Getting too deeply attached to any given company or developer is a recipe for disaster in the modern game industry. Look at Konami, for instance; once they were one of the darlings of gaming, now everyone’s upset about pachinko and unfinished Metal Gear games. Even Capcom isn’t immune to this, with Mega Man practically vanishing (and being replaced with a questionable crowdfunded store-brand imitation) and Street Fighter falling from grace.
Still, that’s not to say that old dogs can’t continue doing tricks they’re good at. Look at Monster Hunter, for instance. There’s a series that knows its niche and fills it well; it continues to do so with Monster Hunter Generations, which is essentially the series’ “Best Of” album. It offers a vast array of creatures to slay, numerous means with which to do so and a suitably impressive atlas of hunting locales.
The monsters, as always, are the star of any Monster Hunter game. In Generations, fan favorites like Rathalos and Nargacuga are joined by newbies including the owl-like Malfestio. As per usual for Monster Hunter, gameplay is essentially a boss rush against the local fauna; victory allows you to carve parts from your prey which are then used as crafting material for new weapons and armor. Success against later foes, then, requires proving yourself against early opponents in order to obtain improved gear.
Said gear consists of numerous melee and ranged weapon options as well as an accompanying set of armor pieces. If you’d prefer getting up close and personal while hunting, you’ll want to check out one of the many available melee weapons; these range from the humble sword-and-shield combo to massive greatswords to more esoteric options like the form-changing Switch Axe and Charge Blade. Hunter who would rather keep their distance might be more interested in the two varieties of bowgun as well as the traditional bow. There are even options for players who’d like to try a hybrid style, like the monster-blasting Gunlance and the bizarre Insect Glaive, the latter arming you with a symbiotic Kinsect that functions as a sort of combat drone.
Your choice of weapon is key to your playstyle, since each option has its own foibles to uncover and you can’t change mid-hunt. It also determines which Hunter Arts you’ll have available; these are new to Generations and are essentially slow-charging super abilities unique to each weapon class. These can play a big role in your hunts, allowing you to pull off bombastic attacks like summoning a giant laser sword out of a Charge Blade or calling upon unholy strength with a Great Sword. It can take a while to integrate Hunter Arts into your move set, but it’s certainly worth the time to do so as they can be devastating.
The other key to your playstyle lies in another new feature introduced in Generations: your Hunter Style. This is essentially an additional layer of customization added on top of your weapon. There are four Styles to choose from and each interacts with each weapon differently, though their effects can be summarized. Guild Style, for instance, is the “base” style, offering the most familiar move set for each weapon as well as a balance of offense and defense. Striker Style is focused on the use of Hunter Arts and raw offense, allowing you to equip multiple Arts but restricting some of your weapon’s more defensive moves. Aerial Style unlocks jumping combat traditionally restricted to Insect Glaive users, allowing you to mount monsters for a good stabbing, while Adept Style is a defensive style that encourages well-timed dodges and guards.
All of this is combined with some of the best graphics we’ve seen from the series on a handheld. It’s not quite as glorious as you’d expect from the Wii U’s Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, but given the constraints of the platform, Generations looks great. As for gameplay, perhaps the most important note is that players with a Circle Pad Pro (or analog nub with the New 3DS) will find they can use those for camera control, which is a nice touch. Hardened veterans are likely to be familiar with The Claw, the traditional Monster Hunter method of camera control involving contorting your hand over the L trigger, but the option is appreciated and certainly less painful.
The combination of new features and plenty of content make Monster Hunter Generations the definitive Monster Hunter experience for the moment. Fans of the series can’t go wrong here, while the massive amount of content and quality-of-life improvements (you can hold down the button to harvest items instead of tapping it!) make Generations a great choice for newbies as well. I’m not one to let Capcom’s recent missteps slide, but they’ve yet to go wrong with the Monster Hunter series, and Generations just serves to underline that point.