The Monster Hunter series has been a runaway hit in Japan for several years, and now it has started to gain a large following in North America and Europe. The latest entry, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, has finally made its way to Nintendo 3DS owners outside of Japan. So has it been worth the wait?
For those unfamiliar with the series, the objective of Monster Hunter is to take on various quests, most of which involve hunting monsters. These “monsters” could easily be mistaken for dragons or dinosaurs. So yes, there are creatures similar to velociraptors and the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex. And that’s just the beginning.
Most quests involve hunting or trapping a monster. When a monster is killed, a hunting knife can be used to carve off meat, hides, or other resources to aid in future quests. Players can cook the meat to replenish stamina. After the quest is complete, players can give hides, bones, or other items to the smithy so he can incorporate them into armor or weapons. The game has no shortage of weapons, either.
A large assortment of weapons and armor can be bought, forged, and upgraded. There are classic weapons like the Great Sword and Crossbow, along with a few new ones. The Insect Glaive, for example, is a double-edged rod which can be used to attack and to pole-vault. It can also summon a large insect which can help attack monsters. Some weapons are slow and powerful, while others are faster but weaker. As such, there’s a suitable weapon for any gamer’s play style. Plus, having such a large variety adds to the replay value of the game.
In this newest iteration of Monster Hunter, the player can climb walls, which can be very useful for evading attacks or getting the high-ground for jump attacks. This feature also makes the world feel more open and expansive. There are some creatures that can also scale walls, however, so players should be wary of being knocked off a cliff.
As quests are completed, new, more difficult quests become available. Because of this, players will want to upgrade their weapons and armor as they progress through the game to be able to keep up with stronger monsters. Otherwise, some of the later enemies will be impossible to defeat.
The game requires more than just brute force, however. Some of monsters will use elemental attacks (fire, ice, etc.), so strategy plays an important role. Using appropriate armor and weapons in these situations is the key to success. Some players may be turned off by the difficulty, but those who manage to take down these scaly titans will find it tremendously rewarding.
The game sounds tough (and it is), but players won’t be alone. They will be joined by a warrior cat called a Palico who can aid in attacking monsters and replenishing health. Weapons and armor can be fashioned for the Palicoes just like they are for the player. Plus, Palicoes can level up with experience, so taking them on quests will be beneficial to both the player and the Palico.
Control-wise, the game works very well. With the standard Nintendo 3DS, the circle pad controls movement while the D-pad controls the camera. Another camera control option for owners of the original 3DS is the Circle Pad Pro. For those with the New Nintendo 3DS XL, the C-stick can be used to rotate the camera. Tapping the L-button moves the camera behind the player typically. In some scenarios (mostly combat situations), the button enables a target lock onto a monster.
Graphically, the game looks great, especially in 3D. I have yet to experience any frame skipping or slowdown. Each of the environments are detailed and beautiful, and the monsters and other creatures look and move as if they were almost real. Some might wish the game was available on Wii U so it could be displayed in HD, but considering the specs of the 3DS, it looks amazing.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game is its size. The world in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate almost feels like it goes on forever. It has a large number of locations, each with a myriad of explorable areas. The multiple locales each have different environments, climates, and creatures, giving the game loads of replay value. I’ve used almost every spare moment playing this game, and it still feels like I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Speaking of replay value, the game features an incredible online system, letting players complete quests with friends both near and far or strangers anywhere in the world. Dozens of quests await those who wish to fight monsters as a team. These quests are an absolute blast to play, since each player can use a different weapon to team up on all kinds of monsters.
The level of detail and polish in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is impressive. For example, throughout the game, players will collect and earn a plethora of items, which can fill up the hunter’s pouch quickly. There is a large item box in the hunter’s house where hundreds of items can be stored, but sometimes a player might forget to the put those items away before starting a quest. Rather than having to cancel the quest and go back home to store items, there is an item box right next to the town’s exit where players can store their items and then pick them up when they return. Features like this are found all throughout the game, and they greatly help to streamline the questing process.
The game has few setbacks, and most of the ones mentioned are subjective. The game is not available on Wii U, so gamers who crave 1080p may be disappointed, but honestly, playing on a smaller screen doesn’t take anything away from the game. The game is also brutally difficult, but if players take the time to upgrade and apply strategy, the game can be completed by anyone. Most newcomers to the franchise won’t be turned off by the challenge, as the game gives enough instruction and moves slow enough to keep things fun.
The Verdict: 9.3 out of 10
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is an impressive game, no matter which way you slice it. There are enough quests to keep any hunter occupied for dozens of hours, if not hundreds. The online system adds the ever-important multiplayer aspect, giving players new ways to play, even if they don’t have friends who own the game. Almost everything can be customized and upgraded, including the Palicoes. Hats off to Capcom, who have created what is probably the best 3DS game of 2015 (so far).
This review is based on a review copy of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate which was purchased by the reviewer.