast and kill it. You can carve its carcass with your trusting knife, finding some meat, a bone, maybe a hide or tooth. You keep these on you and then, when you return from your hunt, these items are put to use. Bones and teeth can be used for armor and weapons, while meat can be roasted on your own portable barbecue spit to create stamina-restoring steaks. On top of all this, you can harvest herbs, mushrooms, bugs, ore and more from the areas you hunt in, which are used for even more item creation. If you ever played a game like Oblivion, it’s somewhat similar to that.

So ok, you can wrap your head around that. Hold on a minute, Buster Brown. There’s more. Monster Hunter is a HARD game, in true Capcom fashion. When you go out on your first hunt, simple sword and shield in hand, you can expect to encounter at least one aggressive enemy that’s sure to give you a good wallop if you aren’t careful. “No biggie,” says you, “I’ll simply kill weaker enemies and level up!” Wrong! In Monster Hunter, there is no leveling up. Kill all the poor, defenseless herbivores you want, all you’ll get is more meat and bones. The way you progress in Monster Hunter is by killing the stronger monsters, taking their parts and forging new equipment. Oh, and player skill, obviously.

And the monsters… My goodness, the monsters. Monster Hunter has never been a terribly “pretty” game, in that its graphics were never cutting edge, nor have they ever been in HD. But, like in my Chrono Cross entry, the art design in the game is incredible. When you kill a dragon and find his spines, put them on a weapon, you can often see those parts in there. Your armor will often have bits of teeth or scales on it as well, making it show that you really are a hunter and you really do use your kill to the fullest extent. Every time a monster hunter dons a new set of armor from a deceased monster’s body, a native American sheds a tear.

Poor Monster gave his beak so you could beat up other monsters.

This poor fish surrended his fins upon defeat so you could kill more of his friends.

You see, one thing Monster Hunter does better than most games is give the player a real sense of progression. You may face a truly fearsome beast, but you know that when you finally manage to fell it, you will find scales, hides, bones and more from it which are used to create more powerful items. In each game, the monsters look truly terrifying and you know when you face them that you will fight for every attack.

An example of four well-prepared hunters fighting one of the series’ most iconic monsters – The Rathalos.

It’s easy to spout on and on about this game, but what it really boils down to is this, what would make the game more interesting to Westerners? Obviously, Capcom is trying. They put it on the Wii as a sort of test. Many, MANY people out there (myself included) whine and moan about what a dumb idea it was to put such a hardcore game on what is easily the most casual system. The truth of the matter is, Capcom is testing the market. The previous Monster Hunter games (PSP versions included) were never the hits they deserved to be. Since it was released here, Monster Hunter has found a very devoted niche audience, but it’s just that- a niche audience.

With Tri, Capcom is making it as available to the public as possible. So to all you out there that wish they would release a “true” Monster Hunter for the 360 or PS3, remember that the only reason Capcom made it on the Wii (it was originally a PS3 game) was because development costs would be too high. Capcom doesn’t want to gamble on spending millions and millions for a game they don’t know will sell.

What it comes down to is the only way to ensure the West sees more of this amazing franchise is to show Capcom you are interested. Give it a shot, you may be pleasantly surprised if you try it out for more than 20 minutes.

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