The Monster Hunter franchise has become a surprisingly divisive one in the gaming community. Some swear by its long hunts, intricate inventory system, and repetitious gameplay. Others criticize it for being too formulaic, having an unfriendly user interface, and generally lacking offering gameplay variety. Based on my own experience with the franchise, I’d say fans and detractors both have valid points. From the looks of Monster Hunter Generations, Capcom agrees with me. Generations sticks to the core mechanics that made the franchise a success while also adding new elements that fix some of the series' weaknesses.
This particular Monster Hunter is handled by the “B Team” of developers, so to speak, whose past titles include Portable 3
but none of the Monster Hunter core entries. That actually ends up feeling like a bit of an advantage, as Generations goes out on a branch a bit more than the last few entries, and comes away as a marked improvement for the series as a whole. Capcom shows a bit of willingness to play around with their formula this go-round, and the result is something that feels like an experimental step forward.
Have no illusions that the basic set-up is too radically different, though, because it’s not. Players in Monster Hunter Generations create a hunter, join a guild, go hunt smaller monsters, collect miscellaneous items, and eventually fight big monsters. The basic ebb and flow of Generations is familiar to anyone who’s played one of these things before. Which, of course, isn’t necessarily a strike against it. There’s a reason that these games turn so many units, after all, and a radical reinvention of the series would put that at risk.
It’s how Generations presents this familiar formula, however, that makes things more interesting. For one, the pretense of having a narrative is pretty much thrown out the window. Gone is the lengthy and frankly dull opening story deluge of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Instead, you’ll be taking on your first quest in the first ten minutes or so. While narrative matters to me in role-playing games, there’s something to be said for letting players get right to what they want. And what people want from Monster Hunter is to, well, hunt monsters. Generations lets you jump right into taking down dinosaurs in mere minutes, with the only excuse being “help this researcher guy do a thing.” Even that falls to the wayside eventually, and other character-based side-quests don’t progress the narrative all that much. That’s because the narrative here is completely unimportant, and I truly feel that the overall package is better for it. It’s focused on gameplay first and foremost, and with this sort of game, I’d say that’s a definite plus. That said, the core cast of characters is endearing, and spout amusing pop culture references at a frequent clip (such as a surprisingly barbed “git gud” joke.)
Capcom has also mixed things up with Monster Hunters Generations’ overhauled gameplay. While the core bread-and-butter combat mechanics are still present, the way in which players can interact with them has been changed significantly. There are four different “Hunter Styles,” which significantly alter both player strategies and weapon behavior. For example, using Adept Style forces you to strategically dodge and block, while employing Striker Style allows you to focus heavily on hacking and slashing your way to a successful hunt. These four core styles, coupled with over fifty different Hunter Arts, allow for a wider breadth of fine-tuning your approach to combat than I’ve otherwise encountered in the series so far. Having more tools than ever to efficiently hunt is a breath of fresh air for the franchise, and hooked me more than any entry prior. And with around sixty to seventy types of big monster to hunt, in addition to twenty to thirty smaller ones, being comfortable in your own lane massively improves the experience..
It also helps that the worlds players visit are a joy to explore. The initial location is a mixture of jungles and valleys inhabited by dinosaurs, but before too long, players are also traversing scorching deserts and snowy mountains. All of these places are teeming with life, as usual for the franchise, and full of things to discover. More importantly, they’re full of resources to harvest, because item collection is a bigger deal in Generations than in prior Monster Hunter games. Collecting as many different types of ores, mushrooms, and other miscellaneous pick-ups as possible is essential to getting better loot, adding even more of a collect-a-thon vibe to the whole affair. While this might throw some off, I felt a steady progression curve as I diligently picked stuff up, strengthened my weapons, and crafted better gear. The core gameplay and the game worlds are engaging enough to make all the collection fly by rather painlessly.
There’s a lot to unpack with Monster Hunter Generations, and frankly, some of it is better played than explained (learning how to effectively use the now-playable Felynes, for example.) But then, that says a great deal about the game in and of itself. Historically, I’ve been firmly in the middle between the critics and fans of Capcom’s premier cash cow. I’ve never disliked the games, but I’ve also never thoroughly enjoyed them either. But this time, I’ve found myself lost in the intricate mechanics, extensive item collection, and myriad monsters to track down and take out. The basic meat of the series is still here, but how you go about slicing that meat is up to you, and that makes all the difference in the world. I’d argue that there’s more to dig into than ever before, and that’s a great feeling.
Monster Hunter Generations might not win over the staunchest haters of the franchise. The occasionally finicky controls, clunky camera, and chunky graphics are still here. That being said, I genuinely feel that it’s a step in a new, more accessible direction, without sacrificing too much of the franchise’s signature difficulty. With a whole spate of different playstyles, and the usual heaping helping of content, this is finally a Monster Hunter game I can wholeheartedly recommend to fans and newcomers alike.