Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is, in many ways, a swan song to the Monster Hunter games of yore. Compared to this year’s Monster Hunter World, Generations Ultimate is complex, often unintuitive, and difficult to dive into unless you are a veteran of the series.
With the myriad ways in which World streamlined the series formula, it’s difficult to come back to Generations Ultimate without getting the sense that this kind of Monster Hunter won’t be around much longer. Yet for those who stick with it, Generations Ultimate is a deep, engaging example of what made the series so memorable to many of us in the first place.
If you’ve never played a Monster Hunter before, the franchise is exactly what the name implies. It’s an RPG where instead of leveling up, you hunt monsters to gather material to craft better weapons and armour, at which point you hunt bigger monsters and repeat ad infinitum. Of course, with nearly a hundred monsters, each with their own weaknesses and abilities, a dozen or so weapon types, and more items than you could reasonably use in a single playthrough, you’ll begin to see why this series earned such a following before Capcom blasted the doors wide open with the excellent World.
Generations Ultimate, while being a port of the 3DS title Monster Hunter Generations, adds enough new content to make it more akin to an expansion than anything else. There are 20 new monsters, two new fighting styles, and perhaps most importantly, the return of the much loved G-rank quests for those who truly want to punish themselves. If you own the original 3DS version, there’s even a save transfer system to carry your profile over if you don’t want to do everything over again. Which would be something I would definitely recommend doing given the option, as this is not a friendly game for newcomers to say the least.
That’s because the first two hours of Generations Ultimate are a slog. It takes a noticeable time before you can even begin going out and hunting the giant monsters that make up the bulk of the game, forcing you to complete low level gathering or slaying quests in the meantime. Online matchmaking is a bit of a mess, and it doesn’t directly sync with single player progress. And unless you’re a veteran, new concepts are thrown at you at such a dizzying pace that it is difficult to tell which explanation is important and which lecture can be safely ignored.
Coming off of World, it’s difficult to not feel disappointed with the return of many mechanics that were either ditched or improved upon on the latest release. I’m reminded again how boring it is to wander around to find your target, which can take far longer than it should if you’re playing by yourself, and the constant need to gather and create pivotal resources such as whetstones is annoying. This is how Monster Hunter has normally functioned, but now that Capcom has experimented with the formula in World, it’s a status quo that I do not want to go back to.
But once you finally cut through the fat and get into a hunt, it’s clear to see why Monster Hunter became a cult series in the first place. With an improved control scheme on the Switch, Generations Ultimate is very engaging in the moment-to-moment hunts. There is incredible diversity to the monsters you encounter, from the simple feathered Great Maccao to the jet-engine power of the Valstrax. There are 93 monsters total, making this roster one of the biggest and most diverse in franchise history, and you’ll rarely fight the same ones again and again unless you need to farm. The return of G-rank also bolsters the roster, as fighting classic monsters again with enhanced AI and movesets makes for an end game that I can see lasting for hundreds of hours.
The variety of monsters is emboldened by the variety of ways you can fight them. It’s empowering to bash a charging monster in the face with a hammer, or to dive into it with a flurry of blows using dual blades, the latter of which is my preferred method of dealing with problems. While Monster Hunter is known for the array of weapons you can use to hunt, Generations Ultimate adds even more depth with the Style system. Present in the original 3DS version, Styles give you additional movesets that change the way you play in surprising ways. Aerial Style lets you mount monsters more easily through jumping, while the newly added Valor style trades normal attack damage for a superpowered mode that absolutely crushes anything in your path.
While it’s perfectly fine to play solo, multiplayer is far more engaging by comparison. Online multiplayer is easy to get into, with a functional and easy to navigate hub area, but it is far more fun to play locally with friends. That’s primarily because it’s easier to communicate, as talking and typing online is bothersome, whereas talking to your friend who is sitting on the couch next to you is what the series was built around in the first place. Seriously, if you can get a group of friends together to play regularly, Generations Ultimate becomes one of the best co-op titles on the Switch.
For a series that made its mark on portable consoles, it’s fitting that Generations Ultimate is best played in handheld mode. Here, textures look sharp and crisp, even though it is a port, and the monsters feel like they have unique personalities as a result. But when plugged into the TV, that feeling vanishes, and you’re reminded of the fact that this is a 3DS port every time you see the muddled world in HD.
It’s a good sign that the port itself works and plays well, because I hope it signals the start of a new Monster Hunter on the Switch, one that takes the lessons learned in World and applies it to the portability and sheer depth of content that can be found here. It saddens me to say that Generations Ultimate won’t be for everyone, as it has such a steep slope to surpass if you want to dig into the true meat of the game. But as a coda to the formula that drew many of us into Monster Hunter in the first place, Generations Ultimate is a fitting farewell.
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