Monster Hunter Generations (for Nintendo 3DS)

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Monster Hunter Generations ($39.99) is the newest installment in Capcom's cooperative monster-slaying action series. As an unnumbered entry, Generations is something of a tribute title, and it incorporates monsters and regions from older games in the series, with the updated controls and mechanics of the newer games. Generations also introduces fighting styles that deepen the already robust gameplay. The game makes notable balance changes to the weapons—to the glee or chagrin of fans of certain weapon types. Hunts are also limited to low and high rank excursions, so the super tough G-Rank quests are being shelved this time around. But with a wealth of new content to master, there is plenty to look forward to later this summer, when the game is expected to become available.

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The Tools of a Hunter
The biggest changes that Generation introduces are hunting arts and hunting styles. Arts are special skills that can be used in addition to your weapons' move sets. There are weapon-specific hunting arts, as well as general-use arts that work with any weapon. Full Evasion, for example, is a super dodge that lets you easily evade incoming attacks, and it's available to all classes. Energy Blade, however, is a powerful melee attack exclusive to charge blade users. Players can only equip a limited number of arts, which is dictated by the hunting style they choose.

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Hunting styles are variant move sets for each weapon class. Each style gives hunters access to unique perks, while also rebalancing how their weapon functions. There are four styles players can choose from, and these styles are easily changed in the equipment menu in-between missions.

Of course, these skills and styles would be moot without a beefy roster of monsters to hunt. Generations pulls beasts from virtually every Monster Hunter game to date and introduces all new monsters, too. While not every monster in the series is accounted for, it's nice to see some of the shelved monsters make their way back into the spotlight, such as the blue leviathan Lagiacrus or the wind-calling Amatsu.

The only potential downside is the lack of a G-Rank level. The Monster Hunter series segregates its hunting missions based on rank, so high-level hunts are generally tougher then low ones and introduce new monsters. G rank is a step above high, and adds even more challenge to the mix. Without knowing the full number of missions in Monster Hunter Generations, I can't say for sure whether the lack of a G Rank is a negative; the game may make up for the lack of G Rank by greatly expanding the number of low- and high-rank missions instead.

The Hunt
A weapon is only as good as the hunter who uses it, and Monster Hunter Generations makes significant balance changes to many weapon types. This means that players will want to remaster their weapon class before going out on a hunt. For example, I noted that the sword-and-shield and the hunting horn weapons both received improvements. Blade coatings can be applied to the former, giving sword-and-shield users more effective means of dealing elemental or impact damage to monsters. Hunting horns are hammer-type weapons that double as a party-buffing instrument; in Generations, horn users get a buff when attacking a monster that allows them to encore previous songs.

The charge blade received significant changes, which I noticed immediately as a charge blade fan in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. In the demo, I challenged Glavenus, the blade-tailed dinosaur and newest monster in the series, with my trusty guild-style charge blade, only to learn very quickly that the charge blade in Generations is a very different beast than it was in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. The biggest change is that you can no longer perform an ultra or super burst attack by canceling your shield thrust. You cannot do these from a successful guard-point either. These differences radically change how this weapon plays, and it's very jarring at first.

For the layman, the charge blade is a sword-and-shield weapon that can be transformed into an axe. Charge blade attacks in sword mode charge a special phial gauge beneath your health bar. When the weapon is in axe mode, you can consume phials to deal bonus damage to monsters. Ideally, players would cycle between both modes to build and release phial charges, but Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate let advanced players circumvent the cumbersome transformations and spend the phials much more efficiently without ever having to use the axe. This could be done by canceling a shield thrust attack or by canceling a guard-point, which is a special parry built into the sword and shield's combos. Generations does away with this and forces players to make use of the charge blade's axe mode.

Suffice it to say, the changes to the charge blade threw my game off, and I failed to take down Glavenus within the allotted time. Not one to give up prematurely, I decided to try the adept style to improve my mobility and counterattack opportunities. I was pleased to note that adept style offsets the charge blade's newfound shortcomings by radically improving your shield's defense. A well-timed block lets you charge your shield as you could in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, which greatly improves the strength of your guard for a limited amount of time. In axe mode, a perfect-dodge lets you rush the monster immediately afterwards, making up for the axe's sluggish movement speed. I didn't get a chance to play with the aerial or striker styles, but from what I saw, adept style complements the charge blade nicely.

The Patient Hunter
Much of the appeal of the Monster Hunter series is in mastering your weapon class and testing your mettle against a monster. Crafting new gear, encountering new monsters, and developing new strategies are all part of the experience. Monster Hunter Generations gives you four variant weapon sets to learn and master and pits you against iconic monsters and newcomers alike. Generations is shaping up to be a very promising title, and I for one look forward to its release later this summer.

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