Monster Hunter Generations Review
If you've read my reviews for any length of time, you know that I count Monster Hunter among my favorite game series ever. I've spent literally thousands of hours of my life playing the series, starting on the PS2, moving to the PSP and eventually on the Wii, Wii U and 3DS. I've never seen a Rathian I didn't want to chase around and chop the tail off of, and I've never been able to sleep easy knowing that Yian Kut-Ku, Tigrex, or Zinogre are out there, unbashed by my collection of giant hunting hammers. The latest entry in the series, Monster Hunter Generations on Nintendo's 3DS, was made for fans like me. It plays like a Monster Hunter version of a Now That's What I Call Music CD, incorporating all kinds of the series' best characters, locales and monsters into a greatest hits compilation of one of the most beloved modern game series around. What makes it so brilliant, though, is the game is also a perfect jumping off point for someone who has never had to make the tough decision of great sword versus longsword, or melee versus ranged. Whether you are a grizzled veteran or hunting newbie, Monster Hunter Generations is, save for a single misstep, the most perfect, accessible and entertaining game the series has ever seen, and it should make its permanent home in the 3DS of every gamer who isn't afraid of a little challenge.
If you are a Monster Hunter newbie, I can admit the premise doesn't sound all that exciting. You undertake a series of missions that have you either hunting a large monster, a series of smaller monsters or simply just gathering stuff from around the wilderness. You use the gathered materials and pieces of slain monsters to craft new armor, weapons, and items, making it possible to hunt bigger and meaner monsters down the line. The games do have some lore to them and the last title, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, had a full-fledged story, but Generations is far less about telling a tale than it is bedazzling the player with a gameplay loop that is as addictive as any I've ever seen. This is all a fancy way of saying that if you are looking for a multilayered storyline, you won't find it here. This is hardly a negative, however; what was the storyline in Tetris? Exactly. Monster Hunter Generations, and the entire series, really, is all about the gameplay, and if it gets its hooks in, you are in for life. v
Despite not having much of a story to tell, you will have plenty of interaction with other characters as you play the game. You'll come to know the smithy, the quest givers, the village chiefs, and the merchants quite well, and the dialogue you have with these various characters can be very entertaining. For the vet, though, the characters and locales hold some of the most appealing novelty; revisiting old villages from previous games and catching up with favorite NPCs will delight any longtime fan. Running down the snowy slope of Pokke Village from Monster Hunter Freedom 2 and speaking with its diminutive chief brought a huge, stupid grin to my face, as did pretty much every nod to previous games. You certainly don't need to be a longtime fan to smile when the main quest giver discounts the concept/insult of "git gud," but a lot of these returning characters and concepts speak more to the seasoned hunter's hours of previous experience.
On the flipside, Generations' missions somehow manage to strike a perfect balance between getting new fans' feet wet while also delivering exactly what the longtime fans will want. There are tons of training missions, all of which are entirely optional, by the way, to let new players figure out how the game is played and which weapons and tactics will work best for them. Back in the early years of Monster Hunter, the games were not exactly helpful when it came to teaching players what to do, so seeing the extra time and effort spent to make sure everyone can become a hunter is more than appreciated.
The stars of the show, the monsters themselves, never fail to impress. Nearly every wild breast in series history makes an appearance here, and a few new ones have also been added to the mix. The Great Maccao behaves a lot like his raptor-like cousins, Malfestio is a giant owl who can confuse and knock out a hunter in a matter of seconds, and Gammoth is a screen-filling behemoth that looks like a wooly mammoth. What is remarkable is that each monster behaves and fights in a completely unique way, making them feel more like actual animals than video game bosses. Learning each monster's behavior and attacks is absolutely necessary for success, and besting them is as big a feeling of triumph as you'll find in any game.
In addition to resurrecting old monsters, NPCs and environments, Generations adds some new stuff as well. First up are Hunter Arts and Styles. Players can choose from four different fighting styles - Adept, Aerial, Guild, and Striker. These styles drastically affect what you can and can't do out in the field. For example, Aerial style allows players to make jumps and rolls that help with mounting a monster, while Striker style relies on using Hunter Arts. What are Hunter Arts? They are special moves that can turn the tide of battle in seconds. Styles do everything from allowing you to have almost perfect evasion while running from a monster to creating a cloud that heals the player as long as they stand in it to the expected super powerful attacks. So when you factor in almost 15 weapon types, four Hunter Styles and lots and lots of Hunter Arts, Generations offers near limitless ways to play.
The changes don't stop there. Creating and upgrading armor sets is the same as ever - gather materials, create armor and increase its power and limit by using Armor Spheres. Weapons are a different story. You'll still need to create weapons from various materials, but from there you will need more materials to either level said weapons up, or depending on your weapon's level, use it to create entirely new implements of destruction. This forces the player into some strategic planning - do I strengthen my existing weapon or do I take a chance on an entirely new one? New weapons always start at level one, and weapons sacrificed for new ones are erased from your inventory. To be perfectly honest, even after nearly 70 hours of game time, I'm still unsure whether or not I like this new system or the old method better. Both have their merits, but are so different it's tough for me to say which I prefer. If nothing else, the system injects excitement simply by being new, and I'm sure opinions will be as split as mine in the weeks and months to come.
The final addition is, sadly, the game's only misstep. For the first time, you can play as a Palico, a race of cats that act as your partners during the hunts. Cute idea, right? Unfortunately, the Palico missions are extremely boring, pointless distractions. In fact, the only time I was hesitant to play the game is when I knew I had Palico quests to complete. Playing as your created hunter is a deceptively personal experience, and being dragged from that and forced to play as a completely different character not only destroys the game's pace, it feels artificial, too easy and totally forgettable. I guess that not every innovation can be a winner, but I'd be remiss if I said any other feature in any other Monster Hunter game was as loathed by me personally as this one. I used to love the Palicos, now I'm ready to see them excluded from the franchise altogether; the Palico missions really are that bad.
Though I've already alluded to it, Monster Hunter Generations is not just one of the longest, most in-depth experiences on the 3DS, it might be the most expansive game the series has ever seen. For as long as it takes to complete the single player missions (I'm estimating that figure at around 100 hours or more), you can triple that if you plan to play online. Separate guild quests mirror the single player quests, but are designed to be tackled with up to three friends online. For someone like me, who has absolutely no use for multiplayer gaming, these quests are just "hard mode"; the monsters are stronger and objectives tougher, and they can played offline and solo. A majority of fans place a higher value on the game's multiplayer and spend most of their time hunting with friends, and those folks will find no shortage of things to do and monsters to best. No one will be dissatisfied with Generations online portion, and thankfully, us single-player only folks can get in on the action as well.
Before we wrap up, I want to note that I played the game on a standard size New 3DS. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate looked and ran significantly better on the New 3DS family of systems than it did on the original 3DS systems, so I have to assume that Generations follows suit. I don't imagine anyone will have any problems playing on an OG 3DS, but the analog nub for camera controls and better visuals translate to the game being a better fit for the New 3DS and New 3DS XL. PSP vets no doubt remember "the claw", the bizarre way you had to hold the system to control your hunter and the camera simultaneously. Playing on a New 3DS alleviates this, as does use of the Circle Pad Pro attachment, so take that into consideration when choosing which system or peripheral with which to play the game.
There isn't a doubt in my mind that Monster Hunter Generations is the biggest, best 3DS game of 2016, and is more than likely the biggest, best Monster Hunter game period. The sheer amount of content makes the game more than worth it, and it is perfectly suited for new and old fans alike. The awful Palico missions keep the game from attaining a perfect score, but aside from that, Generations is about as good as you are going to get this summer. Do not hesitate; buy this game the first chance you get. Just make sure to wave goodbye to your social life as you fork over the cash.
Final Rating: 97% - Save for a single misstep, the most perfect Monster Hunter game ever.