As much as I complain about the concept of games being ‘system sellers’, the Monster Hunter games have been this for me for both the Wii U and now the 3DS. Ever since my experience of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite on the PSP, ever since I had to perfect the claw grip to manage both the analogue nub and the d-pad buttons, the obtuseness of and mystery around the mechanics of the game have been wonderfully compelling, with the insistence of Capcom on only making each iteration marginally more accessible to the newcomer to the series and adding enough in the way of new weapons, enemies and other gameplay features to maintain an interest in the series over the multiple iterations I have had the pleasure to experience.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is no exception this, with the New 3DS serving as an exceptional platform for the formula of the games: with the depth that the 3D of the top screen adds, it becomes easier to delineate between foreground and background, particularly in terms of the movement of monsters; with the addition of Circle Pad Pro-replacing analogue nub and the use of the touchscreen for camera management, keeping track of larger monsters becomes more compelling as an experience; and the portable platform is perfectly suited to both enabling the shortest and longest of quests, with the immediate suspend and resume functionality that the 3DS provides.
Yes, the game does start in much the same way as any other Monster Hunter game, with a few tutorial quests intended to grant knowledge of the basics to new players and to refresh the memories of more experienced players. For any other series, I would probably say that the initial quests involving slaying a given enemy with each of the weapon types, collecting x of y items and slaying a number of certain type of monster are worn out to the point of being a risible trope within the series, but there’s something comforting about the initial elements being this consistent and comfortable slow start into the true action that is the hunting of the larger monsters: it feels proper that this should be how Monster Hunter excursions start – every new hunter starts equally green and this accompaniment to the natural power curve of progression though the games. At the same time, this is categorically not an appeal to the nostalgia of my experiences of the series prior to now: it is more akin to the feeling of ‘home’, that the framework established by the consistencies is something that feels as natural as walking from one’s bedroom to one’s bathroom in the middle of the night.
This analogy for home is a powerfully fecund one in the context of Monster Hunter 4: the hunter’s life is one that carries them through many towns and many environments in order to assist those close to them, but home is always within the caravan; home is always where you return to following the fulfilment of quests; home is where where you manage your necessities for the hunting life. Home is where the heart is, and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate has a lot of heart in the way it wears its heritage on its sleeve.