Catharsis and Digital Monsters

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate released to glowing reviews claiming it was the most fully fleshed out iteration to date. The most monsters, the most areas, the most gear. Generations was seen as growth, maybe in a new direction, but as a hold over title while Capcom worked on Monster Hunter World. XX released in Japan only, but it was MH World that was in the news as the new title. A technological advancement in the game, seamless maps, stunning design and a player experience that may hold as the most welcoming to newbies for a long time to come. So when Generations Ultimate released in the West, essentially a localized XX, it opened the door for debate, which version of this stellar gaming franchise is champion, Classic Monster Hunter, or the new and streamlined Monster Hunter World?

There is no way for me to compare the two, I’ve never played World and I likely never will, not to the end game anyway, I’ll never have the time. My friends are playing it though and its because I talked them into it. For months we would talk at work about the early quests, the frustration of learning the Anjanath fight as a complete noob, the wall of stats and status effects and how each one plays on each monster in different ways. We constantly compared the two, “well in 4U it was like this,” or “World does this different,” or not at all. Everyone knows about the lifestyle changes made to World and it is arguably the better entry point to the franchise. For several reasons, all our conversations have lead me to think a lot about why I love the game so much, and why I really have no interest in playing World at this point in time.

The most obvious is that I’ve only experienced Monster Hunter as a hand held game. My introduction to the franchise was Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on the 3DS, it was the first “new” game I played on the device and I still play it (I’m around 700 hours play time). I picked at Generations but I didn’t have as much time to play and the changes Capcom implemented had an adverse effect on me for a long time. I didn’t like arts and styles, I saw them as a temporary thing that wasn’t going to be included in further titles, also the press was saying that it was an interim game likely never to have G rank. I felt like it was skippable, especially after XX wasn’t coming West I wrote it off for good.

When World released and people were coming to me for information I felt the pull again to let my self be caught up in the experience so I started playing Gen with fuvor, then to find out that Generations Ultimate was releasing in the States on Switch and our save data was coming with us, that was what I needed to hear to let my self pick the game back up with excitement. Seeing it on a big screen has got to be the coolest thing in gaming right now, even if I am years behind having that feeling. And the fact that I can still take it with me where ever I go appeals to my early love of the game.

Monster Hunter fills in what I need in a game in that it rewards your hard work. Nothing about the game is given to random chance. Your gear and gathered materials are stockpiled as you collect them, all stacked relative to the time you put into collecting them. Your skill against each new challenge is a reflection of the time you put into learning each fight and nuance of the game and how quick you can pick it up. Each boss has a tell, a weakness, super moves and stumbling blocks.

The build up to the fight is catharsis enough, my hard work is rewarded, but the actual fights are the gem of the game. There are enough weapons and status affects that you should never get bored strategizing. By the time you come face to face with your first large monster as a new player, the build up to that moment leaves you feeling like you are part of something epic. The first time you down a large monster is one of the rarest feelings I’ve had playing a game. And when you are on, and you’ve figured things out enough to go into a fight with very few questions, and you are one step ahead of every move, bashing a monster skull, severing tails and breaking parts, nothing feels more satisfying. It is all on you and the build up makes it very clear that it is because of your skill and what you’ve learned that you are able to complete the task. It is because this game is unforgiving and makes no apologies for it that makes it great, and when you rise to each occasion, you feel that much better for it.

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