Exclusive to Nintendo 3DS
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate release date: February 13
I’ll have to admit, despite my love for Pokémon, Nintendo 3DS titles and dinosaurs alike, I’ve never actually played a Monster Hunter title in my life. As soon as I picked up Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and started playing, I realised that that had been an oversight.
That’s not to say I’ve not read or heard anything about the games, though. The Monster Hunter series has always been a solid one, setting milestones in weapons classes, quest structures and crafting systems, and they’re often referenced when discussing similar titles.
But I do know that the majority of the Monster Hunter titles have built on those structures and staples in a way that have made all the newer entries incremental updates rather than overhauls. Despite that, though, the series is and always has been a best-seller in Japan, especially as the Monster Hunter games have moved towards co-operative experiences.
What’s different about Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is that it’s the first Monster Hunter title made exclusively for 3DS. Because of that, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate definitely has certain qualities that set it apart from previous instalments.
For starters, there’s a much stronger focus on storyline. Other Monster Hunter titles have been criticised for their somewhat lacklustre stories, but even in the first 10 minutes you realise that Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate will be different.
You play as a customisable hunter who must travel between villages with a caravanning crew of nomad hunters to discover what’s causing a mysterious virus and stop those responsible.
Multiple base camps unlock as you progress through the story, creating a huge cast of NPCs to converse with and get Guild Quests from. The Guild Quests provide you with a variety of missions, with mini-quests included in the main quest for each.
Then there’s the Exploration Missions, which generate their own map and equipment each time they’re played.
I’ve not delved too deeply into the storyline yet, but there are plenty of NPCs to talk to, making it immediately feel more immersive.
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Even from the opening cutscenes, I found that Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is also one of the best-looking games on 3DS. There’s some clipping during cutscenes, which is off-putting at times, but the panoramas, detailing and characters are some of the most console-like we’ve seen on the 3DS.
It’s obviously a game that needs to be played in 3D, too. A lot of emphasis has been put on three-dimensional movement, allowing you to spin the camera around to discover the monsters attacking you from all directions. The landscape isn’t made up of flat terrain either, as Capcom has added layers of verticality to the maps. You can now climb more fluidly and in multiple directions, and the monsters can use the terrain to their advantage to surround you and become impervious to attack.
That’s actually one of the more irritating things about Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate – the fact that the monsters are surprisingly intelligent and nimble. I was only in one of the opening missions and had to take on a gaggle of small predators known as Jaggi. There were three of the things, and I took two out with several slashes of my axe, but the third fled into a small lake.
He moved so quickly that I ended up thrusting blinding, stabbing nothing but air, while he whipped around and took a chunk out of my health. Thankfully, he was only a small beastie, but I reckon Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate won’t be so kind later on in the storyline when I face the mightier beasts.
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But you can also use the terrain to your advantage. Lure the monsters to an elevated point and you can jump on top of them. You strike the monster in mid-air as you hurtle down towards them, and if you’re successful you’ll enter into a special mini-game not dissimilar to Buckaroo or the horse-breaking mini-games of Red Dead Redemption.
Hold the right bumper to steady your grip while the monster thrashes beneath you, then when he starts to tire repeatedly stab him with your knife by manically pressing the attack button (X or A). It’s just another level to the rather sophisticated combat on offer in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.
What I particularly like, coming to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate as a noob to the series, is that it’s very accessible for new players thanks to a plethora of tutorials. If you forget any of the crucial titbits of wisdom offered by NPCs, you can access them later through the Hunter’s Notes section of the start menu.
There’s also a seamless integrated online segment of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate to explore. Want to team up with other hunters online? All you need is a Wi-Fi connection.
We’ve not had a chance to jump in quite yet, but we’ll fill you in when we publish the full review next month.
We’re only an hour or so into Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and it has the makings of being the definitive Monster Hunter title. Capcom has obviously paid serious attention to the quibbles raised about previous games, and responded with increased monster variation and enhanced storylines.
These improvements, combined with seamless multiplayer, should make for a top-notch 3DS title.