I’ve never had someone take away a Nintendo 3DS from me during a developer visit before.
I suck at Monster Hunter. I respect it, but I hadn’t played it until last year’s Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, another 3DS game. I dig the ideas behind it, such as the need to understand your gear’s strengths and weaknesses, tracking monsters, and how you must study up on a monster’s attack routines. But I had trouble dealing with the limitations of playing an action game on a handheld — it hurt my hands after 10 minutes or so of playing.
I’m upfront about my limitations, noting my ineptitude shortly after walking into Capcom’s San Francisco office to see the upcoming Monster Hunter Generations. Set for a release this summer, this upcoming edition of the action-role-playing series features a mix of new styles and abilities, refreshed maps, and fan-favorite monsters dating back to the original release back in 2004 on the PlayStation 2.
And I stunk every minute of the hour I put into it.
Monster Hunter offers an array of ways to play as you set out to take down the “Fated Four” (a group of legendary monsters), and Generations is adding a new system to give hunting more variety. Four styles join 14 weapons in your arsenal, and each of them comes with Hunter Arts, “supermoves” that are flashy, damaging attacks:
And here is where Capcom spokesperson took the 3DS away from me. As our party ventured out to take on a great Maccao, I had kitted myself out with the wrong style and Hunter Art. To equip these, you go from the main village screen to another place on the side, and then you pick you gear and styles from a chest. It took me a while to realize that I had to go to another place to do this, and to save time, she decided it would just be easier to do it herself than to have this boulder-brain try it on his own again. It was a good choice, as for newer players, the methodical manner in which Monster Hunter operates can be confusing and a bit daunting. A helping hand never hurts, especially when you’re a lummox.
We were not off to the most promising start.
I found Aerial to be a challenge, though this is likely due to poor Monster Hunter skills than any inherent issues with its design. It had a hoot jumping all over the place, but when I used my Hunter Art, I, well, … missed. I had trouble aiming the dashing attack, and even when I got it lined up well, the monster sometimes moved out of my path.
But if you were watching me, you’d probably think someone stuck a pogo stick where the sun don’t shine. I bounced around like a Super Ball, trying to aim my leaps so that I could strike at a monster — or mount it. I failed on numerous occasions. You can lock your camera on a monster, but you can’t do so with your character, so it’s up to you to keep up with where it is and how to best attack it.
Yet these failures didn’t matter. I had more fun leaping off monsters and my teammates than I’ve ever had before with Monster Hunter.
The “generations” in this Monster Hunter is an apt description. Capcom considers each batch of games around a numbered release a generation (such as Monster Hunter Tri, Monster Hunter Portable 3rd, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate). This new game includes maps and monsters from previous games, some of which have never appeared outside of Japan. Capcom has adapted all of these to fit Generations’ new mechanics.
One of the monsters we fought, Nargacuga, was a fan-favorite from 2008’s Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for Sony’s PlayStation Portable. While I’m not steeped in the franchise’s lore, as longtime fans are, just knowing that this was a critter that players dug chasing after made the encounter a bit more exciting for me.
It also introduces Deviant monsters, which appear later in the game. They’re beasts that have survived fights with other hunters, and the experiences have left them … smarter. They’ve adapted, and now they behave differently, have new moves, and they even look different, too.
You can also play as the cat-like Palicos, which have served as your assistants in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. While they do have some offensive capabilities, they focus on support, doing things such as buffing the party’s hunters or healing them. These cats, called Prowlers, also have their own gear. Capcom’s Stephanie Palermo pointed out how they had a Mega Man set of gear in MH4U, and the Prowler can wear it as well.
The Prowlers also have … nine lives (and yes, I’m just stupid enough to have laughed at it).
Correction 9:30 a.m.: The group of legendary monsters is the Fated Four, not the Fatal Four. GamesBeat has corrected this error.