Monster Hunter is a phenomenal series in my opinion. It pits a lowly hunter against huge dinosaur and dragon type monsters in as classic gaming experience as you can find anywhere at the moment. The series has been going since 2004 when the first Monster Hunter game out on the Playstation 2. Since then there have been multiple spin offs and entries in the series, most of them being PSP exclusive after the first one until Monster Hunter Tri came out on the Nintendo Wii. After that Capcom announced that the series would exclusively appear in the Nintendo 3DS.
The game has changed very little since the very first title eight years ago, which is one of the most charming things about the series. The graphics and the gameplay have remained mostly unaltered to this day, and it’s the first game I intend to talk about today. To explain why It made me fall in love with the franchise that seems to be massive in Japan but hardly gets mention in the western market.
The game, like every other game, starts you off as a brand new hunter who finds them self in a small rural town. You’re almost naked and nothing to defend yourself except a small metal blade. There isn’t much in the town, but the first things players need to do is visit the Hunter’s guild in the village and start questing. The early game is pretty simple, the first few missions act as a tutorial to the game, requiring you to cook food, collect resources and kill some non aggressive monsters.
The purpose of these is to teach you the basics of using your weapon, in gathering resources, the advantages of eating and generally the importance of your items. Levels are packed with plants, insects, ore, fish and other things that can all be collected and are all useful in some way. While many are useless on their own, when combined with other items they can become useful potions, bomb materials or traps that all become value tools in hunting as you go on.
The village is your main hub and contains everything you need to build yourself up as a hunter. The player’s house contains a chest that can hold all of the items and resources you don’t want to carry around with them. There are stores for buying potions and tools such as fishing rods, bug catching nets and pickaxes when you don’t have the ingredients yourself or if you have the cash to spend on them.
One of the most important places you will use in the game is the blacksmith. In Monster Hunter your stats are completely dictated by your gear. You have no level or stats on your own, your endurance and attacking power are completely dependent on the armour you have equipped, the weapon you are holding and whatever effects bestowed upon you by potions you drink.
In the early stages, you mainly perform collection quests, which require you to find a certain number of resources, or learn how to make them, and then deliver them back to the chest at the campsite area of the level. Soon enough though, you get kill quests. They start off relatively easy, killing Velociprey, which are like light blue raptors. They’re quick and nimble but fairly easy to kill at the same time.
When killing these things, you can carve their bodies and retrieve a number of items, some rarer than others, such as hides, claws, teeth etc. It’s now that players can take the opportunities to take these resources to the blacksmith in town and craft new pieces of armour and weaponry from the monsters you slay in the field.
And the game goes on like this, pitting you against steadily more difficult monsters until you find yourself fighting the real prizes of the series, the wyverns. Each monster have weapon sets and armour sets that the player can make if they spent enough time killing certain monsters. Part of the fun is grinding against certain monster over and over in order to get enough components from them to make an armour set or weapon that not only has their attributes, but also has an original design based on the monster itself.
I think that this is one of the best things the game does, it puts the player in the shoes of their hunter. You suffer every loss and hardship your hunter does and you really grow attached to them as the game goes on.
Capcom really humanised the characters in the game. All of the animations in the game are so emotive, given that many of them are almost cartoonish in this regard, but they still convey an appropriate feeling. When you’re being changed by a sufficiently large monster your character’s normal run animation will be replaced by a much more exaggerated one, with them pumping their arms desperately to get away. And instead of the rolling dodge, the player will throw themselves to the floor with their hands on their heads before quickly looking around and getting back up.
There is so much character in the little avatars that you, as a player, feel what they do, when your hunter looks scared, you feel scared. On top of this, there is no ability to pause in this game, making fights even more intense and dramatic. I’ll give you an example of how this game makes you really feel the weight of the tasks before them and really gives the player a reason to feel like their character does.
Early in the game, players are sent out on a mission to kill a larger Velocidrone, which is a Velociprey with a lot more hit points. So you’re out searching for it when the series flagship monster flies overhead and lands in their field with you. The first time you see it, you’re pretty confident in yourself, like any brash young hunter would be. You’ve not come up against anything you couldn’t kill yet. So you attack it.
Except, you find out very quickly that your weapon won’t even penetrate the monster’s hide, simply bouncing off it when you attack. You’ll also realise that the Rathalos can all but kill you in one hit if it has a mind to. From that moment on, you fear the Rathalos, if you see one during your travels, you run. You get as far away from the thing as you possibly can and you don’t look back.
As you play, you steadily get better gear and weapons and your skill at the game increases. And all too soon, the time comes when you actually have to slay the Rathalos, your first thought is, ‘I’m not ready.’ And to be honest. The game does throw the Rathalos at you at a rather earlier stage in the game, and beating it is a real struggle that requires a ton of skill, strategy and a bit of luck. But when you kill one of those things the first time, it’s a great feeling. It rates up there for one my greatest experiences in gaming.
Monster Hunter provides a lot of variety to player too in how they play, there are a number of weapon types to chose from and as you create weapons at the blacksmith, when you upgrade them, you find that most of them take a split path and you must decide where to take this particular blade you’ve been using.
The standard weapon in the game is the sword and shield, people who use this weapon type in hiher level online play are often deemed noobs as they are seeing as being the weapon that requires the least skill to master. However, I feel that the sword and shield are the most reliable weapon types in the game and do their job well. It is the most balanced weapon with a blocking ability and swift but still powerful attacks. Sword and shields can be easily augmented with different elemental abilities and status effect abilities, meaning that if you build up a collection, you could always take in a type that would be idea for the monster you are hunting.
The most popular weapon type in my experience are the great swords, large and heavy swords that pack a lot of power but take a long time to swing. These are harder weapons to use as it requires the player to learn the attack patterns of monsters in order to know when they best attacking opportunity is. Great swords themselves can be used to block. Great Sword are a danger to everything that get in their way and players who aren’t used to multiplayer may find themselves sending team mates flying.
Like the Great Sword, there are Hammers that are about doing massive damage. Hammers are heavy weapons but don’t rely on sharpness to penetrate the thick hides of monster. Hammers can stun enemies opening up opportunities to get even more attacks on.
A unique weapon type available is the lances, a weapon I personally never really got a grip for. They come with huge, highly defensive shields, but seems to be a hit and run type weapon, used for charging from a distance for massive damage before backing away again.
The last melee range weapon was the duel swords. These lightning quick blades did minor damage but allowed players to perform long combos that would stack up the damage quickly. This was all at the expense of taking away the block function from the player. Players using the duel swords would need to get very good at using the dodge roll and getting out of the way of attacks. Like sword and shield the duel swords were easily augmented with elemental abilities.
There was also a ranged weapon in the game that came in the form of the bowguns, these are far more complicated than any other weapon, requiring their own gunner armour as well as a separate bag with an ammo pouch to stock with many types of ammo. The guns are built in pieces and have different reload speeds, spread and range depending on which parts are used. While it is doable to play through the game single player as a gunner, it is more difficult in my opinion and gunners are mainly a use as support in multiplayer.
The original Monster Hunter on the ps2 did have online, and half of the game required online access to actually be played. Many of the biggest and strongest monsters such as the dragons were only able to be fought online, but thanks to the really unfriendly online support that Playstation had at the time, it was something I never managed to experience until monster hunter tri on the Nintendo Wii. The very best gear and weapons were rewarded to the groups of hunters that managed to kill the biggest bosses in the game. Not an easy task.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to appreciate Monster Hunter in a completely different way. How it has stuck to its ways and decided not to make massive upgrades to the graphics when developers all around them focus on just that. They’ve stayed true to the original game after over ten games and just keep making their fans happy.
Monster Hunter is a game I think everyone should play at some point in their lives, the genuine feelings of fear, panic and elation that the game manages convey to players who really let themselves get sucked unto it makes it a fantastic experience even to this day. It’s a classic action rpg that is very tongue in cheek at times, but despite this, it continues to be one of the biggest gaming franchises in Japan, and I wish the west would take it more seriously.
There are a ton of Monster Hunter games available for the PSP second hand I imagine. The newest one available in the west is Monster Hunter Tri for the Nintendo Wii, my only advice is though, if you do want to pick that one up, getting a classic controller for it is a must, because the game has, and always has had, a pretty barmy control scheme.
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