- Manny Nolasco a.k.a. "ThatCosplayGuy"
Are you the type of gamer that relishes the moment you enter a boss battle? That instance when you enter the deepest part of the dungeon and doors slam behind you. You see health and mana potions lying around, but all you can hear is the mumbled footsteps of a creature lurking in the shadows. This simultaneous feeling of fear and excitement is precisely how one could describe the thrill of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. This action oriented RPG pioneered the way for this style of gameplay. As the main character, you are the hunter chasing monsters of unequal size; however, if you're not careful, the roles can reverse and you'll become the hunted. Now you might have experienced other games with similar gameplay, such as God Eater Burst, Ragnarok Odyssey, and Toukiden. But unlike these titles, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (MH4U) has emerged not as an expected sequel, but as a game that separates itself from its predecessors. How you ask? Well let’s find out in this section of MSP’s Reviews!
As someone who spent entire evenings playing Monster Hunter Unite on the PSP, and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (MH3U) for the 3DS, MH4U has come a long way in terms of plot development. One of the debates that fans struggled with in earlier renditions of the game, was the lack of a story altogether. Veterans to the Monster Hunter series argued that a plot was unnecessary, when the concept of the game was focused on a solo hunter (you), going off into the wild to hunt down the next Godzilla wannabe. Unfortunately, for some fans, we found ourselves wanting to know more about the main character we created, and what motivates them to slay monsters during their free time. MH4U answers these questions by establishing your character as the unofficial wild game hunter, representing a caravan of nomadic traders. No longer are you grinding away to slay behemoth sized monsters, just to stay on the top of the leaderboards. Instead, you see the fruits of your labor, as specific changes develop in both trade and plot development based solely on the monsters you’ve slain. You start to see the connection as to why you travel from location to another, and how the materials collected from monsters you’ve killed, unlocks new armor and weapons. Monster hunting has never been so rewarding.
My experience with MH4U was with the older (pre 2015) 3DS XL system and not with the New 3DS XL that’s designed to optimize the game’s graphical and processor speed output. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I was missing out, as transition from in-game menus, to actual gameplay was flawless. Similar to MHU3, you’re able to change the layout of the tools/utility menus, and you can nit-pick every camera function your button smashing fingers desire. In terms of picture quality, I did not experience screen tearing or texture pop-in, as one might expect from the fast paced visuals of MH4U. The greatest feat that I was most impressed with in terms of presentation, was the seamless transition between single and multiplayer. I was expecting to encounter the sluggish and sometimes non-responsiveness associated with multiplayer, like that of Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS. To the satisfaction of my friends and myself, we were all pleased to report a flawless response on a wireless network that ran as slow as 5 megabits per second. Upon playing the game, both the characters and game environment sometimes suffer from jagged edges due the lack of anti-aliasing (surprisingly not as bad as an issue in MH3U); however, I’m sure my 3DS was being pushed to its limits, and graphics quality (good or bad), is certainly not a deterrent on the ability to enjoy this game.
The objective of the game is simple: kill or capture behemoth sized monsters and to do so by any means necessary. This is accomplished by exploring maps in advance, gathering hunting materials, or by joining other hunters (either locally or online). My biggest gripe with previous Monster Hunter titles was the steep learning curve and its “sink-or-swim” mentality. The controller tutorials felt abbreviated, as if I was expected to have already played the game. Fortunately, MH4U addresses these issues in the best way possible. Rather than providing a paragraph of information and then throwing you haphazardly into the wild, MH4U breaks down the explanation of controls through specific events in the story. During these action sequences, you’re provided brief, but adequate instructions on how to control the in-game camera, your character, and how to interact with objects in your environment.
To give you a sense of progression, the story is broken down into quests. They start out simple, allowing you to try out the different weapons: sword & shield, hunting bow, great axe, etc. Spoilers aside, veterans of the series will be pleased to hear that two new weapon types have been added, and both are exceptionally useful in diversified gameplay. As these quests are completed, new monsters, locations, and armor/weapons, becomes available for you to level up. Unlike traditional RPG mechanics, leveling your character is not dependent on experience or time spent playing the game. Instead, you’re expected to craft new weapons and armor from the monsters you defeat, which in turn builds your character into a formidable opponent.
Online multiplayer is a new addition to the handheld versions of the Monster Hunter series. For the first time, MH4U enables you to find and play with other gamers over the internet. Wow, how is this a revelation you ask? Believe it or not, multiplayer on all previous versions of this game required that you and up to 3 other players, all had to physically be in the same room together, playing over a local connection generated by the handheld itself. Now you can play with friends and strangers anytime and anywhere in the world that has a Wi-Fi connection. But for those of you who still like to play on a local connection, fear not as this feature is still available. As I mentioned earlier, I experienced no lag or faults with gameplay during multiplayer.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is an excellent game that centers itself on an award winning formula that has stood the test of time: kill or capture the monster in question by any and all means necessary. At the same time, this game is not for the faint of heart that lack both courage and patience. Even though the monsters are not invincible, their health bars on not displayed in the game. Therefore, it is up to your deceptive skills to notice when the monster is weakened, or when to heal yourself, all in which you must decide during the heat of battle. After a few hours of playing this game, the thought of hunting colossal size monsters becomes a personal vendetta; especially after the first time you’ve failed a quest. Surprisingly, what I did not expect was the development of what I call the “Captain Ahab” mentality: a reference to the literally classic Moby Dick, and how one sea captain’s desire to hunt a sperm whale cost him his life. Like Ahab, you might find that one monster who constantly outsmarts your every move. In times like these, I suggest searching for tutorials online, or enlisting the help of your friends or strangers in multiplayer. In any case, I highly recommend adding this game to your collection with an overall score of 9/10 – must buy. For new and returning fans alike, I believe you’ll find yourself coming back to this game repeatedly, and even more importantly, you’ll discover the hunter in yourself!
*Thanks for reading this review. This is Manny or "ThatCosplayGuy" signing off, and I hope you'll checkout the other reviews we've posted on the site! - Cheers!