Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the first ever Super Mega Series Review on this site! This review format is going to be quite different from the others. This time, I’m going to be comparing multiple different titles of the same franchise on the same platform, and seeing how they measure up against each other
The flavour of the day is the Monster Hunter series. It’s likely this might be your first introduction to the franchise – although these games are big news in Japan, they usually get fairly unceremonious releases in Europe and the US.
The games I will be covering in this collection of articles are Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate released on 3DS in Europe in 2010, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate released on 3DS in Europe in 2015 and Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate released on 3DS also in 2015.
These are the games that I have first-hand experience playing, but they by no means complete the series – Monster Hunter and Monster Hunter 2 on the Playstation 2 were the first entries to the series released in 2005 and 2007. I don’t have any personal experience with these games and so I have chosen to leave them out of this article, but thankfully, all Monster Hunter games are practically identical in their core components and ideas. If you own a Playstation 2 and enjoy the more recent Monster Hunter games, I think it’s safe to assume you will enjoy the earlier entries as well.
What is Monster Hunter?
Monster Hunter is a fantasy action-RPG developed and published by Capcom. The premise of every Monster Hunter game is that you are Monster Hunter (shocking, I know) who is hired to slay a wide variety of dangerous monsters running rampant in the area. As the games progress, the monsters you hunt become larger, faster and more difficult to kill – the player must continuously hone their skills and improve their weapons and armour in order to keep up and avoid becoming the hunted. By endgame, some monsters take up almost the entirety of your screen, and are doing devastating Dark Souls-level damage.
These games are pure high-energy, high-stakes action, but the key to success in Monster Hunter is actually exercising patience and using close observation. The combat might feel very familiar to fans of the Souls series, with emphasis being on timing your attacks, finding openings and paying close attention to the enemies cues so you can anticipate their next attack.
The Japanese style is very prominent in Monster Hunter games, with wacky, over-the-top weapons and armour, cheesy dialogue and overly-expressive characters. I find this style is lots of fun and really enhances the fantastical atmosphere of the Monster Hunter world. Although the dialogue and character designs are very lighthearted, these games are not for children and can become very challenging as you progress.
Although I play all my Monster Hunter games single-player, there is a big emphasis on multiplayer. For a lot of players, the majority of their enjoyment from this franchise comes from hunting with their friends via local play, or teaming up with strangers across the world via the internet. There’s no need to participate in the multiplayer aspect of the series – Monster Hunter games are fantastic single-player experiences as well – but if it’s something you’re interested in, it can add hundreds more hours of enjoyment to the Monster Hunter games.
I would heartily recommend this franchise to anyone who likes a combat-orientated gaming experience. Fans of the Souls series or fans of the Witcher 3’s combat system will suss Monster Hunter’s combat very quickly. Fans of other JRPGs like Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest will fit right in amongst the Monster Hunter crowd as well.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, also known as Monster Hunter Tri, debuted in Europe in 2010 and is currently available to play on the Nintendo Wii, 3DS and Wii-U. The player takes on the role of a novice Hunter who is assigned to the remote tropical village called Moga in order to protect the villagers from being harassed by deadly monsters.
The story is linear, easy to follow and clips along at a great pace. The game also features the best and most memorable music the franchise has to offer in my opinion. All main-line story monsters have their own unique theme, as does each hunting area, which really helps to give the monsters you hunt their own personality (as is probably why lots of veteran fans of the series remember the Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate monsters so fondly – they are instant classics).
One feature that really sets Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate apart though is the ability to “free-hunt” certain monsters out in the wild without having to go on a particular quest to access them. Once you complete a quest to kill a certain monster, it will start spawning randomly in “Moga Woods” free-hunting area. This comes in handy all the time, especially if you’re farming a particular monster for materials to make a certain weapon or armour piece, but also makes the world feel more alive.
When it comes to control, certain features make Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate a bit more challenging than it’s siblings, especially for newcomers to the series. Underwater manoeuvrability, particularly on 3DS, is extremely clunky and dysfunctional; this can be a sticking point for some players as the game as there are certain important monsters, including the “final boss” which MUST be fought, at least partially, underwater. There’s no way to avoid having to do it.
In comparison with the other Monster Hunter games on the 3DS, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate can feel a little bare, or stripped back. This is partly because it’s missing a lot of it’s siblings additional features and mechanics (such as Hunter Arts, felynes, etc). Compared to later entries to the series, it has noticeably fewer areas to explore, with only 11 locations compared to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate’s 19 locations. It also has noticeably fewer large monsters to hunt – perhaps unsurprisingly, given that Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was the very first “3rd Generation” entry to the series, meaning that only the earliest 3rd Generation monsters will appear in it – there are only 51 monsters to hunt, compared to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Monster Hunter Generations, both of which have at least 70.
Overall, I would say that Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is the most accessible of the Monster Hunter titles in this review – the quintessential Monster Hunter experience. It certainly has the exciting game-play and epic monsters that the Monster Hunter series is famous for, but I find it’s the more traditional, no-nonsense Monster Hunter title – in some ways this makes it the perfect place from which to launch yourself into the series, as you can master the core mechanics without being distracted by all the added extras. I definitely think that the Monster Hunter series is one where it is far more enjoyable to progress forward through the titles than to go back through them, so I wouldn’t recommend Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate if you’ve already played any of the later titles.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
Monster Hunter 4 was released in Europe in 2015 only for the 3DS. In this title, the player is a fledgling hunter who teams up with the mysterious and charismatic Caravaneer and his rag-tag allies to travel the world uncovering the secret of a strange artifact. Despite being released on only a single platform, it grossed over twice as much as Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, and it’s very easy to see why.
The story in this title is far more ambitious, complex and engaging than Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, albeit much longer. The player graduates from saving tiny fishing villages from destructive sea monsters like in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, to saving the entire known world from ancient evil. The storytelling is much more traditional in that sense. It’s another epic quest to discover lost secrets and save the world. It seems cliche, but quite honestly, I think having an overarching plot, a greater purpose to hunting monsters besides from the fun of hunting monsters, really lends itself well to the gameplay experience.
The characters you meet along the way are more memorable, and you are able to explore a much wider variety of locations and quest hubs throughout the story. Whereas in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, your single-player quest hubs are limited to Moga Village and Port Tanzia, in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, there are five separate towns and cities to visit as you progress the story. Overall, it feels like a much bigger game than Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, with more to do and see outside of slaying monsters.
Most of the monsters in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate are borrowed from Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, as they are both “3rd Generation” games in the series, but there are some really unique new monsters added to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on top of the usual roster of 3rd Generation monsters.
Whilst some of the monsters might be borrowed from Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, the combat certainly is not. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate does away with underwater combat and instead replaces it with the ability to “mount” a monster if you attack it from above, Mounting a monster triggers a simple mini-game where the player fights to stay mounted whilst the monster tries to throw you off, like a rodeo. Completing this minigame allows you to topple the monster and deal massive damage whilst the monster is down. The mounting animation is so incredibly satisfying and impressive, and it feels so epic to bring a truly massive monster to its knees. Mounting adds verticality to the combat, making it feel much more dynamic, and also encourages you to use your environment to your advantage whilst hunting. I absolutely love this mechanic and couldn’t imagine the series without it.
For me, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate represents the best of what the Monster Hunter series on 3DS has to offer – awesome monsters, dynamic combat, quirky characters and an engaging story all wrapped up in a neat 30-hour package. Compared to Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate feels much more streamlined in it’s gameplay and more “fleshed out” in it’s content. Capcom clearly learnt a lot from Monster Hunter’s first outing on handheld, and once you finish Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, it becomes very hard to go back to earlier titles. That really speaks for itself.
Monster Hunter Generations
Monster Hunter Generations came to the European markets in 2016, only a year after Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. I only got round to actually playing it very recently though, and finishing it was what inspired me to write this Series Review. In Monster Hunter Generations, you play as a hunter employed in the service of the Wycademy and send out across the world to gather information about monsters.
Monster Hunter Generations introduces itself to the player much like the Monster Hunter Games before it, but this time, I noticed that the story-telling element was unusually subtle. As in, it seemed completely absent. As it turns out, Monster Hunter Generations doesn’t really have a story to speak of. Coming off the back of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate which has an excellent story, this was a huge blow for me. I just couldn’t understand why Capcom would choose to make a Monster Hunter game without a story. There are still quests to complete, just like the other games, but there’s no overarching objective or progression. It’s just an endless cycle of killing monsters and getting paid. Wake up, kill a monster, collect an item, sleep, repeat. It felt like a job – who in their right mind boots up a video game because they want to simulate the monotony and relentlessness of an actual job?
The cherry on the cake is that the combat in Monster Hunter Generations is actually the best of all the handheld titles so far, which feels to me like a bit of a cruel joke. Monster Hunter Generations added the “Hunter Arts” mechanic, which allows a hunter to specialise in a particular style of combat. For example, you could choose to be an acrobatic fighter that specialised in mounting monsters, a striker that uses a range of hard-hitting special attacks or an escape artist that can wiggle their way out of any situation.
While Monster Hunter Generations lacks narrative, what it doesn’t lack is monsters. Monster Hunter Generations boast the most impressive variety of quest hubs, hunting areas and monsters of the 3DS Monster hunter titles so far – there are a whopping 93 monsters to hunt, with some making an appearance from the older Monster Hunter titles and the spin-off titles as well. For me, however, the lack of a narrative in Monster hunter Generations completely sucked all my desire to explore the world and hunt the monsters right out of the game.
Overall, Monster Generations feels like a completely separate Monster Hunter experience to the games I’ve already mentioned. Looking at the bigger picture, it’s clear that Monster Hunter Generations is intended to be a nostalgia-trip for veteran fans of the series, as most of the featured monsters, locations and characters are taken directly from previous Monster Hunter games. I expect the game was intended as a fun mash-up, or reboot, rather than a new entry to the series’ lore.
On the one hand, you could argue that Monster Hunter Generations has the one key ingredient that makes Monster Hunter fun, and it has it in abundance – truly excellent combat. For some people, this might be their favourite member of the handheld family. For me though, the loss of a good story is too great a sacrifice to make for the ability to do more fancy footwork in combat. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend Monster Hunter Generations to someone who wasn’t already an established fan of the series.
Videogames Make Me Happy concludes…
There they are. Three great games on 3DS, one amazing franchise. They’re fun, action-packed and unapologetically Japanese in their style.
Of the three unique titles I have enthused about here, truly, none of them are “the best.” It sounds cliched, but with such a variety of styles and interpretations within the Monster Hunter titles on 3DS, it’s up to the player to choose which aspects of the games are important to them and which aren’t. For example, if you want nothing more or less than fast-paced action, then Monster Hunter Generations might be the way to go. If you want a more traditional narrative experience, then I would recommend Monster Hunter Ultimate 4. And if you want to go straight for the classic all-rounder, then Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate might suit you the best.
I have my own opinions about which entries are my favourites and which entries missed the mark, but I still admire the fact that the developers weren’t afraid to mix it up and try different formulas for the gameplay and storytelling. No one Monster Hunter game is exactly the same as another. There’s something here for everyone.
I have so much love for this franchise. Writing this series review only makes me more excited to finally sink my teeth into Monster Hunter World, which has been sat on my desktop, patiently awaiting my attention. So far, it seems that the release of Monster Hunter World on PC, Xbox One and PS4 was the best thing Capcom could have done for the series. Since the age of the 3DS has come to an end, I hope Capcom will continue to focus more on giving Monster Hunter more cross-platform functionality, which will help these games reach the next generation of potential fans and keep the passion for the series alive.