New Monsters in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate [Monsters]

New Monsters in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

Monster Hunter 4 UltimateMonster Hunter is huge in Japan, but is still struggling to battle its way into the west Photograph: public domain

In Japan, they play Monster Hunter everywhere. You’ll see groups of people in parks and cafes, or on packed commuter trains, handheld consoles clutched in their fists, battling creatures together.

This strange game series, a combination of role-playing adventure and hunting simulation has sold over 30m copies since the first title arrived on PlayStation 2 in 2004. Five years ago, it single-handedly saved Sony’s PSP console, with 2010’s Monster Hunter Portable 3rd shifting 5m copies. But somehow, it is yet to really crack the western market. The game can seem obtuse with its intricate combat systems and upgrade mechanics, and its multiplayer mode is based around fun and co-operation rather than the deathmatch-style competition we’re used to in the West.

Monster Hunter 4 UltimateBut Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate – the latest title in the series, released on 3DS in February – is a game so beautifully planned and executed in every aspect that it will take your breath away multiple times in every sitting. It is a whole world jammed into a game cartridge the size of a stamp.

The core of the experience is hunting enormous monsters. Around this, there are all manner of extraneous activities that feed into and out of your hunting career, but this is basically a game built around boss fights. Perhaps the appeal is somewhat subconscious; we are, after all, a species of hunter-gatherers that nowadays do very little of either.

Upon either killing or capturing one of the game’s 51 large monsters (there are also smaller species), you carve them up and use the body parts obtained to make better armour and weapons. Your hunter begins in rather sad-looking basic togs, with one of each weapon type, but soon those early hunts lead to beautifully-designed (and much more effective) gear. Taking down a Great Jaggi, and then seeing the claws and tough skin reworked into a snazzy chestpiece, is a simple thrill that – as the monsters get tougher and the stuff you can make from them gets better – becomes deeply rewarding in its own right.

This reward loop is at the centre of everything in Monster Hunter 4U, the diabolical twist being that what you get from a monster is randomised every time. This is at once a minor source of frustration and the reason the system manages to pull you in so effectively. You kill, you hope for a specific item, you get another, you try again. This skinner box-like compulsion mechanic is often characterised as “grinding” – but this is a woefully off-base analysis.

Grinding is an experience familiar to any gamer, and refers to repeating the same actions in the same way multiple times in order to acquire experience points, gold, or loot. In a role-playing game (RPG), for example, if you’re not at a high-enough level to kill a boss you’ll often circle around and kill the same enemies over and over in order to level up. Grinding is, generally speaking, a bad mechanic, or at the least a boring one.


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  • Media: Video Game
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