This title was ported from Nintendo 3DS (titled: Monster Hunter Generations) and reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
Jumping into a series when you haven’t played any of the previous titles can be an interesting experience. Sometimes you’ll be left asking yourself how you spent years of your life without playing these games. Other times, you’ll be left wondering if everyone is only saying they enjoy a game because it belongs to a popular franchise. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (and boy, what a title – let’s abbreviate that to MHGU going forward or we’ll be here all day) for me is a strange combination of the two, somehow managing to both impress and underwhelm at different intervals.
Visuals and Sound
In terms of visuals, MHGU is fairly middle of the road. Compared to other Switch titles the graphics can seem outdated and honestly not that sharp; this is probably because MHGU is a port of a 3DS game – and one that is a couple of years old now as well. Despite the slightly aged graphics, MHGU does have a charm about it – the colours are vibrant, and the designs of the monsters are unique and varied. At character creation there’s perhaps more flexibility than I expected, and this variety continues through to when you are able to select what your Palico (your sentient cat companion) will look like.
The music in MHGU is done well – it’s always appropriate for the situation. Calm and joyful in the village, swelling and triumphant after a battle, and so on. Often when you’re fighting monsters it will be silent, which can be unnerving (perhaps this was done on purpose?) but every now and then – usually when you’re in a more important fight – the music will swoop in with a fitting tune. The sound effects are good too – the sounds the monsters make are as varied as their designs and the larger enemies are often equipped with a roar that would make the T-Rex from Jurassic Park proud. At the character creation you have the option of choosing your character’s voice, which is a nice touch and brings that little bit more personalisation to your character (though the game does not feature any spoken dialogue, there’s plenty of yells and grunts as you fight your way through the game). Unfortunately, Palicos must be part Siamese because your companion cat never seems to shut up and will meow incessantly throughout your journey – this drove my own IRL cat Loki to distraction and honestly ended up with me muting the game a lot of the time, my teeth ever so slightly on edge.
Combat is simple but effective and satisfying. Your character doesn’t have any intrinsic abilities and the way you fight is determined (rather sensibly) by your choice in weapon. You have a decent number of options available to you, including archery, a variety of swords, axes, and more; I decided to keep things simple and stick with a sword and shield while I was learning the game. Alongside your weapon, you are also able to choose a limited number of Hunting Arts – special moves that must be powered up through combat. These hunting arts can be used to inflict high levels of damage, provide buffs or heal characters.
While gameplay is satisfying, it can also become very repetitious – the sheer number of quests (which most, admittedly, I only realised were optional about three hours before I started writing this review) combined with the poor map design (having a load screen every time you enter a new area) means that you could be collecting herbs or slaying monsters travelling around the same areas over and over again for literally hours. No doubt gameplay is fast tracked for those who realise that not every quest given to you is required, but for idiots and completionists (read: me) it wasn’t long before the shine began to fade.
Another thing that helped this process along was the sheer chore this game makes everything to be; whether it’s sorting through your inventory, improving your gear, or even crafting and drinking a potion. The way these aspects of the game have been designed goes beyond complex and borders on the downright insane. No doubt fans will say that this is an intrinsic part of the game – for me it just felt unnecessarily layered and stilted. I enjoy complex crafting as much as the next gamer, but it’s got to be designed in an accessible and sensible manner, and for me this is where MHGU really missed the mark.
In saying all this, there is one thing that will no doubt help entice me back to this game (though perhaps after a small break – Spider-Man is calling to me) – and that is that it has a multiplayer option; as with anything, I imagine that this game is a lot more fun when played with friends, so I’m looking forward to giving that a go when I’ve got time.
Listen gang, I’m not going to lie. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is, to a point, just plain fun; there are big, ridiculous monsters and you have a pet cat that follows you around and brings you stuff. You can pet the llama (alpaca?) until it loves you. There’s a certain kind of charm about this game and it’s easy to see why so many love it. However, for me, I just don’t know that this is a game that will be consistently fun. The sheer repetitious nature of the quests combined with the map layout and constant loading screens mean that this is likely a game I will play every now and then but won’t ever really fall in love with – which is a shame because the Monster Hunter series clearly has some serious world building and history, both of which I tend to appreciate in a game. Don’t get me wrong; MHGU is a well-made and well-loved game – it just happens to have a few flaws that I don’t have much patience for (ask anyone; I’m just an impatient person). Perhaps I need to give Monster Hunter World a try for comparisons sake? Maybe I’ll come back to MHGU after a break (this time with some friends) – but for now at least, I think I’ll leave fighting these particular monsters to the diehard fans of the series; god knows there’s enough of you!