Returning for a second outing on the Nintendo 3DS, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is as addictive as its predecessor. With new weapons, refined gameplay and fresh areas to explore on expeditions, fans will revel in the new features while newcomers won’t feel as intimidated.
As a hugely successful franchise for Capcom in Japan, and more recently in North America and Europe, the Monster Hunter series has sold an incredible 28 million copies worldwide. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on 3DS or Wii U and Monster Hunter Tri for the Wii carved out new players in the west, while the hunger for the next instalment on 3DS kept growing. The franchise has always been notoriously tough to broach, often daunting players by its large difficulty scale and its less than supportive approach for those new to the game. It’s this semblance of discouragement that’s personally left me out in the cold, as it may have been for others. But with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, it’s never been easier for beginners to gear up and start a fantasy-led RPG action adventure.
The Monster Hunter series has never been known for its vast storyline, rather scaling back and using a simple structure to focus primarily on gameplay. However, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate provides a much more linear tale, where returning players and newcomers will take on story quests in order to progress to a new area. Following the suave Caravaneer, players will travel with a band of unique individuals – including a merchant, cook, smithy and quest supplier – as the resident hunter, where your aim is to discover new lands and ancient relics. Opening cutscenes are succinct and wonderfully tailored to fans, setting the scene exquisitely with their beautiful panoramic vistas.
Yet where Capcom has failed in the past at getting perfect equilibrium for beginners, the developer has thrived in 4 Ultimate. Players will face off with a large monster on a ship to get to grips with the basics and, later, are guided by the Caravaneer and his friends through gathering, cooking and simple hunting quests. You’ll get plenty of Zenny – the series’ currency – at the start of your game, along with a selection of healing items and weapons. Plus, players can access tier one quests at any time, where you can take on a Great Jaggia in a training area and sample the flavour and intricacies of the game’s various weapons. As such, tutorial sections never feel forced on returning players but are a fantastic choice for newcomers. It’s an open-armed welcome with small nudges from Capcom, instead of the regular, and terribly awkward, push and shove trick.
While the graphics for 4 Ultimate are sub-par with unsightly textures, and your avatar will simply graze through buildings, monster carcases and rolling wagons with a ghostly nod and wink, on a technical level the latest 3DS instalment has improved vastly. Actions including gathering, scaling vertical walls – and going sideways, too – sheathing your weapon and even dodging are much more fluid. It gives the game an improved sense of realism in comparison to its static, clumsy actions in past games.
Players can even jump off higher surfaces and mount monsters when the perfect opportunity arises in one all-encompassing action. And if your character has long and flowing, golden locks, you might just feel similar to Legolas in The Lord of the Rings, mimicking impossibly perfect death-defying stunts. Though you’ll do it without the nonsensical snow skimming and gravity-evading step-ups to kill your calves.
If you haven’t found yourself upgrading to a New Nintendo 3DS just yet, you’ll be pleased to hear the Circle Pad Pro can be used once again for camera angle precision. The L-Targeting function for larger monsters also returns, which is usually spot on, though players may find it tricky to centre the camera when in close range to monsters. Under a belly, a leg, or rolling beneath a tail can confuse the camera, sending a little more damage to your character and kicking up frustration in the process. It’s never unusable, though, with monster battles just as intense, heart-thumping and addictive as ever.
Loading screens – particularly after quest completion – are a slight pain on older models, however. Having your character aimlessly standing around and not being able to do anything for the final 10 seconds or so is relatively minor, but it’s strangely wasteful when a regular loading screen would suffice.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate introduces a steady amount of new features to satiate returning players, including two new weapons; the charge blade and insect glaive, which are equally fun to use. As usual, newcomers and fans can pick either the Blademaster or Gunner class with up to 14 weapons on offer and are able to experiment with all in order to choose one that suits. In solo mode, players will come across both Guild Quests and Expeditions. These two new features are, arguably, two of the best features in the game.
While Expeditions will keep you on your toes, exploring new areas with a constantly changing map and new monsters, Guild Quests can be registered at the Gathering Hall and played in either solo or multiplayer mode with certain weapon or other conditions. Both features provide a great change of pace for the game’s fetch quest quota, with expeditions giving players the opportunity to strategise their item pack and gear efficiently.
For the first time on the 3DS, players can hunt monsters with their friends in online multiplayer. Players won’t be able to access higher tier quests until they reach it in solo mode, however you can freely search for Gathering Halls of any ability once unlocked, enabling those new to the game to hunt down monsters they’ve personally encountered with other players online. It’s this addition that lengthens the game’s longevity, keeps it fresh, and feeds the gnawing hunger more so than buffs at the in-game canteen.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is a huge and exceedingly enjoyable game. And while I’ve merely scratched the surface with 20 hours of gameplay, it’s one that can be dipped in and out of once you know and perfect the basics. It’s graphical prowess leaves little to be desired, but it’s the gameplay that reels you in; hook, line and sinker. I suppose the game’s all ’bout the chase, ’bout the chase, with no trouble. Well, maybe just a bit.