TL;DR- Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is an exercise of the series’ most renowned elements, with a refined focus on smooth combat, sensible progression, and in-depth character management. This has resulted in an incomparable and definitive Monster Hunter experience. Even with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate being as accessible as ever, it has also managed to be the most robust and engaging outing in the franchise, staying true to the Monster Hunter spirit, while welcoming a broader audience to its vast and complex universe. If you’re a 3DS owner (especially one that owns a New 3DS XL or a Circle Pad Pro) and an RPG lover, this game is most definitely a must own.
Ah, yes! Time to sit back and cast the ole fishing rod into a small pond filled with tasty sushifish. Or perhaps I’ll indulge in a BBQ spit roast with the various monster meats I’ve acquired during my travels. These are just a couple of the many ways to spend your downtime in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, a game that doesn’t require anyone to slow down unless one chooses to. For me, it was nice to occasionally take a breather–the monsters in this game are larger and meaner than they’ve been previously in the series, which means that taking them out requires a little more planning and preparation. The beauty of Monster Hunter this time around, is in the fact that for the first time in the series’ 10+ year history, you can truly take the game at your own pace. That’s a welcome deviation from the past titles, which coerced players into cramming the scale of the ecosystems into their brains too early on.
Another first for the franchise: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate doesn’t spend several hours on tutorials and educational-but-time-consuming side quest. There’s a far more gratifying “learn as you go” approach to things this time around. The farming system of old has been replaced by a more seamless item management structure, and most of the game’s essential basic items like potions, fishing rods, bug nets, and mining axes are available to grab from safe-zone vendors right from the start. This cuts out all of the fluff and gets players onto their day-to-day agendas of hunting, crafting, and upgrading the necessary items to become a formidable predator.
The charm of M4HU is in its ability to set you on an epic journey without doing too much hand-holding or “game-splaining” of what’s going on. Even with this being the most narrative-intense installment of the series, the plot still simply serves as a device to further expand on the game’s engrossing ecosystem. So everything from the tutorials, to receiving different quests, happen through engaging dialogue with the game’s non-playable characters. There’s also quite the build up for each monster encounter as well– you feel added implications when the only assets you’re given before meeting a new creature is a glyph-like drawing that appears on your 3DS’ second screen, and gossipy word-of-mouth from the game’s friendly NPCs. This makes each monster confrontation feel far more paramount, and truly makes Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate an immersive role-playing experience.
While the main and side quests offer plenty of hours of gameplay as is, there’s still an option to hone your hunting skills in a more open play area. When you’re not in the mood for streamlined missions that target a specific creature, the free-hunting mode from the previous games has been replaced by “Expeditions.” During these, players can explore and hunt monsters to no end, and earn guild quest after discovering new creatures. Defeating monsters repeatedly raises their level, increasing its size for the next confrontation and upping your chances of finding the necessary components to strengthen your weapons and armor.
Continuing the list of “first” milestones set by MH4U, you finally can play Monster Hunter online with friends via Nintendo 3DS. Hopping into an online game is as simple as touching the world map icon on the bottom screen, and setting your status to “online multiplayer.” Once connected online, you’ll be prompted to either create or find a Gathering Hall, and upon meeting your friends there, you can proceed onto cooperative guild quest. Collecting other players guild cards allows you to see what types of armor, weapons and Felyne companions that they’re rolling around with, and these can also be exchanged via StreetPass. This certianly beats the old days of using PlayStation’s Ad-hoc party mode to play Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite with my friends across the country.
As with previous Monster Hunter games, there’s a massive amount of weapon choices, each of which you’ll be able to upgrade with the remains of monsters you’ve hunted. The large assortment of established hunting tools are joined by two new instruments of destruction: the Insect Glaive and the Charge Blade. The Insect Glaive allows for graceful aerial combat with it’s agile vaulting maneuver, making mounting monsters the easiest it’s ever been. The Charge Blade can transform between a sword and shield combo, and a two-handed axe.
For the last year and some change, I’ve been very envious of the folks in Japan. As if they don’t already get enough of the cool, region-particular RPG titles as it is, they also got a nice head start on the highly anticipated Monster Hunter 4. But our turn has finally come, and given how well the additions and adjustments made to the Japanese version ended up playing out for the game, I think it’s pretty safe to say that this was all more than worth the wait. RPG fans and 3DS owners need to make this a priority on their list of games to play.
– The complexities of Monster Hunter have been tailored for a broader audience, all while keeping the series’ best elements well intact.
– The New 3DS XL’s c-stick and accelerating processing make for one of the smoother portable gaming experiences to date
– The monsters are larger, meaner, and in abundance like they’ve never been before. MH fans and newcomers are sure to be satisfied with the challenges that await.
– Lack of voice chat for online gameplay presents a rather annoying communication handicap. I’d definitely recommend starting a Skype chat or Google hangout when playing online.
– Playing without a circle pad pro or the new 3DS may suffice for series veterans, but could be difficult for newcomers to adjust to.
4.5 out of 5 burritos:
This review was completed using a Nintendo 3DS copy of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate provided by Capcom. The game hits stores Friday, February 13 on the Nintendo 3DS portable console.