For years, the Monster Hunter franchise has always been Capcom’s workhorse series. While definitely not reaching the popularity of games like Street Fighter or Mega Man, the series has garnered a niche following of fans in North America, while at the same time being a mega-hit in Japan. The marquee pull of Monster Hunter lies in the sense of satisfaction from overcoming difficult challenges and using the spoils of quests to take on even greater tasks. This has been the core philosophy of the series since the beginning, and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on the 3DS offers little to change that.
Playing through Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate gave me a feeling similar to riding a bicycle. Once you’ve picked up the main aspects that have been part of every game in the series, everything else in the game falls into place neatly. This means if you’ve played any of the past Monster Hunter games extensively, you’re going to pick things up rather quickly as you start your grind for better weapons and armor. All the previous weapon types from previous games are here along with two new additions; the Insect Glaive and Charge Blade.
These two new additions each have their own unique abilities and are interesting to use while out on quests. You can boost yourself up with various attributes with the Insect Glaive, and build up your power attacks with the Charge Blade to unleash devastating blows on your prey. In addition to weapons, you get up to two Palico cat partners to help you hunt, which you can outfit with different armor sets that are made from monster parts. They level up with experience from going on hunts and assisting you when they can. I would have liked to have more abilities for some of the older weapons, as using them in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate felt more like a copy & paste from previous titles rather than an evolution for the series.
Where Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate really shines is in the graphics department. Environments are lush and populated with various creatures to help create the illusion of a vibrant ecosystem on the map. Different spots for gathering resources are more abundant and visibly noticeable than in previous titles, making resource runs on missions a lot less frustrating. There are more towns to explore this time around, and each has it’s own theme as you progress through the story. They each allow you to obtain different materials for creating weapons and armor, which you in turn obtain from hunting various beasts on missions.
The real draw of the Monster Hunter franchise, however, is one thing; hunting gigantic, fierce monsters, and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate doesn’t disappoint. There are even more crazy designs for creatures to hunt in this new iteration. While on the hunt, there will be various area conditions that affect the dynamic of how you hunt the various wyverns. Some monsters will swing around on vines or trees, while others may crash through pillars or walls as they pursue you. The main flow of hunting monsters is still relatively the same as in previous titles. You’ll enter a mission needing to find your target on a large map, and once you do, stay on it even if it flees the area using any tools at your disposal. While there is nothing wrong at all with this established formula, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate still suffers from some the same kinds of issues that have plagued the series in the past.
The camera is probably your worst enemy in the Monster Hunter series, and it’s no different in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. You’ll find yourself in situations where you will either get hit off-screen by a monster or smaller creature, or at times find your view obscured by random objects in the environment while simultaneously getting hurt by a monster. These kinds of moments can definitely hamper the entire experience and make for some unfair sticky situations.
I am unsure of any changes, but in my playing, many of the actions your hunter can do in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate such as healing, or sharpening their weapon, definitely feel like they have a longer delay and leave you open to attack. There were plenty of times where I tried to heal up only to get hurt again because I couldn’t exit an animation in time to run away. It can make for some very frustrating moments that, although feel authentic, can be a bit cheap at times.
Going online to hunt with other players in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate can be a hit or miss experience. It’s great to finally be able to connect with other players online, which was something that Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on 3DS lacked when compared to its console counterpart. The problem, however, is in the stability of the connection during hunts, which is totally dependent on who is it you’re playing with. You can be paired up with someone in the online hall that seems to have a good connection, only to disconnect from them during a quest and be left alone to either finish it or quit. When you do manage to get paired up with a group of players to hunt with, the experience is fun and just like how you would expect it to be for a Monster Hunter game.
In typical Monster Hunter fashion, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is still pretty much the same kind of MH game we’re used to. There are some new and interesting things to explore with the new weapons, lush environments and towns, as well as unique new monsters to hunt in the game. However, some of the same problems from past titles in the series are still here and have yet to really be addressed. Despite the small lock-on feature, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate‘s camera can still be a detriment at times and really mess up a quest badly. If you’ve played any Monster Hunter game before and liked it, you’ll feel right at home with this game. If you’ve never played any of the titles in the series before, you’ll find Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate to be a bit of a grind before getting to enjoy every cool aspect of the game.
This review was based on a digital copy of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate for Nintendo 3DS provided by Capcom.