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Monster Hunter Generations

Platform(s): New Nintendo 3DS XL, Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: July 15, 2016


3DS Review - 'Monster Hunter Generations'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 10, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Marking the 10th Anniversary of the series, Monster Hunter Generations is a new action RPG title that offers up fresh possibilities for hunting.

Buy Monster Hunter Generations

If you don't understand the fuss around the Monster Hunter franchise, it might seem repetitive to fight the same monsters for hundreds of hours. If you do, however, those hundreds of hours will be some of the most fun you've ever had. Even the most ardent Monster Hunter fan will eventually wear out the content. Capcom tends to bring out new games to keep up with the demand, either improved versions of previous titles or new offerings entirely. It's a bit too early in the cycle for a Monster Hunter 5, but Monster Hunter 4 is getting long in the tooth. That's where Monster Hunter Generations comes in. Not quite a sequel and not quite an upgrade, it's set to be a solid in-between for those hungering for more monster-slaying action.

For those who've never played Monster Hunter before, players gear up and hunt monsters, and they can either go it alone or with friends in multiplayer. This is done with a mix of arcade-style action gameplay and careful planning. The actual minute-to-minute gameplay revolves around a lot of mechanics that have more in common with character-action games than traditional action-RPGs. Killing monsters and "breaking" their parts earns items that you can convert into better equipment to fight stronger monsters, which you can defeat to get better equipment. There's almost no plot, just sheer loot-hunting action. It can be repetitive if you don't like getting new loot and seeing numbers increase, but if you are, you'll be addicted.

On the surface, the core gameplay and controls are almost identical to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. It uses the same engine and the same basic ideas, but the content is too new to write off as a simple upgrade. While it has a fair bit of new content, much of it returns from previous Monster Hunter titles, hence the name Generations. It offers new monsters and new dangers, but half of the appeal is seeing the return of some long-lost favorites.

Hunter Arts — essentially super moves — are probably the biggest addition to Monster Hunter Generations. There are a variety of Hunter Arts, so you build up a meter and spend it to perform the special move.  Some attacks do massive damage while others have passive buffs that can increase your defense, offense, stamina or other stats. There are even special moves that are minimally combat-involved, such as the Escape Runner, which makes it easier to transport large items without getting caught. Most arts are tied to one of the weapon classes, but some can be used by anyone. You begin with a few unlocked and have to unlock more by completing quests. In addition, they can be powered up to stronger forms, so there's a sense of progression even after you have all the arts.

I'm torn about the Hunter Arts. They're a cool addition, but you can tell they're relatively unbalanced. Some are extremely strong, and others are so clunky that I don't ever use them. The idea was likely that I'd swap out Hunter Arts based on the needs of the fight, but I never did. Once you've got one or two arts for your chosen weapon, there's not much reason to consider other arts. Going for a build that involves support or healing skills seems like the best path. I'm glad that's an option, but most of the support skills depend on multiplayer to reach their full effect.

Players can swap between combat styles, similar to Capcom's Devil May Cry 3. Each of the four styles has its own advantages and disadvantages, including the number of Hunter Arts that can be equipped. Guild is effectively traditional Monster Hunter gameplay. Striker is beginner gameplay that allows you to use more Hunter Arts and build up their meters. Aerial is made for mounting monsters but sacrifices mobility. Adept is the Royal Guard of Monster Hunter styles, rewarding you for last-second evasions or blocks with powerful counterattacks. I think most people will stick with the familiar Guild style, but it's easy to see a team of people playing together and setting up a specialized style for maximum monster-killing action.

Players can also take control of a Palico, one of the AI cat companions, to take on a more support-oriented role in combat. Controlling a cute cat is a great way for a novice to play with more experienced players, but with Hunters Arts in the equation, it's probably better for a newcomer to play one of the main weapon classes and get a feel for the mechanics. Still, it's a good addition to the game, and it's hard to complain about having more options.

The only real problem with Monster Hunter Generations is that it's pretty blatantly a "best of" game. It has plenty of new content, but it might feel overly familiar if you've invested hundreds of hours in the previous Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.

This familiarity is a double-edged sword because it also means that Generations is a solid game for newcomers. The tutorial is lengthy and perhaps too slow, but it makes sure that players have a full grasp of the gameplay, and the overall difficulty is perhaps lower than its predecessors. Playing Generations gives you a tour of the high points of the Monster Hunter franchise without having to dedicate ages to the games. If you had to play one Monster Hunter, Generations is the way to go.

Visually, there's not a big change from Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. As with that game, the new 3DS is absolutely the way to go. The original 3DS can play the game perfectly well, but the addition of the tiny analog nub and the improved horsepower under the hood make it a smoother experience. The aging hardware does its job quite well by making the monsters look threatening and dangerous. The soundtrack is solid if unexceptional, but the overall audio work is great, and you can depend on solid queues when the camera fails.

Monster Hunter Generations is the greatest hits of the Monster Hunter franchise. It's not going to change your mind if you never understood the hype, but if you can easily spend dozens of hours grinding monsters for equipment, be prepared for a lot of sleepless nights. Newcomers will find a lot to like here in terms of gameplay and pure design. If you're ever going to get into the Monster Hunter franchise, Generations is the best place to start.

Score: 8.0/10

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