You should know what you’re in for with Monster Hunter on the Switch

0
113

If your first Monster Hunter game was World — which is statistically likely since the game has now sold more than 10 million copies worldwide — and you’re hungry for more, I have good (and possibly bad) news. The good news is that Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is out today for the Nintendo Switch, and it’s great. In many ways, it’s a better package than World.

The possibly bad news is that it’s also very different than World.

Monster Hunter World was a huge overhaul of the series, which had always been hugely popular on handheld systems in Japan but never found as much success in the West or on home consoles. Designed from the start for the PS4 and Xbox One, with a PC version following later, World not only represented the first significant technical upgrade in the series’s history, but it was a major redesign of its structure and systems in a bid to make it more accessible. It was more open and fluid than past games, with a world that felt truly alive.

In Japan, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate came out a year ago for the Switch and 18 months ago on 3DS as Monster Hunter XX. This makes its belated Western release feel like a relic from the past. Most obviously, the fact that this started out as an expanded version of a 3DS game means that it’s basically two generations behind World on a technical level. (The 3DS version isn’t being released outside of Japan.) The game has received resolution and texture bumps in its transition to the Switch, of course, but returning to simple plains and empty caves is jarring after the lush, living environments of World.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate

The harder adjustment, however, is that Generations Ultimate is mechanically and structurally the same as pretty much every other pre-World game. I played most of those games myself, and at the time, I might have even defended some of their quirks as part of the series’s DNA. But for World, Capcom did a fantastic job of preserving that DNA while judiciously excising unnecessary elements. It’s tough to deal with some of those elements today.

Here are just a few examples:

  • The levels are separated into discretely numbered areas with short loading screens between them. This isn’t a huge deal, but you will definitely accidentally somersault into a neighboring cave while trying to avoid a monster’s attack, which is annoying. The trade-off is that you can run away to sharpen your weapons and heal up in peace. That’s good because, unlike in World, you have to stand still for several seconds and triumphantly raise your hands in the air every time you drink a health potion.
  • This game doesn’t have World’s occasionally annoying but generally useful “scoutflies” system for tracking monsters. You basically have to walk around the entire stage yourself until you find your target, then throw a paintball at it to make it show up on the map for a while if it escapes.
  • Items like whetstones and pickaxes are no longer unlimited. You need to make sure you’re stocked if you want to sharpen your sword or mine for materials while in the field. It adds another layer of busywork.
  • The quest structure is vastly more complicated: there are separate single-player and multiplayer missions and no clear indicators about the best way to progress. I particularly missed World’s SOS feature, which lets you search for specific monsters you want to hunt and jump into active quests with other players online.

I really could go on for thousands of words about this kind of thing, but I won’t because — for me, at least — it doesn’t matter. Once you get over the initial shock of its clunkiness, you’ll find that Generations Ultimate is one of the best Monster Hunter games ever made.

Monster Hunter Generations was considered something of a greatest hits collection, and Ultimate expands upon the original with more difficult “G-rank” quests and a wider variety of monsters. The game has value for World players simply as a bestiary of what might come along down the line. While World’s monsters so far have largely been limited to dragons and dinosaur-like creatures, Generations Ultimate is a menagerie of inventive, fantastic beasts inspired by anything from crabs and rabbits to bears and monkeys. It has more than three times as many monsters as World, which helps the game feel fresh for much longer.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate

Generations Ultimate also returns the series to a handheld context, which is always where it’s felt most at home to me, especially if you can get people together for local multiplayer. And it plays far better on the Switch than on a 3DS or PSP; the proper second analog stick, in particular, makes a huge difference. (I can’t believe that I used to contort my left hand into a claw-like position to move the PSP’s D-pad at the same time as the stick.) Even the visuals work well in portable mode. Monster Hunter has always had a distinctive, colorful art style, and while the Switch game clearly doesn’t look anywhere as good as World, the sharper resolution and textures are a good match for the tablet’s screen.

Most importantly, the one thing that didn’t change much about Monster Hunter in World is the combat, and Generations Ultimate delivers on the same unforgiving, rewarding battle system and loot-collecting loop. Generations also introduced a variety of fighting styles, along with the ability to play as a cat, so between that and the increased breadth of monsters, there’s just a lot to get on with in this game.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is a typically unwieldy Capcom-esque title, but it actually fits well this time. This game has so much content drawn from several generations of Monster Hunter, and the Switch is the ultimate place to play it all. Given the success of World, Capcom might never make another classic-style Monster Hunter. If that’s the case, Generations Ultimate for the Switch isn’t a bad way to go out. It’s an awesome Monster Hunter mixtape that I could happily play many years from now.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is out for the Nintendo Switch today.