“Hunt or be hunted” is the only means of survival in a world filled with monsters.
Monster Hunter doesn’t offer a strong story narrative. Instead you simply wake up in a small village as a novice hunter. Your ambition is to prove that you are the next legendary hunter. It may sound simple but getting there and proving yourself will be a difficult task for the impatient.
This is an action game that has some roleplaying elements in it. You play as a monster hunter and you set out on various missions for fame, money and glory.
This game offers some of the most exciting gameplay mechanics to date and since the game has a heavy emphasis on its unique controls, let’s jump straight into that.
The controls are very well thought out. At first you might experience some issues due to the number of buttons and functions you need to memorize. This becomes a problem especially in stress filled situations where you quickly need to use some item from your inventory as you are being chased by a gigantic creature. After some practice however the controls become very fluid and you will be rotating the camera, browsing the inventory as well as running around at the same time.
The way it works is that the left thumbstick moves your character while the right one is used for using different attacks. You use the D-pad to move the camera, which might seem like an odd idea at first but the truth is that it works perfectly although it does require some practice.
You are also given a dodge button which you can use to roll out of danger. Other buttons are used to use the current selected item from the “quick inventory” shown at the bottom corner of the screen as well as interact with objects. The entire game more or less demands that you retain mastery of the controls which might make some players look the other way since they cannot be bothered with advanced controls schemes.
You start off in a village where you prepare yourself as well as pick what quests you want to do. The village offers various shops that provide you with the very basics of items such as herbs, barrels and various gathering tools. You will also find two weapon and armor shops. The difference between the two is that one sells you equipment and the other helps you craft equipment. Bought equipment can only reach a certain level so after a while they are no longer strong enough to withstand the attacks of larger monsters. So instead of just buying weapons and armor you will be gathering materials to produce the much stronger and much needed equipment.
There are various ways to gather materials such as mining, bug catching and fishing but also by hunting monsters and carving them. After you have gathered materials you can return to the shop and it will list all the equipment that you’re able to craft with your current materials, and even though you have all the materials you still need Zenny (the fictional currency).
Throughout the game you will constantly find new materials to make better equipment whether it’s a new weapon or a piece of armor. There are roughly 38 armor sets in the game (a set typically consists of five pieces) and there’s at least a couple of hundred weapons which are spread across seven different weapon types. The weapon types are Sword and Shield, Great Sword, Lance, Heavy Bowgun, Light Bowgun, Hammer and Dual Swords. The gameplay changes drastically depending on what kind of weapon you are using and you cannot switch out your weapon during a quest. All weapons have their strengths and weaknesses and it’s fairly well-balanced although some weapons do feel a lot more powerful than others.
The major difference between weapons (except that Bowguns are ranged weapons while others are used in close combat) is speed and damage. For example, choosing Sword and Shield allows you to attack swiftly, guard most attacks and also run with the weapon drawn. Great Swords on the other hand are slow but cause massive damage. You can still block attacks by using your sword as a shield – this however makes you lose some sharpness. Great Sword users cannot run if their weapon is drawn since the sword is so huge, meaning it’s harder for them to avoid danger. Certain weapons have unique functions – for example when using Dual Swords you can temporarily gain super-strength, in other words you can basically rip anything to shreds. However your stamina is constantly being drained which is why it’s a temporary bonus. Stamina is also used for sprinting and dodging which makes it kind of tricky to maintain. You really need to keep an eye on it so that you don’t run out when you really need to dodge a fireball for example.
Testing all weapons and finding your favorite one is a big part of the game and it’s a lot of fun mastering and learning new tricks that the different weapons allow.
Sooner or later you will discover that certain weapons have different elements such as fire, water and lightning to name a few. What it means is that the weapon does elemental damage as well as physical damage. Wyverns, for example, are vulnerable to different elements so if you manage to find out what the one you are hunting is weak against you have saved yourself a lot of trouble.
To access other locations of the world you need to speak with the village chief. He then lists all the available quests. This is probably what drags the game down for most people, as it’s not a seamless world where you can just explore freely and encounter various foes. Instead the game lets you choose the location you want to explore. These locations are as follows: Forest and Hills, Desert, Volcano, Swamp and Jungle. The locations themselves are divided into smaller regions, so even when you enter a location you are still not treated to a seamless world as there are loading screens between the different areas.
At first you are only allowed to accept quests with a one star rating but as you complete quests new ones become available. But first you must complete the ones labeled Urgent Quests. Doing that makes you advance to the next level of quests and you can revisit any quest as many times as you like. The quests themselves vary a lot not only in difficulty but also the task at hand. The quests are listed as Delivery Quests, Capture Quests and Slaying Quests which are kind of self-explanatory.
Delivery quests essentially tell you to gather a certain item and return it to the base camp.
Capturing quests are but a few in this game. You are told to capture a rampaging monster and you do this by weaken it and then trapping it using a pitfall trap. You have to put it to sleep by throwing tranquilizing bombs on it. In every quest you will find a blue box in the base camp – this box contains items known as supply items which are free items for you to take and use for the purpose of that quest. Tranquilizing bombs restock after each quest meaning you can take and use these in every quest. You do also get to keep some of these items which is a very good feature.
Then we have the Slaying Quests which tell you to slay a certain wyvern. Some slaying quests tell you to slay a number of minions instead. The game has a total of twelve wyverns – these are the bosses so to speak, as they can take over 30 minutes to kill, especially the first time around. Of course it all depends on your equipment but what really plays a major part is your ability to learn the behavior of the monster you are hunting and to strike at its weak spot rather than just blindly hacking away at its feet.
The wyverns are unique in both design and gameplay since they all got their own attacks and behavior. This adds a ton of feeling to the game and it really takes you into the hunter life. The game has a variety of minions as well which are essentially smaller monsters that pose a much smaller threat but they come at you in numbers instead of one at a time. There are also certain monsters which are peaceful by nature and leave you alone as long as you don’t attack them first.
Even though the single player part of the game is most satisfying the game shines when it’s played online. Sadly the services has been terminated after three years since it first started and cannot be accessed anymore. Through playing online you were treated to a large number of additional quests as well as three additional bosses. Two of which are actual dragons and the other one is a lightning unicorn. Not only do you get to fight the ultimate monsters but also you can get much better weapons and armor which aren’t available when playing offline. The maximum amount of players in one game was four but should a player die three times (the same as offline) the quest will be deemed to be a failure, meaning that all players had to watch out or cause the whole team to fail.
Not only does this game have a lot of content but it also has fantastic graphics. The animations are very fluid and you can really tell the expression of the character through the animations. Also each armor piece has its own graphic and unique look making it a real treat when you finally manage to get that armor you have been working so hard for. The locations are beautiful and rich in detail making exploration a nice experience and part of the game.
The soundtrack is epic and when fighting a large monster it’s very iconic as the background music switches to a much more intense song. The monsters sound incredibly threatening as they roar, making the hunter cover his ears and become paralyzed for a while. It’s also an awesome feeling when you are running around the field and you hear the wyvern soaring around you, looking for an opportunity to swoop down at you with its claws!
For a game with no story it’s amazing how it can grab you and pull you into this amazing world. It has got so much content for you to explore and discover. The gameplay and controls are fantastic and it’s something you cannot miss out on, despite its unusual setting which is a mix of fantasy and prehistoric. It’s surprisingly easy to get into and start loving it as much as any other cliche fantasy setting.
As mentioned, unfortunately Monster Hunter no longer supports online play which is where the game really picks up, believe it or not. For its time Monster Hunter was definitely one of the best games out there and I recommend you to check out the sequels as they are bigger in every aspect and also support multiplayer, be it locally or through the online service.
So, as a discontinued game it’s definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of Monster Hunter or just curious on how it all started.