Let me paint a picture: you are a monster hunter, and you’ve wandered into a quaint town being ravaged by a plethora of savage creatures. Heroically, you promise to protect the people and fight off these beasts, and since you’ve pledged your body and soul to this little village, they give you a house, a helper and a box full of goodies and weapons.
Whatever, though, the story doesn’t matter. Monster Hunter is the greatest video game of all time.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But since investing $70 in both Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, I have spent more than 300 hours playing these games, and every single moment felt like the most rewarding video game experience I have ever had – and that’s not an exaggeration.
Most Monster Hunter games have 10-12 weapons separated into two classes: “Blademaster” and “Gunmaster.” Within each category, there are distinct weapons such as “Greatswords” – hulking swords that wreak massive havoc. “Dual blades” are daggers that inflict dozens of attacks per second, and if you want to stand back and peg the monster from afar, you should use two guns and a bow. Personally, I’m a big fan of the massive axe that transforms into a chainsaw-like contraption that ends combo fights with a huge explosion.
But let’s skip all the tutorials and cheesy tips for mixing potions so you don’t die after taking a monster claw to the face. You came here for a hunt.
Out of the clouds flies a dragon – a wyvern if you’re keen on the classifications like I am – and he’s twice as tall as you with a wing span that extends past your field of view. He takes a look at you, pulls his head back and lets out a roar so loud that your poor hunter has to cover his ears and cower for a few seconds. This is a Rathalos, otherwise known as “Sovereign of the Skies.” You must unsheathe your weapon and fight the beast until one of you is left standing.
Without a doubt, the most beautiful and well-thought-out game mechanic in the Monster Hunter series is the world scenario. Each action made by you, your partners, the monster and even the environment changes the playing field. The action is fast-paced but controls simply and efficiently, balancing difficulty with accessibility for new players and ensuring a dynamic experience during every hunt.
Because of the many different weapons and in-game items, you get to choose exactly how you want to play. The game is packed with content and has no definite ending, so you set your own goals and play at your own pace. You’ll learn the dragons’ movements, attacks, what it sounds like when they become angry, how many hits to chop off their tail or when to set a trap to capture them. You and the game are constantly adapting to each other in a way that’s both enraging and extremely satisfying.
The Monster Hunter community is also an incredible perk to playing this game. Because the game has no competitive nature, the teammates you meet online may become some of your closest friends. Not once in my 300-plus hours did I deal with a single toxic individual. In fact, most hunting companions were the most helpful and interesting individuals I’ve met.
So let’s just pretend you’re not interested in the community, game balance, infinite choices or intuitive controls. What else does Monster Hunter really have to offer?
Well, let me tell you.
Fantastic and awe-inspiring monster designs with thousands of armor sets and weapons for styling and profiling. A simple, endearing narrative for those willing to read it pairs with well-orchestrated musical themes that get stuck in your head for days. No leveling system to prevent the typical grind. It even boasts seamless online performance with a consistent frame rate.
All of these specs combine to give you that butt-clenching, pulse-pounding feeling you get when you have no continues or potions left, and you’re 40 minutes into the hunt. They allow you to relish that tingle in the base of your skull as you sigh in relief – realizing you were rewarded the monster’s rarest part and can now finish another beautiful armor set.
Seriously, if you have a 3DS, jump onto the eShop and download the free demo. It comes with three hunts, including one that outfits you with gorgeous armor and lets you have a stab at the flagship monster. If you feel even an inkling of joy from playing the demo, I can assure you that the full game will not let you down.
Perhaps you won’t obsessively spend over 300 hours of playing it like I did, but you just may find your favorite game franchise in the process.