Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is the latest installment in Capcom’s critically ambivalent series. As the title implies, hunting monsters is the core concept of this title.
The basic premise of the game is gathering resources by hunting monsters, then building new equipment with said resources to hunt even bigger monsters. Based on this simplicity, addiction is the name of the game when it comes to the Monster Hunter franchise, and this newest addition to the series is no different.
When compared to previous versions, the most noticeable difference is the inclusion of a storyline to follow. As a result of an unknown gaseous disease, already dangerous monsters become even more frenzied and dangerous. Although the game is fairly basic, there are a plethora of gorgeous CGI cut-scenes and lengthy dialogues to hold one’s interest.
The game requires players to create their own characters, then experience a series of tutorial missions. Once players adjust to the basics of the game, things really take off. Like previous titles, players roam around a small town that acts as a hub where they can choose a quest and purchase and upgrade items. Unlike other games in the series, there are a number of differently themed towns players will move through as the story progresses.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate adds two new types of weapons for all sorts of monster hunting tactics, resulting in a whopping 14 different weapon classes. Combat is simple, with each of the 14 weapons having simple combos that are pulled off with two attack buttons. Each weapon also features unique capabilities, such as the ability to transform or build a meter to strengthen attacks by landing blows to enemies. The combat system is intentionally bare-bones because this is not an action game in the traditional sense. In fact, players will spend a significant amount of time running away from and dodging attacks from the dozens of gigantic monsters that can be encountered. And speed is key. Players don’t have much time to spare lining up attacks before being blown away by a tail whip.
The insect glaive and the charge blade join an already wide ranging arsenal, and they are awesome. The charge blade is a small sword that can transform into a gigantic axe. Moves can be charged before execution for extra damage, and the insect glaive is a double-ended rod that can summon an insect to aid the hunt. It can also be used to launch the player for an airborne attack.
Speaking of which, verticality is heavily emphasized in this title. Jumping off edges and landing attacks can lead to mounting, a mini-game reminiscent of hanging on to the colossi in Shadow of the Colossus. It’s a welcome new addition that helps the simple combat system feel more like a pool than a puddle.
Online playability is the most welcome feature in the game. While online co-op has been present in some form in earlier versions, this is the first official incorporation of it in a handheld Monster Hunter game. Online mode also offers countless quests that are separate from the solo missions. There’s just nothing more satisfying than teaming up with three other hunters and wailing on a belly of a giant shark lizard. Just be careful not to trip other hunters with your attacks. People will not be pleased.
Despite what the text above may imply, the game is not perfect. Graphics-wise, it’s a bit disappointing. Capcom has embellished the world with garish creatures and environments, but the whole thing looks blurry and washed out on the 3DS’s 240p screen. It’s easy to see that there was a ton of care put into the design of each and every weapon, armor, and monster, but the hardware limitation drags it down considerably.
On the topic of hardware limitation, the controls in the game are by far the game’s biggest crutch. Unless you purchase a 3DS control pad pro or the New 3DS, camera control will be designated to the D-pad and the touch screen. In a fast-paced game like this, being able to maneuver your character is crucial, and unless you cough up some extra dough for the aforementioned products, you will undoubtedly be at a disadvantage. This game truly would have shined brighter on a console.
All in all, the game offers a stellar package that can last hundreds of hours of monster hunting entertainment. Poor controls may be a bother, but it is something that can be mended. It will only take a short amount of time to sink its teeth in you, and once it has, get ready to hunt monsters. For the fourth time. Ultimately.
Release Date: February 13th, 2015
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS/2DS
PROS: Addictive gameplay, functioning online component, tons of content, and it has a story this time
CONS: Blurry graphics, and controls that are not intuitive.