Hunting solo is a fool’s errand. Sure, early on you don’t have much of a choice, but those aren’t exactly the most dangerous quests either. Fortunately that you won’t be stuck by yourself for very long. Although given the quality of the help you do find, sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference.
Your first partner will be a Shakalaka named Cha-cha. He’s got a funny way of talking, but he’s a good kid overall. If you want him to go with you on a quest, just ask him and he’ll be happy to tag along let his minion accompany him (you’ll get used to it). Having a partner out there with you can be invaluable, even if all he ever does is distract a wyvern for a bit and give you a chance to recover. Cha-cha’s usually good for more than just a decoy, as he can also attack monsters and even gather a little when the opportunity presents itself. Eventually you might even find a second partner, Kayamba. He’s got his own issues, but for the most part he and Cha-cha operate in the same manner.
To signal a partner, open your menu and hit either the X or Y button, depending on which one you want to ping. I like to use a touch screen panel for this to save time and make sure I signal the right one. Signals can also be used with human friends, letting them know where a monster is, where a tail was cut off, or even that the monster is ready for capture.
So let’s discuss the care and feeding of Shakalakas for a bit. These little guys have a few things going for them: their masks, their abilities, and their dances. New masks are often inspired by monsters and will be constructed by Junior once you have the proper materials, but the Argosy captain might come across one or two in his travels as well. If a mask has a special power, you can usually ask your partner to use it by signaling them, although there’s usually a substantial wait between uses since they tire quickly. Other masks work differently, but for the most part that’s how you’ll use them. Just remember that if they’re raging they aren’t going to listen to you, so try and be aware of their current condition when you ask.
Each mask can have from one to three abilities tied to it, at least once the Shakalaka gains experience with using it. These abilities can affect their combat performance in various ways, from adding elemental status, improving defense, increasing attack frequency, or allowing them to recover stamina faster just to name a few. You can use their abilities to amplify your own, or let them do their own thing while you do yours. Experiment! Find out what works for you.
You can speed up the development of your partners by giving them food. They like cooked meat just fine, but what they really go for is monster liver. And they can have all they want, because that stuff has the taste and texture of moldy sandpaper to us humans. Select the meat from your item list, then “give” it to the partner of your choice.
Then there are the dances. Every Shakalaka can learn several dances, and employing these dances out in the field can yield incredible results depending on the specific mix. You can’t control when the rhythm is gonna get them or even which steps they actually execute, but the little guys can be pretty observant and will help you out more often than not. The dances you equip to your partners might be the most important aspect of their contribution to the team, so choose wisely.
Your Shakalakas will be the only partners you have when handling village quests, and will also accompany you to Port Tanzia if you want to do some “solo” work out there. But Tanzia is also where you can meet up with other hunters, and that’s when the real fun begins. Guild regulations prevent more than four hunters from going on a quest. If there’s only one other hunter in your group, you can each bring one of your little buddies with you to round out the team; a group of three or four hunters will have to go without Shakalaka support, and honestly shouldn’t need it anyway.
How you go about meeting other hunters is up to you. Tanzia is a big place, and you can often just stumble across hunting parties waiting in a tavern if you look right. Hunters are almost always a friendly bunch, willing to help out a less-experienced partner. A big part of that is mutual survival — the Guild’s rule about fainting three times applies to the entire group, so one weak link getting mauled repeatedly ruins the quest for everybody. Also, hunters are never in competition with each other. Every hunter’s carves and rewards are independent of each other’s. That said, I find it is always more fun to hunt with friends. Or at least vague acquaintances.
You can trade with other hunters the same way you give Shakalakas items, although there are some restrictions. Most annoyingly, the Guild prohibits the trade of any item rated “Rare 4” or higher. The trade of equipment is likewise strictly forbidden. This still lets you give each other healing items or even some ammunition, but not, say, the ultra-rare Rathian Plate you need to complete your armor set and can’t seem to find on your own.
In Tanzia, hunters are classified by Hunter Rank (HR). These are broken up into three general tiers: HR1-2 is “low rank,” HR3-5 is “high rank”, and everything from HR6 and up is “G rank.” The first two are roughly analogous to village quests rated 1-5 stars and 6+ stars, respectively, but thankfully very few g-rank monsters find their way to Moga Village. The HR system limits a hunter’s access to quests until they prove themselves worthy… or at least prove that they have powerful friends that can basically complete their lower-ranked quests for them. The rules just say you have to be on a successful quest to get credit. They don’t say you have to be an active participant. Of course, experienced hunters will often don lower-quality gear (if possible) when there’s a large HR gap to even the playing field. While it can be fun to just completely overpower a hopelessly outgunned monster every once in a while, most of us are in this for the challenge.
Note that your village rank has nothing to do with your Tanzia rank. It’s not uncommon for hunters to gain so much experience and top-quality gear in Tanzia that their village tasks become trivially easy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like every other aspect of being a hunter, you have to do what feels right to you. And on the flip side, you could be the greatest hero Moga has ever known and still have to start out doing more grunt-work in Tanzia to prove yourself, although at least in that case you should be able to breeze through your obstacles until you get to an equivalent level.
I hope you’re getting some useful intel out of these notes. As a hunter, the most important partner you can have as information. And next time, I’m going to go over one of the best sources you can find. It’s going to get a little “meta” in here, but if you’ve stuck with me this far I think you can handle it!