Hey y’all, I just wrote a review for Monster Hunter Generations!
Well, it took its sweet time getting here, but the latest edition to the long-running Monster Hunter franchise has finally touched down on Western shores, in what is a apparently quite short time relative to previous entries in the franchise. Considering that some players hail the previous entry, 4 Ultimate, as the best game in the franchise, does Generations live up to the hype?
Well first things first, some background for anyone not familiar with the franchise: In Monster Hunter you assume the role of a would-be hunter who is employed by an organization going by the name the Wycademy to hunt monsters (obviously), both to study them and to protect villages they might be threatening. These particular monsters come in many shapes and forms, spread out over equally varied environments. Some are huge, some are small, and some are extinction-level abominations. Using a bevy of different weapons, a single player or up to four can strike to hunt these monsters down. Beginning from various hub areas, players accept quests to hunt these monsters, among others; though the big monster hunts are the main attraction.
Monster Hunter Generations, as the franchise’s latest entry, is an interesting beast- a blend of nostalgic old and intriguing new features. As to the new stuff, the main draws are two-fold: First is Hunter Styles and Hunter Arts. Hunter Styles allow players to select from four different styles that can significantly alter the way a hunter wields their weapon of choice: Guild is your stock standard: Striker limits your attacks, but lets you use more Hunter Arts; Aerial is geared toward acrobatics and aiding hunters in mounting monsters; and Adept is a curious style built more on counter-attacking and carefully-timed attacks. These Styles in turn affect the Hunter Arts that can be equipped: these are basically special moves that can be triggered after attacking a monster enough to fill their meter. Some of these moves can be used with every weapon, while others are exclusive to particular weapons. The second big addition, Prowler Mode, gives players the opportunity to take on the role of one of their erstwhile feline companions, the Palicoes, and take them out on hunts and quests. Playing as a Palico changes things up a bit from standard gameplay: while Palicoes obviously can’t use hunter weapons, armor or items, they can use their own, as well as special Palico skills and abilities to boot which provide variety of options from horns your Palicoes can play to heal and buff themselves, to barrel bombs they can hurl at monsters breathing down their fluffy little cat necks, to big special moves or attacks to dole out damage. The lack of conventional healing options and the general fragility of the Palicoes imbues Prowler mode with an interesting sense of challenge, especially when going up against big monsters.
In terms of what these new features bring to the table, its something of a mixed bag. The Hunter Styles and Arts prove to be a clever way to mix up play styles with all the game’s weapons, and while in some cases these differences are only minor, some permutations can drastically change the way the weapons are wielded. The Prowler Mode, on the other hand, feels a tad tacked-on: while there is a fun novelty to scampering around as one of your adorable little cat companions, the charm of it wears off fairly quick, especially when much of the Prowler-exclusive quests are rather underwhelming, and the normal ones often proving to be entirely to much to be taken on just solely by your adorable feline companion.
Of course, even if the new features introduced in Generations don’t always hit their mark, the core gameplay that has defined the franchise is still as great as ever: there’s few things more thrilling or exhilarating than stumbling across some terrifying new beats or monster, then taking it down in spectacular fashion: its fun on your own, and its even better when you get a hunting party together to gear up and take down a monster. The series’ trademark difficulty makes a comeback as well, as even the lowliest of the game’s largest beast provide a solid challenge, but not overwhelmingly so, making Generations a good jumping-on point for newer players. That said, veteran hunters who are already well versed with the series may find the early-goings slightly too trivial, but rest assured, business picks up soon enough. Controls-wise, Generations handles itself fairly well on the DS, although precision aiming is something of a frustrating exercise: while this is mitigated somewhat by the presence of a lock-on camera option, it still makes using the game’s ranged weapons entirely too unwieldy to be overly practical: although that said, with the wide variety of weapons on offer, this is something of a minor quibble.
It’s also a big credit to Generations that it strives to have a much wider and refreshingly vibrant variety of monsters than 4 Ultimate: which often got bogged down in an endless slog of similar monsters. Generations throws all sorts of weird and wonderful things at you: from things the boar-like Bulldromes, to strange bug dragon hybrids and truly majestic colossal woolly mammoth-like beasts that tower of you like skyscrapers, even to things that I can only describe as Eldritch abominations from my worst nightmares: the variety on here is very refreshing and makes Generations much more exciting to plow through. Generations also brings back a great deal of nostalgic old favorites from pretty much every previous Monster Hunter game, making Generations’ monster roster a nice blend of old and new.
That said, it could take you a little while before you actually start encountering the really exciting stuff: Generations, at least in its early stages, has a lot of filler content in its early goings. The few tiers of low-rank quests often consist of banal and frustratingly menial tasks of gathering materials and taking out small monsters that pose little threat or challenge: and while this is likely to ease new arrivals to the franchise into the Monster Hunter way of life, for the veteran hunters, its more than a little frustrating. This is only compounded by Generations curiously chatty NPCs: in order to pick up a great deal of quests, players will often have to interact with the NPCs of the various hub villages. While these little chats often have entertaining little nuggets in them, they also tend to drag on perhaps a tad too long, and you’ll usually end up just skipping through them just to get to the point of the conversation.
Monster Hunter Generations, like its predecessors, is also a very pretty-looking game, and is probably one of the most visually appealing 3DS games around. Every environment is lush and vibrant, all offering an impressive variance and terrain, textures, and color: from the boggy drabness of the Marshlands to the lush primordial swamps and plains of the Jurassic Frontier, and to the serene beauty of Misty Peaks, the prospective hunter will never be left wanting for a delightful change of scenery. The four village hubs; Bherna, Yukumo, Pokke, and Kotkoto, are also delightfully designed to have their distinct visual aesthetic and personality. The world of Monster Hunter Generations is truly charming one that is loaded with personality and interesting little nuggets of visual appeal. The sound in Generations is also great, especially its score: it weaves and wends its way through a variety of moods, from uplifting and triumphant, mysterious and adventurous, to ominous and foreboding, always suitably matching the environment or monster you find yourself up against. Sounds effects are crisp and meaty as well: weapons hit monsters with satisfying thwacks and thumps, and monsters respond in kind with visceral howls, hoots, and roars. The monsters often respond in interesting physical ways as well: saliva drips from their maws when they’re exhausted, their eyes bulge and steam blasts from their snouts when they’re enraged, and they limp almost pitifully away from you when they’re wounded: its crazy how much all these little subtleties imbue them with a sense of being real creatures: it almost makes you feel a little sad to have to hunt them down; if only a little.
In summary, Monster Hunter Generations is another great addition to an already fantastic franchise: while the new features introduced in Generations might underwhelm, and while it might take some time for Generations to pick up steam, it more than redeems itself in its variety: with both old and new, Generations is both a fitting celebration of the franchise and an exciting new chapter to carry it forward.