REVIEW / Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (Switch)

 

Nobody could have predicted Monster Hunter World. The Japanese sensation became an overnight hit here in the West, fast becoming the franchise’s best selling game with over 10 million units sold. The game’s success is down to its accessibility: in comparison to older Monster Hunter titles, World is intuitive, easy to grasp and painless to play.

 

 

Newcomers to the franchise may assume that hand-holding is standard. But anyone who’s played any other Monster Hunter game will be rolling their eyes, watching as the excitement for Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate on Switch reaches fever pitch. They don’t know what’s in store, you’ll be thinking. Wait ’til they get a load of the loading times. 

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is a re-release of the game that debuted on the 3DS in 2016. Featuring a roster of 129 monsters/creatures, 14 familiar weapons, and three tiers of difficulty, the game pairs the classic Monster Hunter gameplay with some much-needed innovation; fundamentally, Generations Ultimate is a hybrid of World and everything that has come before.

 

 

Monster Hunter hasn’t really changed much since 2004. You’ll be hunting monsters, for the purpose of looting their corpses and crafting gear with which to fight new monsters. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is no exception, dumping the player straight in with barely a narrative to guide their way. The option for tutorials is buried in the small villages that serve as home base – whether it’s crafting gear, starting quests, or buying items, it all happens here.

New players do have a daunting task ahead of them. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is brimming with content; much of it will appear alien, to newcomers and World players alike. Your Palico is a playable character, responsible for keeping the essential items flowing in through farming. You’ll be crafting decorations, and guessing at item combinations; you’ll be running around the environments in a panic, wondering where the heck to find Disk Stones. The sheer volume of armours and weapons will have you breaking out in a cold sweat. And that’s just Low Rank: you’ll have to handle 2 more layers of increased difficulty (High and G Rank) before you’re done.

 

 

New players do have a daunting task ahead of them. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is brimming with content; much of it will appear alien, to newcomers and World players alike. Your Palico is a playable character, responsible for keeping the essential items flowing in through farming. You’ll be crafting decorations, and guessing at item combinations; you’ll be running around the environments in a panic, wondering where the heck to find Disk Stones. The sheer volume of armours and weapons will have you breaking out in a cold sweat. And that’s just Low Rank: you’ll have to handle 2 more layers of increased difficulty (High and G Rank) before you’re done.

Fortunately, the 14 weapons are identical to those present in Monster Hunter World. They even play similarly: you’ll notice that your actions are more labored, but otherwise the choice of weaponry is comfortingly familiar. Seamless transitions between attacking motion and dodge-roll are a joy to witness, and the more athletic weaponry – I’m an Insect Glaive kind of guy – is a breath of fresh air after the limiting options in previous games. Using items is still a tactical decision – no more potions on the move – but overall the game is much more forgiving to players who tend to button-mash. Ahem.

 

 

By comparison, hunting monsters is mostly identical to previous games. In place of Scoutflies guiding you toward your target, the player is equipped with Paintballs, to mark the monster once they find it. Finding it involves trudging around the whole map, sitting through loading screens between areas and crossing your fingers. This is obviously where World excels, and Generations Ultimate suffers. The dated hunting mechanics are a drain on any player’s willpower, even though the Switch handles load times well.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate has an ace up its sleeve. The extraordinary roster of ferocious beasties puts World to shame. With over 90 actual monsters, plus a few special variations, Generations boasts the largest roster of any Monster Hunter. And when all you’re doing is fighting monsters, quantity is often better than quality. It’s easy to become numb to the awe of seeing a Rathalos when it’s the twelfth one you’ve fought that day. But my God, does that Valstrax look phenomenal.

 

 

In fact, this is what Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate does best. Quantity is the buzz-word, throughout the course of the game; the 93 monsters, the Low/High/G rank quests, and the amazing armoury all serve to keep the player desperate to explore. Villages and environments from Monster Hunter‘s long history also make an appearance, giving you a breathtaking spectrum of locales where you can quite (un)safely vanish for days on end.

 

 

Of course, the original game was released on the 3DS, and as such the graphics are nothing to write home about. The improvements made for the Switch are noticeable, and often save the game from looking dated: shadows and textures are more crisp, and though the environments are not as detailed as World the game is certainly more vibrant. And if you look closely, you’ll notice that the animations are almost identical to those found in World.

As far as plot is concerned, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate doesn’t really have one. And the graphics are definitely a little archaic. To my mind, these drawbacks cannot dampen my excitement at the fact that this is the first Monster Hunter game for Nintendo Switch. The franchise has a proud history on handheld consoles, so this is a perfect partnership; the resolution is crisp, the frames, barely an issue. Docked or handheld, this is a huge step forward for both franchise and console.

 

 

Bringing Monster Hunter World to the Switch was clearly impractically difficult. But Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is the next best thing: it’s the springboard from which World bounced, marrying familiar weapons and combat with more traditional Monster Hunter quirks. It is just familiar enough to players who begun their hunting with World, and certainly appealing to long-time fans. The only issue – a recurring one – is that newcomers will struggle. But if Monster Hunter World is the poster-boy for the new generation of accessible games, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is a fond farewell to an era of frustration, glory, and not being able to tell how much damage you’re doing.

 

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