Mon­ster Hunter 4 Ul­ti­mate


EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Nin­tendo De­vel­oper Cap­com For­mat 3DS Re­lease Out now (JP), Fe­bru­ary 13 (EU/NA)

Mon­ster Hunter has al­ways been a de­cid­edly Ja­panese take on the videogame power fan­tasy. It’s a se­ries that gives you the abil­ity to fell gi­ant beasts, yes, but you’ll need a strong work ethic be­fore you can con­quer th­ese forces of supernature. You’ll need to spend time min­ing ores and crys­tals, catch­ing bugs and fish, pluck­ing mush­rooms and herbs, and carv­ing up slain crea­tures for the ma­te­ri­als to craft gear good enough to com­pete against the largest wyverns in the field. It’s an ap­proach that hasn’t al­ways sat well with west­ern au­di­ences ac­cus­tomed to more im­me­di­ate grat­i­fi­ca­tion, so per­haps Mon­ster Hunter 4 Ul­ti­mate’s finest achieve­ment is that it stream­lines the process with­out com­pro­mis­ing its for­mi­da­ble core.

Train­ing quests now of­fer an in­tro­duc­tion to each of the 14 weapon types, teach­ing you the ba­sics while al­low­ing you to dis­cover their nu­ances in battle with a Great Jaggi, the least of the beasts. And by cast­ing you as a mem­ber of a trav­el­ling car­a­van, you’re no longer tied to a sin­gle hub, in­stead mov­ing be­tween a se­ries of colour­ful vil­lages puls­ing with life and char­ac­ter. There’s even an early chance to go head to head with Ul­ti­mate’s sig­na­ture beast, the fe­ro­cious Gore Ma­gala.

Like­wise, in­stead of the best of MH4’ s new enemies be­ing held back, they’re in­tro­duced in Ul­ti­mate’s early stages. The Kecha Wacha is a fanged lemur that gobs mu­cosal pro­jec­tiles, the Ner­scylla is an arachno­phobe’s worst night­mare, and the coil­ing, beaked Na­jar­ala is a snake that vi­o­lently sheds its tail plates, shat­ter­ing them with a pierc­ing shriek to dam­age nearby hun­ters. Per­haps the pick of the menagerie is the ex­tra­or­di­nary Zamtrios, a shark with legs ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing a tem­po­rary coat­ing of sharp ice ar­mour or bloat­ing it­self to an enor­mous size – one minute you’re joust­ing with the jagged blade on its nose, the next you’re sprint­ing to avoid be­ing squashed by a mon­strous space hop­per. Mon­ster Hunter’s strong comedic un­der­cur­rent is in­tact, then, and ter­rific lo­cal­i­sa­tion plays up the silli­ness: this isn’t a dia­logue-heavy game by any stretch, but there’s wit and per­son­al­ity in your in­ter­ac­tions with NPCs, and a sur­feit of puns at which to grin and groan.

Pre­vi­ous games have cast you as a trap­per and a mata­dor, but here you more fre­quently adopt the roles of moun­taineer and cow­boy, clam­ber­ing up walls ei­ther to sim­ply reach higher ground or to leap off them onto the back of your prey. Coax­ing enemies into po­si­tion can be tricky, but you don’t have to nail the land­ing: so long as a jump­ing attack con­nects with an en­emy’s torso at the right time, you’ll watch a canned an­i­ma­tion play out, squeez­ing the right trig­ger to cling on as the mon­ster thrashes and bucks like an en­raged steer. Main­tain your grip for long enough and you can mash the attack but­tons to de­liver sub­stan­tial dam­age with­out fear of im­me­di­ate reprisal, a fit­ting re­ward for pulling off such a high-risk ma­noeu­vre.

Then again, there’s a way to make that process more straight­for­ward. De­bate rages over the In­sect Glaive: is it the best thing to hap­pen to Mon­ster Hunter in years, or a dif­fi­culty mod­i­fier, easy mode in weapon form? This long staff en­ables you to vault from flat ground, in the­ory of­fer­ing eas­ier ac­cess to the rodeo show. In prac­tice, it can be awk­ward to use on fast-mov­ing foes, though once you’ve learned to read their tells, mount­ing them isn’t par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing. And with the abil­ity to buff your­self by send­ing in the glaive’s in­sec­toid ally to har­vest em­pow­er­ing essences from enemies, you’ll find your­self fin­ish­ing mis­sions be­fore the quest timer has even reached the three o’clock po­si­tion, so it’s lit­tle won­der most on­line hun­ters are equipped with one. The Charge Blade, by con­trast, is a more ad­vanced op­tion that favours ag­gres­sive play: suc­cess­ful jabs with the sword form fill phials that are used to coat the edges of its ac­com­pa­ny­ing shield, adding ex­tra force when you choose to un­leash its axe form. It makes the regular sword and shield a less en­gag­ing op­tion, though the trade-off is that it re­quires a lit­tle more skill to wield. If Ul­ti­mate is still a bet­ter game with four hun­ters work­ing in har­mony, the cam­paign works harder to recre­ate the col­lab­o­ra­tive ex­pe­ri­ence of mul­ti­player. Pal­i­coes are fe­line al­lies that can be scouted dur­ing quests, and two will ac­com­pany you there­after, each hav­ing a dif­fer­ent role – some are heal­ers, oth­ers at­tack­ers, and oth­ers still boost your loot haul. Your affin­ity with them will grow the more you use them, and they’ll be­come use­ful as­sis­tants. Be­tween hunts, they can be pressed into fur­ther ser­vice along with any re­serves you’ve re­cruited, too. A fish­ing minigame sees them reel­ing in Ple­sio­ths and bits of lob­ster ar­mour, while they can earn their own gear via sim­ple quests, pre­sented as a play­ful pup­pet show. Both are faster, more en­ter­tain­ing meth­ods for gath­er­ing re­sources.

Cap­com has changed about as much as it dared for a se­ries as es­tab­lished as this one, mak­ing Ul­ti­mate as sub­stan­tial an up­date as you could rea­son­ably ex­pect. There are still mo­ments of frus­tra­tion – tim­ing er­rors and po­si­tional mis­judg­ments; in­ci­dents where an un­seen Konchu bowls you over, re­mov­ing your last sliver of health just as you’re quaffing a restora­tive; or mo­ments when the cam­era gives you a close-up of a lo-res flesh tex­ture as you battle a colos­sal beast in a con­fined space. And yet that’s all forgotten in the ela­tion of de­liv­er­ing a fin­ish­ing blow af­ter a half-hour skir­mish, not least when it in­volves sprint­ing off the edge of a ridge and jab­bing a lance – fash­ioned to re­sem­ble a shark – deep into the ab­domen of a hov­er­ing arthro­pod. Here, spec­ta­cle is not sim­ply pre­sented, but earned. As with many of its peers, Ul­ti­mate ex­pects you to grind, but few games re­ward your in­vest­ment in such ex­hil­a­rat­ing fash­ion.

Pre­vi­ous games have cast you as a trap­per and a mata­dor, but here you adopt the roles of moun­taineer and cow­boy

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.