Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate 3DS - Review

NB: Yes, it's late, I know, but a game like Monster Hunter takes a while to actually try out all the features and everything else that the game has to offer. That, and me being lazy (lol), is why this review was so delayed. As always, this review contains spoilers.

I'll be honest, Monster Hunter is a game I would never have gotten into had it not been for me buying a Nintendo 3DS XL. The only reason I got into the series in the first place was because I wanted a plain black 3DS XL, and the only way to get one in Australia was to buy it in the bundle, which came with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. As soon as I had my first taste of the series back in March 2013, I fell in love. Of course, 3U wasn't perfect, but two years later, out comes the release of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, which took the best features of 3 Ultimate, and Freedom Unite (arguably the two best games in the series so far), with new mechanics to make 4 Ultimate the best game in the series to date.

If you've ever wanted to get into the Monster Hunter series, or are simply just looking for a new game to play, 4U is definitely the place to start. It's certainly the most newbie friendly title to date, and offers a large tutorial to help newbies get up to speed with the MH mechanics. Though the game may be challenging at times, it just makes it all the more rewarding when you finally complete that quest you've spent hours, possibly even days, trying to complete. I remembering playing 3U and spending a good amount of 3 days trying to defeat Quropeco, and finally screaming when I managed to take him down. Definitely a feeling I haven't felt whilst playing a video game for a long while.

Monster Hunter is a game that really has no end point. It's a game that ends when you want it to end, which is probably why I love it so much. I've always loved games where I can literally play for hours on end, and still have ample things to do, even if I've just spent the past month excessively playing it, and Monster Hunter is exactly that. I've only got about 250 hours of gameplay on my file right now, and I've only just scratched the surface!

The general gist of the game is pretty simple - fight monsters, use the materials gathered from those monsters to make better armors and weapons, and repeat, again, and again, and again. Of course, the fights are challenging, and require a fair amount of strategic thinking to complete. You're given a 3 cart (failure) grace period, allowing you to "die" on the quest two times, but will be withdrawn from the quest on the third death, as the guild deems you not worthy of being able to complete it safely. If you fail the quest multiple times, it usually means you need to take a look at your gameplay technique, and try a different strategy, or perhaps use a different weapon, or armor set. 

Each monster is fought on a quest, where you're given 50 minutes to complete the quest (though in some cases you only receive 30). Whilst this may seem like an incredibly long time to complete a quest, they can usually be completed in 10 minutes, providing the player fight efficiently. It may seem hard taking down the monsters at first, but after you get into the swing of things they'll start dropping like flies. Even though Monster Hunter isn't really a game known for it's good storylines, 4 Ultimate definitely took it a step further to try make the storyline a lot more interesting than it's ever been. I can safely say that it actually feels like there's a purpose to fighting monsters in this game, other than just fighting them for the sake of it.

New features added into the fourth generation of the series include mounting, and the wonderful palicoes. Mounting is an effective way to deal damage to monster, simply attack the monster with a "jump attack" - which can be achieved by hitting the monster when you jump off a ledge - and after enough "mount damage" has been accumulated, you will topple the monster and be able to ride it. Whilst riding the monster, you can attack it with your hunters dagger, and if done correctly, you will trip the monster over, leaving it wailing on the ground, making it vulnerable to a number of attacks. This is a good way to damage a monster without worrying about it harming you, though mounting shouldn't be relied on to complete hunts, as each mount is harder to accomplish.

Palicoes are essentially companion cats, which you can bring along when you go on a hunt. You can have up to 50 palicoes at any given time, but can only ever bring two with you on a quest. Palicoes are very helpful on quests, as they can heal you, cure you from poison, knock you out of paralysis/sleep, set up traps for the monster to step in, and many other options to try make your hunt that much easier. You can also use scrap materials obtained from a small hunting mini games - which is essentially a variation of rock-paper-scissors - and can be used to forge better armor and weapons for your palicoes, making them more effective in battle. Though these accessories are meant to make the hunts easier, there are certainly a lot of cute and adorable armors out there, which sometimes makes settling on one set difficult.

Part of what gives the game so much replay value is it's large assortment of content. Within the games, there are 14 weapon types, divided into two classes; gunner, and blademaster. Gunner hunters work with low defence, but good mobility, and the perk of fighting from a distance, where as blademaster's deal with high defence, but attack at close range, increasing the likelihood of being hit. To counteract this, some blademaster weapons have a more defensive style of gameplay, with a blocking capability, whilst others rely solely on the players ability to evade attacks. I personally only use three weapons as of right now (Switch Axe, Charge Blade, and Light Bow Gun), but definitely plan on using most, if not all other weapons sometime in the near future.

The good thing about Monster Hunter is that you're not actually stuck with the weapon class you initially chose. Bored of using the Hammer? No problem! Simply pick another weapon to master. With no weapon levelling system - as is common with most RPG style games - the mastering of weaponry is solely up to the players ability to conquer that weapon type. Although switching to a different weapon may seem like a minor change, the difference is actually pretty major. One may go from using the fast, agile Insect Glaive, to the slow, but powerful Great Sword, making the whole style of play feel completely different.

Even though you may have fought Seltas 20 times using one weapon, the simple change to another weapon can make the same Monster fight feel like a completely different fight. Mastering each weapon is vital in unlocking its full potential, making sure hunters are aware of when to go all out, and when to back off and play defensively. There are also a wide number of armor skills designed to increased the hunters efficiency, though some may hinder the player and work to the Monsters advantage instead.

Not only that, but Capcom have been releasing free monthly DLC packs. These packs offer a number of quests which can be used to gather materials for new weapons and armor from the DLC. The quests to get the special weapons and armor are usually harder than regular quests with the target monster receiving buffs, making for a great challenge. Additionally, some of these DLC weapons and armor sets are collabs with other loved Nintendo franchises, such as Zelda, Mario, Metroid and even Animal Crossing. Admittedly, it definitely is fan service, but each piece of weaponry or armor manages to hold up on it's own, and is actually pretty good.

The simple gameplay of hunting a monster, gathering it's parts, using those parts to make better weapons and armor, and then wash, rinse, repeat, can get a little tedious at times, but it all adds to the strangely addictive gameplay. No, I do not want to fight Rathalos again, only to watch him fly around for the entirety of the fight and be impossible to hit, but for some reason all you want to do is charge into the next fight, no matter how repetitive it may feel. Plus, the reintroduction of subquests can make these long, drawn out fights a lot shorter than they need to be if you only need a couple of materials.

But with all that taken into consideration, it's definately the online multiplayer which makes the game shine so bright, and addictive. Whilst it may take you a good 30 minutes to hunt a certain monster solo, simply going online to hunt with others can make that fight take a quick 5 minutes, making it a lot easier to grind for materials for a certain weapon or armor. It's also a great way to watch other players, and learn how they fight each monster, which can ultimately end up helping you, too. There's something about hunting with other players online that essentially makes this game feel so more complete than it already is.

Of course, Monster Hunter is definitely a lot different than any other games I've played, and certainly isn't for everyone, but I strongly recommend downloading the demo from the eShop and giving it a try for yourself. Who knows, maybe you'll be like me and end up loving a game you thought you had no interest in, and end up with literally thousands of hours of gameplay.


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