In recent years, Japanese games, mainly Japanese Role Playing Games(JRPG’s), have become increasingly popular in the western world. Over the last decade, they have slowly transformed from a small, niche genre of gaming to one of the more prominent genres, rapidly approaching the popularity of other Triple A games in the western world. Recent examples of this include the Persona series, the well-known Kingdom Hearts series, and of course, the subject of this post: Monster Hunter. The first Monster Hunter was released back in 2004, but the subject didn’t become an established series in the west until the release of the third game: Monster Hunter Tri. Now, it is at the peak of its popularity, with the most recent game, Monster Hunter Generations, selling over three million copies worldwide. I was first introduced to Monster Hunter by my friend, who owned a copy of Tri for the Wii and showed it to me in all its splendour. After this, I decided to buy the second game in the series, Freedom Unite; and I absolutely loved it for its brutal, knuckle-whitening difficulty. Within a week, I’d bought the third game, which I also loved. Then, I bought the fourth, the most well-received game in the series at that time… and I absolutely hated it.
Well, hate is a strong word. More like I disliked it compared to the other games in the series. After twenty hours of playtime-which may seem like a lot but isn’t actually as Monster Hunter has hundreds of hours of gameplay-I stopped playing it and simply forgot about it. Why? The answer is simple. I play the games, primarily, for the difficulty, and compared to all the other games in the series, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is an absolute cakewalk. What once took careful planning and preparation and a metric ton of effort was now reduced to a simple hack-and-slash button-mashing exercise.
If you’re a fan of the series, then you are most likely shocked by this, but this isn’t called ‘Unpopular Opinions’ for nothing. Many fans, both new and old, love Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and all the games that came after it, but I don’t. I think the main reason, there was such a drop in difficulty was because of the new mounting mechanic. If you jumped of a ledge and hit a monster a couple of times, you could mount them, and after some button mashing, you’d knock them to the ground. This gave you around ten seconds of precious time where you could whale on the monster dealing tons of damage. In previous games, it took much more to knock a monster to the ground, yet in the fourth game, you can very easily knock down a monster just through mounting 5+ times in a single hunt.
One of the main arguments people make against my point is simply that I’ve been playing the game for so long that I’ve got so experienced that newer games seem easy. While that it is a solid counterargument, I tested out this theory for myself and found this simply isn’t the case, at least, not fully. I fought the Frenzied Tigrex in MH4U with great anticipation as the normal Tigrex in MHFU took me TEN separate attempts to finally defeat. The Frenzied Tigrex was advertised as being a super powerful, permanently-in-rage-mode Tigrex, yet when I fought it, I beat it on my first try without fainting once. After this, I went back to Freedom Unite again, and fought a normal Tigrex. I fainted three times and lost in under twenty minutes. So no, it isn’t just that I’m more experienced. It may play a part, but there are other factors as well.
Of course, I still played the game for around twenty hours so I still managed to get some enjoyment out of it; but the breaking point for me was the Seregios. The game’s flagship monster which everyone was saying was one of the best monsters yet. You first encounter the Seregios in a seemingly innocent Rathian capture mission. When the Rathian limps away, close to death, the Seregios jumps into the fray in, admittedly, quite a lot of style. A flagship monster ambushing you and intimidating you on a normal mission isn’t anything new and I even think it’s a good thing. But here’s where the problems arise.
Instead of allowing you to capture the Rathian under this great beast’s shadow, it instantly pulls you from the mission, wasting all the items you used up trying to capture this monster. Apparently it’s “too powerful” and “too dangerous” for you to hunt which is why they pulled you out. But here’s the thing: Straight after, they send you to hunt the goddamn Seregios. Are you serious?!?!? You pull me out of a hunt, wasting valuable items, because there’s a monster that’s too powerful for me then tell me to hunt it directly after. Not only that, but I hunted it afterwards without any difficulty. This was the last straw for me in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and I haven’t played it since. Even excluding the argument I’m making, it can’t be denied, that’s just bad game design, plain and simple.
My main point is that I think the hunters have become progressively more and more powerful with each release, yet nothing has been done to buff the monsters. I haven’t played Generations, but looking at it just seems to confirm my theories. With all these fighting styles and special attacks, it’s starting to seem more like a hack-and-slash than the hardcore action role-playing game that it started off as. To me, the series has lost its spirit, the very core of the series that made it so good in the first place, leaving it as nothing more than a hollow husk. I know many people still enjoy the series, both seasoned veterans and newcomers, and that’s completely fine! I can still appreciate the changes the series has undergone, even if I’m not a fan of them myself. Let me know what you think in the comments below as I’m interested to hear your opinion!