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.