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Improvement: Going Global with Monster Hunter - Destructoid




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Used to be known as YellowKing for a short while, but I think this moniker's a little more applicable. Still moving over old stuff. Couldn't rename my old profile cause I made a blog post. I pop into the JustinTV stream once in a while, but otherwise remain pretty quiet here on the site.
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Capcom's handling of the Monster Hunter series baffles the complete and ever loving hell out of me. Not the game itself mind you, the core game has proven itself solid and needs very little tweaking. However, almost everything about Monster Hunter that isn't actually part of the core game has needed fixing since its first installment. Confused? Read on.



For those of you who don't know, Monster Hunter is Capcom's hottest game in Japan. The series revolves around steampunk cavemen slaughtering wyverns with visually impressive weapons what are made out other wyverns. Which is simultaneously the most fucked up and rad thing ever. However, ask someone who hasn't played the game and odds are that they only know it as "that dumb game that's really popular in Japan."

Now while said theoretical person is wrong (fact), their idea of the game isn't entirely their own fault. While Capcom has tried to push the game overseas in the past, they always seem to go about it the entirely wrong way. The game has been rendered almost completely inaccessible to those who would enjoy it the most thanks to poor console choice, horrible tutorials, systems that aren't properly explained, crappy drop rates, and marketing that has either been nonexistent or has failed to deliver.

Whew, OK, let's look at each of those elements individually. Most of this applies to any Monster Hunter game, but I've played Monster Hunter Tri for the Wii the most, so I'm using that as a reference.

Console

Problem
Monster Hunter Tri was published exclusively for the Nintendo Wii, following previous installments on PSP. Unlike those portable entries, the Wii version relied on an online community rather than local co-op for players to team up. Sounds good so far, but anyone here who's tried to play a Wii game online already knows the problem.

The Wii is simply the worst of the big three home consoles to do online on. At the time of its release, the only supported mic was the Wii Speak, which doesn't work on a good day, but in this case was further rendered useless by the fact that you needed to be friends with someone to hear them. Most players got around the communication issue (and communication is key in these games) by using USB keyboards (and in my case a USB extension cord as well).

OK, great, problem kind of solved, right?

Nope! The text entry fields were ridiculously small as they'd been designed for Japanese text. To get out a full sentence, you'd have to enter two or three separate bite-sized lines. During which you could be easily interrupted by someone else. And let's not forget the fact that communication is most valuable in the heat of battle, when you can easily get killed in two or three good hits from a Rathalos or whatever. Makes taking your hands off the controller to type a bit of a problem.

Solution
Port the series to the PS3 or XBOX360. This is a cooperative hardcore game, and those two consoles make more sense than any others. It's just where the audience is in the West and there sure as shit isn't a barrier to using a mic. I'd go so far as to say that Capcom's utter refusal to publish on these two systems is the number one barrier to entry for the series, and it needs to be the first thing resolved for a successful sequel.

Marketing

Problem
While some consider Call of Duty's recent ads demeaning to soldiers as they trivialize war, it must be said that they are accurate. That is to say, that while the ads feature real life actors, what they depict is how the game actually plays. The tone, the actions depicted, everything sans racial slurs is in there.

This is one of the commercials that ran for Monster Hunter Tri.

Now tell me, what exactly did this tell you about the game? Keep in mind that this was Capcom's big push to introduce the game to the US. If you knew nothing about the series, what would this tell you?

Deadliest Catch and a Capital One Visigoth? Yeah, that shit sure tells me a lot about a completely alien game. And what's with the happy-go-lucky tone? Monster Hunter has its cheery moments, but at its core, it's an intense life-or-death battle against massive things that spit lightning at you. Then you turn their corpses into weapons that spit lightning back. To be fair, they snuck a little gameplay footage in there, but it's less than 15 seconds out of a nearly 90 second commercial.

Solution
Gameplay clips and cutscenes intercut with review scores. It's simple, effective, doesn't involve a set or actors, and there's more than enough material to work with thanks to Monster Hunter's gorgeous cinematics. Games do this all the time because it fucking works. Don't believe me? Look at this commercial for Dark Souls. Could use a bit more gameplay but it throws down a gauntlet for the player and establishes the tone quite well.

Also, that song kicks ass.

Tutorials

Problem
Tri and its predecessors had pages of text explaining completely original systems like armor "skills" (actually they're perks), proper weapon usage, and a dual mode control system that remaps most of the buttons when your weapon is drawn. Again, nothing is inherently wrong with these systems; even the controls make sense once you learn them, but there is simply no way to learn ingame that isn't tedious. Further compounding matters is a user interface that looks like it was programmed on a typewriter.

It's my theory that most of this was remedied in Japan because Monster Hunter fans there were groomed by co-op on the PSP installments. It's a hell of a lot easier to have a person there that can answer questions instead of reading an in-game textbook. By the time Tri came out, most Japanese consumers who bought it had already learned how to play, so the poor tutorials really didn't hurt them. I, on the other hand, despite having played a bit of MH Freedom Unite on the PSP, was still clueless on a number of systems. Were it not for a lovely gentleman on Youtube who goes by SocialDissonance, I'd still be nerfing my own Greatsword charge attacks without even noticing it (and yes, it's an easy mistake).

Solution
This is probably the trickiest thing an ideal sequel to Monster Hunter would have to do. It would need to slowly introduce elements to the player between or during interesting missions. Tri came closer than previous entries, but relatively little is revealed in its boring and monsterless tutorial missions. Twisting the player's arm to understand all this information might be unavoidable, but Capcom has proved itself a master tutorial crafter in the past, and I'm sure it could rise to the challenge if it tried.

Grinding

Problem
There is a 2% drop rate for Rathalos Plates. 2%! Now I realize that the math states that I should finally get this one drop sometime soon, but after over 40 dedicated Rathalos hunts I still have yet to. And yes, I looked on the wiki, and I'm giving myself every opportunity to get one.

Look Capcom, I realize that you have to encourage a certain amount of grinding, but if you give probability tiny, single digit numbers to work with, it will fuck over your players to the point of spasm-inducing frustration. There's no worse feeling in the world than the successful capture of a monster and not getting the one thing you need. It feels like you just wasted half an hour of your life for nothing. 2% drop rates are what made me put down Tri, and what's worse is that some of the upper tier drops are 1%.

Solution
This is one I've thought about a lot during my frustration with Tri. My best solution: a token system for selecting monster parts on top of a few random drops. Think of it like the prize exchange at a Chuck E. Cheese's. Depending on how well you do, you can redeem your supply of tickets for a number of items. Rathalos Scales would be like the crappy army men and the Plates would be an RC car or whatever. To lower the price on or make available certain monster viscera, you'd have to break parts of the monster's body or complete specific subquests. I should point out to those who aren't familiar with the series that these two systems are already in place and are used to determine existing random drops.

So you've got a mix of old and new elements: three or so random drops as well as tokens you can put towards specific ones. And hell, if you don't like the new system, you could also put your tokens towards more random drops instead. The point is that a hunt never feels like a waste as so many Rathalos hunts did for me.

Shit They Just Don't Tell You

Oh! I have to break both horns!

Problem
This is pretty self explanatory. Lots of information, mostly regarding monster weaknesses, drop rates, and requirements for specific drops is completely hidden from the player. Now, when I want to know how to get a monster part that I haven't seen dropped after several attempts, I'm going to look it up one way or the other. Were it not for the Unofficial Monster Hunter Wiki, I would have given up on the game. It wouldn't surprise me if this information was intentionally left out just to sell strategy guides.

For those of you paying attention, this was the second time I had to turn to the internet for help to get critical information.

Solution
Just make the stuff available ingame somewhere. Maybe in the briefing before a hunt or make the players buy the information. Give 'em something to spend their money on! In fact, there was a similar system in place for Unite, though the information you bought was pretty vague and generally useless.

Wow, that was longer than intended
So that's it. That's what needs to change about Monster Hunter. Capcom's got a truly original and fun game on their hands, but they just don't know how to make it accessible or popular. And I'm not terribly optimistic that these kinds of drastic changes will be implemented anytime soon as long as Capcom keeps raking in the yen (Call of Duty Sydrome).

Now, if Capcom ever wants to make dollars, maybe it will consider changing things in Monster Hunter. In fact, I've heard that Monster Hunter 4 is debuting on a completely different platform from previous installments.


Well, fuck. Monster Hunter 5 maybe?
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