If verticality was the game changer in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, the chance to more broadly customise your fearless hunter is the attraction in Monster Hunter Generations. This is by far the most customisable adventure the series has ever let us embark on, and the behemoth-toppling experience is all the better for it.
As its moniker implies, the Nintendo 3DS exclusive takes a gargantuan stride toward the future while keeping one foot firmly in the past. Hired by the Wycademy to help research monsters and the habitats that they dwell in, you choose from a 14-strong weapon selection to take up arms and help where you can. Nervously wandering into Bherna village for the first time, there’s an entire world waiting to be explored and a monstrous encyclopaedia of beasts occupying it.
It’s a quintessential start to Capcom’s latest, and, with more than three million copies sold in Japan alone, it is clear that the appetite for monster-slaying hasn’t waned. That Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate became the first iteration to sell one million copies in Europe and North America impressed, and the company surely won’t want that momentum to now falter.
For a game that pivots around such a basic concept, Generations presents unrivalled depth in the way that it makes you plan strategically. Wandering an area, identifying your prey, and attacking until either of you is defeated is approachable by design, but there are soon many variants to consider. Paintballs are a necessity to track your foe, antidotes must be carried to eradicate poison, and a cold drink can slow the sweat that beads from your forehead in hotter climates, whereas traps and explosive-ridden barrels can be used to catch your monstrous opponent unaware. Generations revels in that dance with death, players mercilessly hacking at larger monsters until they limp away to lick their wounds.
While your weapon is an immediate personal choice, players will also have to choose one of four Hunting Styles – whether that be Aerial, Guild, Adept or Striker. These each present their own strengths and open up more room to exploit your own play style preferences and proficiency in the hunting grounds. These are broadened by Hunter Arts, offensive, defensive and evasive moves that can be unleashed once their respective Arts Gauge fills. Seasoned hunters will appreciate the expanded options that these bring, which often help to turn the tide of a dwindling battle in your favour.
Those that are less familiar with the series can turn to Prowler mode, switching out their hunter for a furry feline that dampens more restrictive mechanics in the game. Your stamina gauge is unwavering, Acorns that you carry can immediately revive you after fainting in combat, and Prowlers have nine lives rather than the three that standard hunters have to succeed on a specific quest. Support Moves can be called on to rally and strengthen the resolve of your hunting party, while a Felyne Fury mode can be activated to unleash Furr-ious attacks. If you can endure the meow-sands of cat-related puns, this offers an unbeatable entry point to the series.
The narrative isn’t as much of a driving force this time around, but it is enough to propel you on quests that see you slay, capture, hunt, and gather. There is tremendous breadth to those that you undertake, and, as you forge sturdier weapons and armour, Capcom suitably ramps up the ferocity of the beasts that you face.
After completing Bherna’s 1-star quests and toppling the Great Maccao, you will be allowed to fly aboard an airship to Kokoto, Pokke and Yukumo – nearby villages that similarly want to enlist you for your proficient hunting skills. Each basks in their own distinct style, fashion, customs, and whimsically melodic theme, situated near a grassy plain, arid desert, or mountainous region. The autumnal and rocky Yukumo is a personal favourite, famous for its hot springs and soothing footbath.
While much of the conversation has swirled around The Fated Four that are stomping around the villages that you visit, Hyper Monsters lend their own challenge to proceedings. With black vapour covering part of their bodies, players can attack these parts of build their Hunter Art gauge more quickly but it comes at greater risk. These parts are empowered and, as the black vapour can move between body parts, it sees battles become all the more dramatic. The Monster Hunter series has long been about recognising your prey’s behavioural tells, and that’s no different here. But, these nuanced tweaks will lure the faithful looking to put their skill and experience to the test.
Generations still isn’t without its shortcomings. We live in a world where a Google search is within easy reach, but Capcom still expects some prior experience with the series. If you don’t know your Kelbi from your Larinoth, be warned that you will be turning to search engines for guidance.
There is an in-game monster list, but the tribal drawings that let you picture your target aren’t enough to go by. That isn’t necessarily a problem with the larger monsters that you face, seeing as, once you bump into them, they are introduced with a short cinematic. But, for the smaller enemies that many of the standard quests ask that you hunt, it can be problematic for newcomers. That glugging potions slows down gameplay in requiring that you first sheath your weapon and resulting in your hunter strike a pointless heroic pose still irritates, even if that has long been the case.
It is in multiplayer that Generations truly comes alive, and still there isn’t anything else like it. The Hunters Hub helps facilitate this online connectivity without qualm, and, on servers pre-launch at least, I encountered no issues in maintaining a steady and consistent connection with those that I adventured with. Local Play is similarly available, geared toward those that participate in StreetPass meets as well as attend other events such as Hyper Japan Festival. Whereas those that choose to play solo may still enjoy their reckless questing with a palicoe in toe, but joining forces continues to bring Monster Hunter to life in the way that Capcom always envisioned. It’s safe to say that all bases are covered.
Monster Hunter Generations remains an experience that excites most in the thrill of the chase, wrestling with once proud beasts as you bring them to their knees. It presents an adventure of a lifetime, and continued evolution of the core idea results in an experience that rewards at every turn.