The Monster Hunter franchise is easily one of my favorite franchises of all time. Since the first installment on the PlayStation 2, the series has become well known for its numerous weapons, cooperative multiplayer, monumental monsters, and steep learning curves. Monster has since had iterations on the PlayStation Portable, Wii, Wii U, and the 3DS. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is the series’ sophomore installment on Nintendo’s portable and comes with several new monsters, weapons, and many more features. Do these new features attribute to the 3DS’ adding another fantastic game to its catalog or should it be forgotten and left in the dust?
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate casts you as a hunter working for a traveling caravan. You start as a lowly hunter but slowly and steadily become a pinnacle of the society of hunters. Throughout the single player campaign, you’ll meet several interesting characters (while recruiting others for the caravan), visit several different towns, and recruit and train cat-like companions known as Palicos. Unlike the earlier Monster Hunters, your single player experience won’t be spent within one hub town. As you progress, the traveling caravan will lead you to various locations. Val Habar is a beautiful and lively town that resides in a desert, while the town of Harth rest on the base of a volcano. The inclusion of many hub locations rather than one is a great inclusion and adds to the feeling of single player progression.
To progress in any aspect of Monster Hunter, you’ll need to partake in quests of which there are three types: Hunting, Capture, and Gathering. In hunting quests, you are tasked with hunting monsters, most of which can be extremely intense and strategic. Capture quests are very similar to hunting quests with the exception of capturing the beast rather than killing it. The core Monster Hunter experience is derived from both Hunt and capture quests. Lastly, Gathering quests require that you gather items. There is, for example, a quest that requires you to fish for four small goldfish. Gathering quests are by far the worst part of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. In a game that prides itself, and rightfully so, on hunting awesome monsters, gathering quests completely slow the game down and are often frustratingly monotonous. The single exceptions are egg delivering quests in multiplayer, but I’ll elaborate on that momentarily.
Each quest that you accept will send you to numerous, beautiful locations. Like the aforementioned hubs, these locations are extremely varied and each is fun to explore. In addition, each location has materials that you might need to build better weapons or armor. The Frozen Seaway, for example, contains the exclusive ice crystals, and the Volcanic Hallow, while not being the only location to mine dragonite ore, gives you higher percentages of successfully mining it. In addition to exclusive items, some monsters are also more commonly found in certain areas. This can change your entire strategy when hunting certain monsters. If you’re hunting a monster in the Volcanic Hallow, you’ll need to keep in mind that the extreme heat is going to slowly deplete your health. Likewise, the extremely cold climate in the Frozen Seaway will slowly deplete your stamina. In cases like these, you’ll need to remember a hot drink for the cold and cold drink for the heat. These are just one of many examples of what kind of planning is required to complete quests successfully.
In addition to planning accordingly for the areas, you’ll also have to plan for the monsters. Through the course of the game, you’ll hunt large wyverns, apes, insects, and much more. Each creature has many strengths and many weaknesses. A Gore Magala deals frenzy virus damage, while being weak to lightning damage. Every monster also has tells to show what they are about to do. In this case, the apelike Congala will shake its butt before it farts on you. It’s times like these when you need to prepare adequately and be able to think quickly on your feet. It’s really a huge part of what makes the Monster Hunter franchise so great.
You’ll combat these giant creatures with a large variety of weapons. There’s the powerful yet sharp great sword, the quick but precise dual blades, the ranged bow, and many more. All in all, you can choose to wield one of 14 weapons with the ability to change your weapon type between hunts. I, for example, switch often between the great sword, hammer, dual swords, and switch axe. Being able to change your weapon breaks up the monotony of using the same one over and over again and is a huge contributor to Monster Hunter 4’s replayability. The addition of the Insect Glaive and Charge Sword is beneficial to the series as well. The Insect Glaive is fast and allows you to use an insect like creature called a Kinsect to acquire status buffs from the monster you are fighting. The charge sword is similar to the switch axe except rather than an axe turning into a sword, this weapon goes from a sword and a rather large shield to a giant axe. The Insect glaive also gives you the ability to launch yourself into the air allowing for an easier opportunity to mount monsters. Speaking of mounting monsters, the ability to rodeo a monster has become an integral part of monster hunting. You initiate a mount by jumping off a higher point and hitting a monster while in midair. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it initiates a mini game that has you stabbing the monster multiple times while stopping to hold on for dear life when the monster bucks and roars. If you successfully fill up the meter before the monster buck you off, the monster is thrown to the ground giving you a small amount of time to attack it freely. As for the general controls, the left thumbstick controls your character while the camera is controlled by the New 3DS’ C stick, the touch screen, or a circle bad pro. All three of these options are excellent so don’t be too cautious about the controls as they are quite good.
Eventually you’ll have to level up but, unlike most games, Monster Hunter 4 doesn’t have a level up system. Instead, you’ll create weapons and armor using the remains of monsters that you have defeated. This will, at times, have you fighting the same monster over, and over again. Surely that sounds like a bad thing, but there are few things that feel as satisfying as finally getting that awesome set of armor or that incredibly powerful weapon. You’ll also have your trust Palicos by your side, each now wearing customizable weapons and armor of their own. These are a little bit more difficult to attain as, when the time comes, you’ll send out a team of Palicos to go retrieve them. All in all, Monster Hunter has one of the deepest crafting systems you’ll find.
Lastly, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate has something that fans of the portable iterations have been wanting for a long time: Online multiplayer. While the single player is fantastic and progressing through the story is a lot of fun, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate’s online and local multiplayer is fantastic and easily one of the best parts of the game. While online, you are basically tasked with doing the same thing as in single player except you’ll be facing much tougher monsters and can have up to three friends join you. This makes for extremely fun, frantic, and spontaneous gameplay that leaves you glued to your 3DS. I’ve also never experienced any problem with the online functionality which is a pleasant surprise. The way that the quest progression system works is that each player begins with a hunter ranking (HR) of 1. As far as increasing your HR goes, you’ll need to complete certain quests in order to do so. Luckily, completing each quest counts for each player involved so teaming up and completing quests successfully is beneficial to everyone involved. As with everything though, there is a catch. When an Urgent quest, a quest that when completed increases your HR, is completed it only counts for the initiator of the quest. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as these monsters are usually very tough and have items needed to craft really good weapons and armor. So the more you complete these Urgent quests, the more materials you get for really good weapons and armor. While the hunting and capture quests are still a blast in multiplayer, gathering quests are still really terrible. There is an exception to that though. A few friends and I we’re doing an egg gathering quest that required four large eggs to be delivered. We had to carry the eggs from a faraway location and back to home base to be collected. In this instance, there were only three of us and we all decided to grab one egg each and head to the home location. Just when we were close to the collecting location, a monster appeared and caused us to break the eggs. This led to me delivering the four eggs while my companions fended off the beast. Moments like these during multiplayer are fantastic and really stand out as some of the best moments I’ve ever experienced in Monster Hunter.
Monster Hunter Ultimate is a fantastic game that every 3DS owner should try. Sure, the Monster Hunter franchise isn’t for everyone, but the beautiful locations, fun single player progression, deep crafting system, excellent combat, and incredible local and online multiplayer make this game a must have. Even with the dull gathering quests and the extremely steep learning curve, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is easily the best game in the franchise.
Final Score: 9.5/10
Article artwork by: Bremenn Millan