We've been playing the Monster Hunter series for many years, but we wouldn't call ourselves hardcore fans by any means. The main reason for this is that progress as a solo player is simply anything but easy once you get partway into the game - and unfortunately there aren't a lot of Monster Hunters in our circle of friends. A solo player will be hard pressed to make it to the latter stages of these games, and doing so will require real determination. Monster Hunter has all of the building blocks that a great action game needs: a fabulous and sophisticated crafting system, different character classes, and a dedicated community to help introduce new players to the action.
Monster Hunter Generations is an action role-playing game in which we play a hunter and help those living in surrounding villages with their various problems. These range from simple resource gathering quests, to risking life and limb when hunting dangerous monsters. You'll also be collecting raw materials, including a multitude of different fruits, mushrooms and berries, as well as fishing and catching insects. These are the basic types of quests that you'll undertake, and there's an incredible amount offered in Monster Hunter Generations. There are four villages each with their own unique hunting areas and their own questlines, and there is an online hub with regional objectives and an arena. Simply put, there's plenty to do for aspiring hunters.
The number of different play-styles from Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate stays the same. There are standard fare, such as shield and sword, hammer and double daggers, to more exotic weapons such as the hunting horn, or the Insect Glaive or the Gunlance. Everyone should find something to their tastes among the 14 weapon types. Basically, the choice of equipment is a matter of taste, but all weapons are not equally strong. An innovation in Monster Hunter Generations comes in the form of Hunter Arts. This is an additional active skill that brings a distinct advantage. These martial arts themed abilities unleash either a single, massive attack, or bring other benefits, including short-term health regeneration or dodge attacks. For the use of these techniques one has to hurt monsters and charge an energy bar.
The aerial combat component takes a step back compared to the previous game as the map areas rarely feature as much verticality as before, and we no longer have to climb as much. Nevertheless, there are still tactical elevations in the terrain or cliffs that we can use for devastating air strikes when the opportunity presents itself. Riding larger monsters has remained untouched, but is somewhat less significant. If we jump on a monster from behind, we must try to get it under control.
In Monster Hunter Generations up to four players can go hunting together. Alternatively you can play as a solo player with two cat companions, or two players with their respective Palico buddies. We can even go monster hunting being a trained Palico ourselves and experience the world through the eyes of our feline companions. After some initial missions we can switch at the Meowjesty between the Hunter and the Prowler mode. In Hunter mode, Monster Hunter Generations plays just as before. In Prowler mode we assume control of a Palico, which doesn't exactly make many things any easier.
Generations pushes the 3DS to its very limits. When it comes to many of the larger creatures it's easy to see that the hardware is struggling. For example, if a sand shark rides on a dune and its fins protrude from the slopes, or special terrain effects clearly stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the environment, it's just something we have to accept. The developers are clearly trying hard to harness the power of the handheld, but we're starting to think that Monster Hunter Generations deserved more. Visually speaking, there has been little in terms of upgrades since Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Most of the textures are low resolution, but the amount of detail in the characters and NPCs (the Palico companions in particular), and of course the monsters, is all very impressive. The load times are decent, but as the game makes use of very small sectioned off areas, that comes at a cost.
What impressed us about the title was the technical performance. Some creatures are capable of shattering trees and rocks, and possibly even dropping valuable items as they do so. In one particular quest we needed to kill a giant Cephadrome in the sand dunes. While the adult sand shark moves furiously through the sand, suddenly the rock on which we were recovering from the brutal attacks burst into thousands of pieces and the whole area transformed into raging sand swirls. It was these little experiences in Monster Hunter Generations that made the game stand out. There are great moments like this sprinkled throughout the entire game.
Monster Hunter Generations builds upon its illustrious predecessor and refines the concept even further. However, despite these improvements, there are problems that one cannot ignore. The hard-to-handle camera for example, the confusing menu navigation, and the frequently repetitive gameplay. These faults sit alongside a lovingly crafted world and a reward system that values hard work. While we were very happy with the new Monster Hunter, we still thought it could have done with a few additional innovations to shake things up a breathe fresh like into the formula.