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Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate isn't a dramatic departure for the series, but unlike previous installments, it seems Capcom was more amenable to addressing complaints. The core mechanics are still firmly in place, but handled in such a way that outsiders Ė many of whom stayed away from the gameís rigid refusal to adopt some "modern" standards Ė can finally jump into the game and not feel immediately overwhelmed.

I canít say enough about how great Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate looks! It could be a matter of going in with lower expectations, but I was amazed with how clean and clear everything is and that it manages to run without much of a performance hit. There are a couple of choppy moments, though most seemed to be because of camera issues. There are obvious cut corners to ensure the game runs, such as some texture work, but for a game running on the 3DS, it is great.

Much of the charm for Monster Hunter, at least for me, has always been the overly-done art style. The overall aesthetic is oddly charming and itís really cool to see what each new piece of equipment looks like after equipped. You also get a lot of character customization options to adjust. I particularly enjoyed the option to change nearly everything about my characterís appearance whenever I wanted.

Audio is great. I wasn't impressed with the music, though hearing monster noises is always a lot of fun.


Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate doesnít stray far from the core formula. You are a hunter and you accept requests from villagers who are either unable (or unwilling) to venture into the wilderness to collect items they need. A narrative adds context to quests, tying your progress to the travels of a caravan seeking out ancient artifacts somehow tied to the giant monsters youíre hunting.

Though a bit thin, following a narrative isnít the point of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate -- it is hunting down big monsters. A bulk of your play time is spent completing (and re-completing) quests, all in preparation for hunting bigger game. Most involve tracking down and killing a certain monster or group of monsters, though youíll also need to fish, mine, or forage for other materials. Each mission presents you with a main goal, though most include a secondary goal, offering a slightly easier exit point for the quest. Completing a mission via secondary objective doesn't complete the mission, but it is a great way to get out of a situation you didn't prepare for or exit without losing your collected loot. The latter becomes important when you just need to get into an area to snag some materials.

The grind for materials was one of the bigger turn-offs for me, and one of the primary reasons I dropped off on the series entirely. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate shows some recognition of this fact. I still had to dedicate a lot of time towards going into the wilderness or replaying quests to acquire materials, but the amount of items needed has been cut down.

Adding the caravan story also allows Capcom to open the game up a bit. Rather than lumping everything into one area, which can be incredibly overwhelming and intimidating, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate spreads out when new systems are unlocked. Itís a great change, especially since it manages to balance the desires of veterans and newcomers.

In addition to quests, you can set out on Expeditions. These function much like quests, only without as strict a goal. Expeditions are good when you just want to explore and gather materials, but are otherwise dull. Itís great to have another way to collect materials, but the level layouts aren't nearly as interesting as the multi-tiered quest maps.

Throughout your adventure, youíre joined by a Palico, a cat minion. Palicos will help in combat or collect additional resources for you. Eventually, youíre able to craft new equipment for your companion, upping their usefulness in combat. You can also participate in Palico-centered mini-games or recruit more to join you on quests. Of course, why rely on a cat when you can call on friends. Both local and online multiplayer is available. Itís entirely possible to complete most of the game without help, though not without additional grinding, heartache, frustration, and a little luck. Pulling other hunters in for a hunt is enjoyable. The system runs into some of the same issues as Nintendoís online offerings, but that is to be expected.


Monster Hunter isn't a "pick up and play" sort of game. Thereís a lot to learn and understand before you get to the meat of the game. In response, Capcom has tended to stuff the game with longer than necessary tutorials, adding hours to an already long wait. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate does away with the long chunk of tutorials, instead spreading them around the first few quests. After learning the basics, youíre given just enough time to get used to them before a set of new mechanics is introduced. Experienced players may see the tutorials as speed bumps, but for new or returning players, itís a great balance. If nothing else, it kept me playing much longer than past games managed.

The downside to spreading out tutorials is some aspects aren't introduced at the best time. Youíre awarded numerous introductory weapons when you reach the first village, but have to wait a bit to unlock quests that explain how the weapons work. If youíre dealing with swords, spears, and axes it isn't a huge deal, but players who want to learn to use some of the more exotic weapons will need to look it up on their own or wait until the training quests unlock.

Tracking larger prey requires patience, not just with finding which zone the monster is hiding in, but with combat. Charging at a monster is a sure-fire death sentence. Instead, you have to learn to read a monsterís tells and choose the appropriate times to attack and when to defend. Battles are typically long, alternating between attacks and chase sequences. Adding to the grueling pace of battles is the lack of a health meter on monsters. Instead, you need to watch for changes in behaviors to know how well youíre doing. It is easily one of the more maddening parts of the hunt, but incredibly rewarding once you begin to figure things out.

Maps are broken into different areas where a huge monster may be hiding. Once found, you enter combat and attempt to defeat it. This is a tricky enterprise. The monster will usually have some friends and will run to different parts of the map if you do enough damage, requiring you to hunt it down once more. Of course, you can set traps to try and slow the monster down or tag it with paint balls, which shows you exactly where it ran. Both are tedious, requiring lots of planning if you want to be successful.

Game Mechanics:

Much of the experience of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is acquiring new, more powerful equipment. Nearly every monster you encounter yields some harvestable material. These are used to forge or improve equipment, allowing you to go after more powerful monsters. Equipment offers different stat modifications. Although youíll likely spend much of the early game improving your core armor set, youíll eventually begin forging new sets of armor to meet specific threats. This adds a considerable amount of grinding as you rerun missions to ferret out specific materials, though the system has been reworked a bit from past games.

Collecting resources is a bit of a drag, though Capcom has added a few new mechanics to cut down on the prep grind, hastening players towards the hunt. One of the better additions is a vendor who can swap out materials or multiply your stock of herbs and other necessities. However, it takes time for the vendor to acquire materials. You aren't just walking up to a shop window. Instead, you need to think through what you need for your next big hunt, considering what you can easily acquire on quests and what you canít.

Weapon selection makes a huge difference, to the point the game plays like an entirely different game based on which weapon youíre using. A sword and shield requires a completely different strategy than a greatsword. Even weapons typically grouped together Ė like axes and greatswords Ė behave differently. Then there are the oddball weapons like hunting horns or the two new additions: the Charge Blade and Insect Glaive.

I checked out a couple of the different weapons available, but the Charge Blade quickly became my favorite. The Charge Blade has both one and two-handed forms. As a one-handed weapon, it acts like the sword and shield, only each hit fills up a charge, allowing you to unleash massive elemental attacks. Alternately, you can transform it into a slower, two-handed axe. Not only does this require active decisions about which form to use on which monster, charges wonít hold forever and can "burn out," causing them to do no damage and requiring a charge reload, adding an extra action to combat.

The Insect Glaive brings in another completely different set of combat mechanics. It works similar to most of the long-pole styled weapons, but with way more options. The big difference is the Kinsect, an insect helper that sits atop the glaive. You can launch it like a projectile and, if it hits, will transfer a stat buff to your character. Creative glaive-wielders can find ways to stack the bonuses. The glaive also allows players to launch into the air, opening the way for another new combat mechanic.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate adds another dimension to combat with the ability to jump on monsters' backs. If youíre above a monster, your character will attach to its back, starting a sort of rodeo mini-game. The monster will attempt to buck you off, requiring you to hold on until it tires. At this point you can attack, hopefully toppling the monster long enough to get a few cheap hits. Using a pole weapon is an easy way to jump onto a monster, though map areas are designed to allow numerous jump and mount opportunities as well.

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that camera issues plague Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Itís certainly more manageable than other games, but youíll spend just as much time fighting the camera as you do monsters. Pressing (L) brings the camera behind your character or, if the icon is active, focuses on a large monster. Both are passable, but not ideal, particularly in the midst of a battle. Minor camera adjustments can be made either with the D-pad or an optional virtual D-pad assigned to the touch screen. Thereís even support for the Circle Pad Pro accessory, though none of the camera adjustment options work particularly well.

If you havenít played a Monster Hunter game in a while, or are a newcomer who felt the series was a little too impenetrable, you may want to give Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate a shot. The heart of what makes a Monster Hunter game is still present, but I was incredibly happy with the number of concessions the game makes in favor of accessibility and fun. This is, by far, one of the seriesí best entries.

*Note: Review copy downloaded from Nintendo eShop. A retail, boxed version is also available.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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