Monsters! Hunting! Crafting! Oh my. The biggest, baddest and definitive version of Monster Hunter Generations hacks it’s way onto Nintendo’s Switch, but does “old school” Monster Hunter still cut it after the simplicity of Monster Hunter World? Let’s find out!
My first experience with Monster Hunter was relatively recent, by the usual standard set for fans of Capcom’s long running and platform spanning series. I first encountered the series on the Wii (and later the Wii U) via Monster Hunter 3 and then later on the 3DS, though for some reason I could never work out why my first pass at playing Monster Hunter Generations never really clicked. With its release on the Switch, I now know that my disinterest with Generations has nothing to do with the game itself – it’s simply because I can’t get to grips with Monster Hunter on a handheld console.
Generations might be the perfect answer, then. A single game that spans hundreds of hours and features almost limitless replay value seems the perfect answer for mobile platforms, yet the Monster Hunter series is also known for its complex and challenging combat. Fighting in this game, for those who are uninitiated, is based around a mixture of weapons and styles (both of which there are many to choose from) that results in a dizzying array of combinations to choose from and experiment with.
With weapon in hand, combat isn’t actually that difficult to wrap your head around, but the length of some fights, as well as the claw-like grip required when clutching the switch in its handheld form proved too much for me after more than maybe thirty minutes at a time. It turns out, my fleeting hour or two spent with Generations on the 3DS was cut short for much the same reason, having gone back to it now and immediately realised that what Monster Hunter really needs for players to make the most of it, is time and space.
Space, which I won’t dwell on for too long, comes in the form of playing on a big screen. Many of the enemies in Generations take up the entire screen, requiring the player to constantly maneuver both camera and character to ensure the best position to strike from. Tougher monsters are largely armored with few weak spots and I found getting around them so much easier on a full size TV. Where time is concerned, I think many potential Monster Hunter fans are put off because of the demands that the game puts on them, but in all honesty that’s never as apparent as in the first few hours when you’re learning the ropes, figuring out the attack patterns and frankly, coming to terms with what is a bit of a weird game structure.
…a laundry list of quests that range from simple to absolutely-ridiculous…
Generations (more or less in line with the other Monster Hunter games that I’ve played) is split into a cycle of visiting villages, picking up mandatory (or rather, important) quests and then choosing from a laundry list of other quests that range from simple to absolutely-ridiculous in terms of complexity. Every quest takes place in a set region that is made up of something like six to twelve separate areas. This games the game a feeling of being sort of open world (and some of the vistas are hugely impressive) but it actually isn’t – it’s a series of individual arenas that are loosely linked by a biome or theme.
The online features haven’t been live during the twenty or so days that I’ve been testing Generations (or at the very least, no one has been online, which seems unlikely) but assuming that the game at least includes those found in the 3DS version, then players can expect to be able to search for other hunters either privately or publicly, with lobbies of up to four who will then choose a quest to undertake. Again I’d be speculating about the net code, but based on the fact the Switch is more powerful than the 3DS and the game essentially hasn’t changed, I would expect any lessons about how to optimise the game will have been learned long ago.
Whilst we’re on the subject of Generations being a 3DS port, it’s obvious that it is – especially when you compare it to the much more polished and altogether more beautiful Monster Hunter World. That’s not to say that Generations isn’t visually impressive in both handheld and docked modes, but it fails to live up to the standards of first party switch titles like Mario Odyssey or Breath of the Wild. Whilst I haven’t played Monster Hunter World exhaustively, I should also note that players who have only experienced Monster Hunter via the latest version will be in a for a mild shock as they enter Generations, thanks partly to the gnarlier graphics, but mostly because the game play is decidedly slower and more deliberate.
For example, Monster Hunter World allows players to heal whilst on the move, whilst Generations (as per previous iterations in the series) makes the player sheathe her weapon and sit through a lengthy drinking-followed-by-arm-pumping animation, which is often broken by a monster attack unless you move miles and miles away. Similarly, the first ten hours or so of quests (easily, it could be more) are made up of almost pointless drudgery. You’ll kill (or cull, I mean) thousands of the same enemies as you undertake mushroom or rare butterfly fetch quests – this is something that the more streamlined gameplay of World almost entirely did away with.
Generations should still be praised for some of the things it does do to address its weirdness, which were a bone of contention in earlier versions, though. For example, there is a tutorial mission for every weapon style, which at least provides a basic structure for the player to work through in order to find a style that they might be comfortable with for the next, oh, two hundred hours or so. On the flipside, it’s a shame that the game doesn’t really tell you about these tutorials – they just appear buried in a menu, somewhere.
But what about people returning to Monster Hunter with Generations – or even those returning to Generations for the second time, in this so-called Ultimate guise? Well, this is where it gets trickier. There are twenty four hours in every day and I work for about twelve of them. Currently, I sleep for about six, which leaves me about six hours per day playing Monster Hunter Generations (some of which, I admit, I spend interacting with my children whilst they scream at the TV because daddy’s been eaten again.) Such is the size and scale of this game, I’m just not sure I’ll have seen enough of it to tell you everything you need to know.
I started Monster Hunter Generations with no 3DS save game to load from (though you can pull yours in, should you wish) and a mountain of work to do. There are literally tens of thousands of items to craft from, hundreds of individual arenas to scour, numerous monsters (and variants of them) to kill and then turn into yet more fancy armours. There are recipes to discover and make in order to confer a temporary benefit and there are all these different weapons to experiment with. Two of these styles (Valour and Alchemy) are brand new, whilst there are also a number of special moves known as Hunter Arts to experiment with.
Getting to the point, I haven’t seen it all yet, but I can confirm that beyond even the hardest quests from the original Generations, Ultimate now features what the game calls G-Rank quests, which are inconceivably challenging and demand that only those with the finest equipment and a great deal of experience should apply. That said, if you reach the G-Rank quests, you probably already qualify. The original game featured battles with four formidable elder dragons and Ultimate adds a fifth, as well as a number of variants. Capcom claim that Generations Ultimate has the largest roster of monsters in the series and I’m not one to argue, though the same model is often used and re-skinned to suit a given environment.
And so here I am wondering whether I should recommend Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate or not, based on what will probably seem like a fairly negative review – or at least a nitpicking one. It’s unfortunate that it comes across that way, but in truth the reason that Capcom moved away from the original Monster Hunter model with World is as clear as the reason why characters in Resident Evil games don’t rotate on the spot and only move in straight lines anymore. For some players, the nostalgic feel is great, but for most people picking up Monster Hunter for the first time with Generations, there will be a real hurdle to get over in terms of how the game plays, how the characters move, how combat works and throughout many other features in the game play.
That said, don’t take some of the negative or slightly nitpicking comments that I’ve made dissuade you, there’s still an awful lot to like here. Generations Ultimate offers perhaps twice as much content as even the next largest Switch game (Breath of the Wild or Skyrim) and whilst there is a certain repetitiveness to the hunting and questing cycle, it’s very rarely boring or dull. This is thanks to the sheer variety of locations to explore, as well as the creatures that inhabit them, I think, but no doubt when the game launches, it will also be because I expect the online community to be fairly large and dedicated.
The Switch specific aspects of the game are relatively spartan and really just consist of the innate ability to switch between docked and handheld modes. I remain convinced that I’ll never be able to deal with the “proper” quests in Monster Hunter because I can’t hold the console firmly enough for the length of time needed without mangling my fingers, but that’s a very specific problem and not one that applies to most people. When docked, I think the game looks good and now that I’m used to that classic gameplay loop, I have enjoyed (and will continue to enjoy) my time with Generations Ultimate greatly. As a purely “big screen” experience though? I prefer Monster Hunter World.
To close out then, I think that players new to Monster Hunter who only own a Switch should seriously consider investing in Generations Ultimate – it’s a huge, deep and very rewarding RPG that does something no other series really does. It requires real mastery to make the most of and the ramp up is steep, but it’s worth it in the end. Chances are, you’ll be able to enjoy it either handheld or at home (and you’ll probably already know whether or not long handheld sessions are possible for you) and there’s a great game to be found here. That said, if you’ve also got an Xbox, PS4 or gaming PC, then starting with World would offer a more palatable step into the series.
If you’re a returning fan then you’ll almost certainly have made your mind up. Generations Ultimate offers more of everything that made classic Monster Hunter so popular – it has more monsters, more places to visit, more quests, more craftables and more of everything else, plus you can play it either at home or on the move. What’s not to like? No matter what I say about Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, it’s most definitely a massive and worthwhile addition to the Switch’s already impressive library, even if it remains a fairly niche one in terms of how it plays and who it is likely to appeal to.