[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/monsterhunter/cover.jpg[/floatleft]There are way too many formulated games that come out nowadays, to the point where a game will come out that does not follow the “traditional” standards set by previous games before it and gets bashed by the critics for being different. This is what [i]Monster Hunter[/i] was upon its release. This game does not play how a typical gamer would expect it to, and if you lack patience, you won’t make it past the opening minutes in The Village. I always implore people to look past the initial moments and actually play any new game they get for at least a half hour (or more) just to get a good feel for the game. Admittedly, I was frustrated at first when I tried to maneuver my character. However, after about an hour into this game, I was hooked.
[i]Monster Hunter[/i] is, without a doubt, the most underrated game I have ever played. From the very start, it captured my attention with its “Create Your Character” screen, which has always been my favorite addition to any game. After exiting from this screen with your customized character, you’re placed in The Village for the very first time, which is your single-player hangout between quests. Here, you can shop, create weapons or armor, modify your current equipment, or rest at home to replenish your health. For online play, you’re placed in The Town, which can only hold eight players at a time-four of which can join together to complete quests. There isn’t much of a story that goes beyond “saving the peaceful village from the monsters.” You’re simply told that you are a new hunter and you wish to become better. You are then given quests to begin that journey to progress in your Hunter Rank (you start out at rank 1 and are aiming for rank 20).
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/monsterhunter/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]Playability-wise, this game takes a lot of getting used to, especially in the area of character and camera movement. Capcom should have left camera control completely out of the game; it’s very cumbersome to have to worry about controlling the camera when you’re hunting. Getting past that, this game is simply fun. If hacking and slashing satisfies your gaming hunger, then [i]Monster Hunter[/i] offers you an all-you-can-eat buffet. In order to make the game a little easier on first-time players, the first few quests are lessons, where you are given step-by-step instructions on how to complete them in the given time frame (which is usually around 40 to 50 minutes), and they are so simple that you really have to try to fail them. Once you pick up the game basics, you will receive harder quests that require you to be well-equipped. Your character can’t leave town until he or she is given a quest, so you can’t really explore the lands unless you accept a task. However, the beginning quests open up quite a few areas, so you can easily complete the mission objectives in a few minutes then explore for at least a half hour.
There are two types of quests: Hunting and Gathering quests, with each offering its own distinct challenges. Gathering quests involve going out into the land and acquiring items, either by mining, picking plants, catching bugs, or carving items from your killed monsters. They can be easy, but be forewarned: stealing Wyvern Eggs can get very aggravating. The more fun quests involve slaying monsters, and you can use a myriad of melee or shooting weapons, as well as time bomb traps and large barrel bombs that really pack a punch. If a monster has a tendency to retreat to a new area during battle, you can mark it with a paintball to track its movement on the map. Usually, you are given these items at the start of the quest, but more are available at the shops in town as well. Quests are necessary to make money, as you are given a financial reward after each quest you complete, driving you to complete quests more than once to build up for that weapon or armor upgrade.
Selecting your weapon can be a tough decision if you make it one. Each weapon type varies in style, damage, and swiftness, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. My personal favorite is the Great Sword, not only because of the massive damage it can do early on, but because I’ve always liked fighters who wield swords that dwarf them in size. Consequently, the Great Sword is very heavy and slow, and recovery time is long between swings. Dual Swords, Hammers, and Lances also offer a nice change in weaponry, but if melee fighting doesn’t suit you then bow guns and arbalests will fulfill your needs to toss projectiles.
In addition to hunting, [i]Monster Hunter[/i] offers more ways to pass your time, such as crafting (this game encourages you to craft your weapons and armor from monster parts instead of buying your equipment), cooking, and fishing. Cooking can be really flustering because while you are cooking, a short cartoonish tune plays, at the end of which you must press a button at the right time to get a well-done meat. Missing could yield a rare or burnt steak. If you manage to acquire a well-done steak, you can either sell it for a nice sum or hold on to it for use in replenishing your stamina. You can also combine items to make different items. For example, an Herb and a Blue Mushroom will yield a Potion that will restore lost health.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/monsterhunter/ss01_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]Graphically, this game is beautiful, showing off its realistic design as early as the game’s intro movie. The prehistoric feel was a welcomed change from the normal fantasy setting to which I’m accustomed. Most of the monsters you will hunt are dinosaur spin-offs, and they are presented with near-realistic design. The landscapes are crisp, making you feel as if you’re in the game yourself, slashing away and carving dead corpses for your prizes. Character models are also extremely realistic, and your hunter’s appearance changes as you dress or undress equipment. This has always been another favorite characteristic of mine, because it gives the game a little more flare, and watching your character grow from wearing practically nothing to wearing a full suit of armor is always fun.
Sometimes my favorite games are ones that focus on character progression/item-hunting than on immersing you in a heavily involved story. [i]Monster Hunter[/i] is one of those games that you can always play because the addiction level is really high. The real meat comes from going online and questing with others-that level of interaction always makes games more fun. If you’re looking for the traditional action/RPG, then don’t waste your time on this game. If you want to play a game that is both different and creative, then pick up a copy of [i]Monster Hunter[/i]. Just don’t forget that USB keyboard, or you won’t be very talkative to your online comrades.