Have you ever had a piece of media that you absolutely hate, but love more than almost anything? Some people have movies that they enjoy, but know in their hearts aren’t good. Other people have songs they love that they’d never play in front of friends. Me? I have Monster Hunter, a game which has kicked my ass harder than any game series I have ever played. Nothing has ever frustrated me more, and yet given me more gaming satisfaction, than Monster Hunter.
Monster Hunter, is a series of games in which you play as a monster hunter, who, and I’m sorry but see if you can follow, here is where the plot gets complicated, hunts monsters. Still with me? Wonderful, let’s go into more detail about the wonderful, and horrible world of Monster Hunter.
Now Monster Hunter isn’t just one game, it’s a series of games. At the moment there are eight games that have been released internationally, and a ton more released only in japan. The most recent one came out July 15th, and I have been playing it off and on since it was released. I do have a history with the series however, I have been playing since the release of Monster Hunter Freedom 2, which came out in the far distant year of 2007.
I picked it up for the PSP, which at the time didn’t have too many big games out for it. I knew nothing of the series, beyond the fact it was big and adventurous, and featured dragons. This may come as a shock to you, but I sort of have a thing for dragons. I really have a thing for dragons. I named my website after my obsession, in fact. Point being, that alone was enough to sell me on it, so I bought it. The game drops you into a small town, and tells you to pick a weapon before you go off and hunt. The were a total of eleven weapons at the time, so of course I chose the goofiest sounding one, the Gunlance.
It’s exactly what it sounds like.
My weapon picked, and my character armed with a weapon twice his size, I set off! The way the game worked, you accept missions from the town to either hunt a monster, or gather supplies. Mission accepted, you are then sent off into a larger map that, somewhere, has a monster in it (or supplies, depending on the mission). That simple concept sounds fairly boring on paper, but what truly makes it wonderful is the monsters. Obviously, I mean, they are in the title. The monsters have a massive range of diversity, from tiny, boring raptor looking dinos.
To far more interesting beasties, like the Akantor: A giant, lava-breathing monster who could swallow you whole.
But for the most part, you just fight those raptors. You fight them by carefully dodging their attacks, and striking them rapidly with your weapons any chance you get. It was this part I struggled with at first, I found the Gunlance too clunky, and kept getting creamed by even the weakest of monsters. Frustrated, I switched to a new weapon on a whim, the dual blades. I never once looked back. Dual blades are extremely agile, and dish out high damage by attacking very quickly. They were also very bad in that particular game, but I fell in love immediately.
So you have your weapon picked out, you’ve selected your monster, and then you beat the crap out of them. Now what? You gather parts from the monster, and using those parts, you can build a set of armour, or upgrade your weapons. With that done, you can fight bigger, stronger, and scarier monsters. Once you beat them, you can make more armour, and fight bigger monsters, and… well you get the idea.
As the series went on they added more monsters, and more weapons to the mix. Those alone wouldn’t be enough to keep me going in this series, and this is a series I have easily dropped a thousand hours into, so what is it that keeps me going? The answer is simple: It has multiplayer. Each game has the ability to connect with up to three other players, to go hunt bigger and bigger monsters. This feature is enough to keep me going, because the mix of competition (I need to be better than them!) and co-operation (if I stop playing I’ll fall behind!) is a powerful motivator.
That and four players hunting a giant monster is either goofy as hell, or the single most awesome thing I’ve seen in a game. It really depends on what you are hunting, and some of them, the idea of hunting them with anything but a full party is just terrifying.
Like that one. He’s roughly one thousand, four hundred, and forty-five feet long. For those of you who can’t quite picture that, school busses are forty-five feet long. Thirty two school busses arranged end to end wouldn’t be long enough to match this guy, and you have to fight it! That’s when this game truly shines, is when you successfully bring something that big to its knees. After that, the loot barely matters, what matters is the victory.
So this sounds great right? Why then did I start this off spouting hatred for this game? Well the problem comes from the moments that are in between those epic fights. The problem is how much of a grind this game really is. So as I mentioned, once you hunt a monster, you can make armour from its parts. The problem is you will never get enough parts on the first hunt, and likely not the second. My current group of hunters famously remembers spending days hunting one particular monster, over and over again, trying to get one particular stupid piece. One single piece was all I needed to make my armour. We fought him easily over a hundred times.
A hundred times. Not all missions involve giant monsters either, some involve just gathering resources, which is tedious and extremely frustrating to deal with, especially if the item you need to end the quest just wont drop. The game has other flaws too, the controls are frustrating to use, the hit-boxes are awful, and some of the monsters just flat-out aren’t fun to fight against. Some of these flaws are more than enough to turn people off, and honestly the game has no ‘goal’. There’s a story you can play through and beat in each game, sure. It never goes beyond ‘There is a big scary monster coming, stop it!’ ‘You stopped the monster, well done!’ but it’s not the reason you hunt the monsters or build the armour sets.
You hunt monsters because you want those moments of awesome. You hunt monsters to play with your friends, and to bring down beasts you never thought possible. You hunt monsters for the challenge. Unfortunately this is not enough for some people, and honestly I can’t blame them either. As for me? I’m going back to hunting after this. After all, I only need a few more pieces to finish up my next armour set, and those monsters wont get any weaker now will they.