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Review: Monster Hunter Generations

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Greatest Hits

It occurred to me while writing this review that Monster Hunter is my Dark Souls. Yes yes, Monster Hunter predates the Souls games by quite some time, but that doesn't change the accuracy of the statement itself. People obsess over Dark Souls for its animation-based gameplay and difficulty, but I've been enjoying those things in the Monster Hunter series for quite some time now.

Plus, the Souls games don't have playable cats, now do they?

Monster Hunter Generations (3DS)
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Released: July 15, 2016
MSRP: $39.99

For the uninitiated, Monster Hunter is about killing big monsters and wearing their skin. Well, maybe it's a bit more than that, but I'd argue it conveys the idea pretty well. While killing giant monsters is definitely the main draw, players will also be gathering plants, mining for ores, catching bugs and fish, and of course working with others. Killing monsters allows players to carve off certain parts, which in turn can be used to create new weapons and armor -- this kickstarts the basic feedback loop that will keep players going for hundreds of hours. Killing bigger monsters allows for the crafting of better gear, which then makes it easier to take down even bigger monsters.

The story has never been the main draw for most players, but it's toned down completely in Generations. Players will no longer be taken from locale to locale by some shoestring story thread, but instead can travel freely between four hubs while visiting plenty of hunting environments. Generations serves as a "best of" for the series and doesn't try to hide the fact. Players can travel between four villages whenever they wish, chatting with and accepting quests from various villagers.

Luckily, the quirkiness of characters is just as strong as ever. In fact, there are tons of cameos from older games that made me smile real big when talking to them. Players with even more knowledge of Monster Hunter history than myself will be in heaven. Most of the dialogue is so meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but the personalities of the characters make it completely worth reading. The new NPC that teaches about the Hunter Arts is one of my new favorites. He's just so over-the-top!

Players have access to fourteen different weapons types, each of which has a unique playstyle. Personally, I've gravitated towards the Hunting Horn ever since its introduction to the series. The very first thing that drew me towards Monster Hunter all those years ago on PlayStation Portable was the badass look of some of the giant swords and hammers, so when they added in something that had a similar look, but was actually an instrument that could be played to perform buffs (similar to a Bard class in other games), I was so pumped. It's a perfect fit for me.

And really, no matter what your playstyle and preferences are, you will find something that suits you. Every weapon feels unique from any other; yes, there are some similarities between weapons in design or function, but not to the point where any two play alike. Take the Hammer and Great Sword, for example. Both are gigantic weapons that take a while to swing, forcing each string of attacks to be meticulously planned to create some big damage. However, the Great Sword can slice tails off and block, while the Hammer can stun monsters and deals much more raw damage. Never write off a weapon; if it's not for you that's fine, but always give it a shot.

A new "weapon" has also been added to the mix, the Palico, which players of recent entries will know as the little cat creatures that inhabit the land and can accompany the player on quests. Now players can play as one of these adorable felines to take on quests. Yes, it's possible to do any quest as a Palico. They have their own line of quests, specifically designed for them, but there's nothing preventing a Palico player from taking down any of the ginormous monsters in the main line of quests.

I absolutely love this addition. I will say that, from what I've seen of Monster Hunter X in Japan, that super high-level play of Palicos is mostly restricted to one "build." Through the scouting and training process, it's possible to get one that has a pretty specific set of skills. Currently, everyone is striving for boomerang Palicos since it allows them to be ranged and, when combined with certain other abilities, do some decent damage. Don't let this get you down, though; you can customize your Palico in many different ways and unless you're striving to be one of the best players ever, you'll do just fine.

You can even create a dedicated support class with Palicos! The Hunting Horn can support with buffs, and then there's the whole Wide Range strategy, which shares your item usage with other players, but playing as a Palico is the first real opportunity for a full-fledged support character. Palicos also have no Stamina bar, which means they are perfect for gathering quests! In fact, many players exclusively use Palicos for gathering quests because of how efficient they are.

Another big change to weapons comes from Hunter Styles and Hunter Arts. Choosing between the four Styles will completely change the way a player approaches a fight. Each Style has different moves and Arts available. Even within the same weapon, two Styles will feel very different, creating a huge array of playstyles. Hunter Arts are like super moves that are often over-the-top in appearance and just plain exciting to execute.

Okay, Styles. Bear with me here as I briefly explain each of the four styles available for each weapon (except Palicos). Guild Style is your "basic" style that is the only one to have access to all of the standard moves for a weapon and allows players to utilize up to two Arts. Striker Style allows for three Arts, the maximum amount, but sacrifices some of the weapon's basic moves.

Aerial Style, which is my favorite, changes out the traditional forward roll for an airborne somersault. Performing this maneuver into a monster vaults the player into the air, allowing for aerial attacks and potential mounting of the monster. Players who played the Insect Glaive previously will be familiar with this move. Finally, Adept Style rewards those who really know their monster timings and is generally reserved for skilled players. Dodging at the moment of an attack while in Adept Style will grant invulnerability frames in addition to a bonus attack, only available after a perfect dodge.

Hunter Arts also play a huge role in customization. Depending on the Style chosen, players can select up to three different Arts to use on missions. Doing damage builds up an Art's meter, and certain Arts will take longer to build up compared to others. Many Arts are unique to specific weapons, but there is also a subset of Arts that any weapon can use.

Experimenting with different Styles and Arts adds so many variables to playstyles. Before, players had lots of options because of the various weapons. Now, two players using the same weapon type can be fundamentally different in how they approach a mission. The amount of flexibility in creating a character that suits your playstyle is absurd, and definitely welcome. 

The expanded customization options makes this one of the best Monster Hunter games to jump into for new players. There will be something that speaks to you, trust me. It's also the flashiest of the series, with crazy particle effects accompanying the Hunter Arts. There will still likely be some online research required for new players to fully comprehend everything, but Generations does a decent job of explaining the core mechanics to newcomers.

As for the new monsters, I freaking love them. Each of the four hub worlds has its own signature monster and they are all superb. Not just to fight, but to look at! The first time encountering them is unlike anything else. Special shoutouts go to Gammoth, a gigantic wooly mammoth, and Mizustune, who can inflict a unique "bubble" status on the player which can make things, well, slippery to say the least! 

Super special shoutout to my new favorite monster, Malfestio. Malfestio is a purple owl monster that can be an absolute pain to deal with but is just so damn cool. The owl mannerisms are perfect! It can confuse players, reversing their controls, or even put them to sleep with its sleep beam. The emphasis on status ailments instead of direct damage is a perfect example of what makes Monster Hunter so special. Every fight is going to be unique, and you better be prepared for what's ahead. Oh, and the Malfestio set of armor and weapons looks the absolute best.

Deviant monsters are a late-game type of monster that will generally only apply to the most hardcore. Deviants act and look different from their standard version, and in general are much harder to take down. The reward is equally as great though, since they provide special crafting items for items that I'll probably never see in my life.

If you're a veteran of the series, there's plenty here to enjoy. The Hunter Arts and Styles are enough to completely change everything and the new monsters are amazing, but there's more to it than that. First of all, you can now hold A instead of tapping it to gather.

Let that sink in for a bit.

If you're new, that seems like nothing, but trust me, it's one of the best changes of this iteration. Other than that, seeing some old faces and visiting old locales can be so nostalgic. My first game was Freedom on the PSP, and being able to explore the forest and hills region, now called the Verdant Hills, feels wonderful. Despite only having four hub worlds, there are plenty of mission maps to visit and re-visit. 

Not all of the changes are great, however. Since there are so many flashy effects associated with Hunter Arts, the camera has been zoomed in a bit towards the character and the frame rate is locked at 30. After playing Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on my New 3DS at 60 frames per second, I was very excited for the future of the franchise, technically. However this takes a step back in that department. Maybe no one else will notice or care, but I sure did.

Of course, what would Monster Hunter be without playing online with friends. Despite the removal of the arm-wrestling mini-game, slaying monsters online is just as good as ever. Playing with four hunters, all of whom are utilizing the Aerial Hunter Style, is hysterical to watch. Everyone is flying through the air and slam dunking the monster like crazy; it's impossible not to grin! Likewise, having other humans play as Palicos can be a great time. Want to take down that Gammoth as cats? Go right ahead! Just please, don't dismiss Palicos as a useless team member. They're legit.

This is definitely the best Monster Hunter game I have played. There are tons of quests, both online and off, the monsters are some of the best ever, and it looks to please both newcomers and veterans alike. This truly does feel like a "Greatest Hits" album, except with a handful of new singles that are as good as the band has ever been. It's like a clip show with some wonderfully original scenes thrown in for good measure.

If you've ever wanted to try your hand at Monster Hunter, start with Generations. The tutorial aspect isn't any better than normal, but it's much more likely to appeal to a wider audience with its breadth of customization options and content. If you've been chomping at the bit for more great gameplay you already love, with lots of new things to discover, Generations doesn't disappoint there either.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Monster Hunter Generations reviewed by Patrick Hancock

9.5

SUPERB

A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage.
How we score:  The destructoid reviews guide

 
 
 

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Patrick Hancock
Patrick HancockContributor   gamer profile

the day he teaches high school kids about At night he kicks their butts in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, and more + disclosures


 



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