While attending New York Comic Con, I had the chance to see the latest in Capcom’s monster slaying series, Monster Hunter 4. But because of the craziness of everything happening during the convention, I did not get the hands on time with the game that I wanted (our own Tony Polanco ended up doing the preview). So when the demo for Monster Hunter 4 was finally released on the 3DS eShop, I was pretty excited to explore what new additions Capcom had for the series. Having played many of the Monster Hunter games in the past, I knew what kind of experience to expect when diving into the demo. Yet even with my background knowledge of the series, what I got from the demo was a bit underwhelming.
Monster Hunter is all about big boss fights alongside your friends as much as it is about looting and creating weapons from monster parts. One of the biggest turn-offs for some new players is the series’ steep learning curve and harsh consequences for not being prepared. Monster Hunter 4 does little to nothing to change this and instead keeps faithful to the established foundation from its predecessors. Control of your character is still somewhat limited and forces you to approach situations with your weakness and limitations in mind. Camera movement is tuned up a bit with a pseudo-target lock to focus on big wyverns, but the camera can still be an obstacle when things get hectic on a mission.
The environments and monsters that populate them are a real spectacle to admire, with a variety of beasts found in each area of the game’s maps. While the graphics on the 3DS aren’t mind blowing, they still look a bit better than the previous game’s graphics and textures. The demo has a choice of three different monsters to hunt, either solo or with friends online or offline. Depending on the mission you select, which varies in difficulty, different monsters and beasts will appear on the map with their own unique movement patterns. The wyvern monsters themselves are still as fierce as ever and definitely require you to learn and adapt to different patterns they have. You can track your main target on the mini map you see on the bottom 3DS screen, but the detailing of wyvern location and movement is dependent on your weapon and armor set.
Speaking of weapons and armor, Monster Hunter 4 introduces new weapon classes to the already abundant classes to use. You still have classes to choose from previous games, including bow, shield and sword, and other classics. The two new classes for Monster Hunter 4 are Insect Glaive and Charge Blade, making the total amount of weapon classes now fourteen.
The Insect Glaive allows you to suck in bugs and extracts from monsters and uses them to power yourself up, as well as fire a project at targets. Charge Blade is similar to a switch axe, but gives the ability store up energy and power in a shield & sword mode and then release it with a powerful attack in axe mode. Both new weapon classes add even more fresh variety to the core gameplay while drawing inspiration from the older classes. They are both a bit confusing to use at first, but spending more time with each allowed me to figure out what other helpful abilities to utilize on missions.
The one thing I understood clearly from the Monster Hunter 4 demo was that this was more of the same Monster Hunter we’ve seen before. Aside from a few extra additions in ways to play the game, as well as new monsters to hunt, this is still primarily Monster Hunter like we’ve seen many times before. And while this isn’t essentially a bad thing, Monster Hunter still feels like its lacking in new and refreshing additions to the series.
Playing the demo makes Monster Hunter 4 feel more like a giant expansion pack to Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, rather than a full-fledged sequel. Hopefully that feeling can change when the full game releases.