Monster Hunter Generations (known was Monster Hunter X in Japan) is off to a huge start.
Since its November launch, Capcom has sold over 3 million copies in the publisher’s homeland. Generations hits July 15 for the Nintendo 3DS in the States, the latest entry in the 12-year-old series that brings together old and new monsters and also introduces new playing styles. And while Monster Hunter hasn’t always achieved as much success in the States as it has in Japan, Generations is the second game to come stateside in two years, releasing within eight months of the original Japanese title.
At the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo (one of blockbuster gaming’s biggest trade shows in the U.S.), GamesBeat interviewed Ryozo Tsujimoto (executive producer for the Monster Hunter series) and producer Shintaro Kojima (through a translator) about Generations, balancing its new additions, not worrying about annualizing the series, and the hopes for eventual simultaneous U.S. and Japanese releases.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: What are each of your favorite monsters and favorite weapons in Monster Hunter?
Ryozo Tsujimoto: My favorite weapon is the hammer. I’m pretty well known for my monogamous stance on that. [Laughs] I’ve played that for thousands of hours through all the games. And my favorite monster is Lao-Shan Lung. He’s an older one, from Freedom Unite.
Shintaro Kojima: My favorite weapon is the great sword. It’s just satisfying to have a big-ass sword and hit big monsters with it. What more can I say? My favorite monster has to be—well, there are four main monsters in Monster Hunter Generations, but he’s the main of the mains. It’s Glavenus. He’s really cool. He’s like a Tyrannosaurus rex in terms of design, but his tail is like a big sword. He does big attacks against you. He’s so amazing we put him on the front of the game. I even have Glavenus glasses on, as you can see.
GamesBeat: With Generations, you brought in a lot of old elements and old monsters and mixing them with new things. What were some of your development goals? What were you hoping to accomplish?
Tsujimoto: It’s been more than 10 years since the series started in 2004. We wanted to celebrate the series’ history, now that we’ve passed that anniversary. We wanted this to have a festival feeling, a special event. That’s why we introduced some classic environments and monsters that veterans will pick up on, something to give it a nostalgic feel. But we’re also adding completely new monsters and areas at the same time.
We’ve also found that over the 10-plus years of series history, we’ve seen a lot of play styles out there from different hunters. Everyone has their own preference and we wanted the gameplay to reflect that in its mechanics, so everyone could play in a specialized way that suits them. That’s why we introduced new gameplay elements like hunter styles and hunter arts. That requires you to drill down into not just choosing one of the 14 weapons, but choosing one of the four styles as well. You can really say, “This is what suits me as a hunter.” You can show off your uniqueness.
GamesBeat: Do you have any styles you personally prefer?
Kojima: I’ve kind of gone around … and tried every style. I don’t just stick to one like Ryozo does. I do like the striker style a lot. It allows you to have a maximum of three hunter arts set on your character, more than any other style, which gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of special moves. But really, I’ve done the rounds, I kind of change it up. That’s my style, is not to stick to one. I try to use whatever’s appropriate to the situation in each quest or against each monster. Or just how I feel, if I get into one style and I’ve been playing it for awhile, maybe I’ll just change it up, change to Guild Style.
GamesBeat: What’s one thing that you would like to see in future Monster Hunter games, something you tried to do in the past but maybe couldn’t fit in?
Tsujimoto: We’ve been able to put just about everything we want into each project as we’ve gone along through the years. To be honest, even if there was something on the back burner that was coming up for a future title, I wouldn’t tell you. [Laughs]
Kojima: I worked specifically on Monster Hunter Generations, and I’m really pleased that I was able to get all of my ideas into the game.
GamesBeat: Generations seems to have brought in a lot of new features. What did players in Japan respond to the most, of the things you added in this game?
Tsujimoto: The main adjustments to the action gameplay were the addition of hunter styles and hunter arts. As you might expect, that’s been one of the biggest hits with players. People were concerned before the game came out that with all these new abilities, these big flashy special moves that you see in the trailers, that it might get too easy. But you have to try it for yourself. When people get it in their hands, they pretty quickly realize that it hasn’t been dumbed down. It’s broadened out and deepened. There are many more options available to players, whether you’re a veteran or a newcomer.
People have found that they’re able to bring out their own unique style through these gameplay systems. It’s been very successful. I’m grateful to see that we’ve been able to sell more than 3 million units in Japan so far.
GamesBeat: That was something I had wondered about as well, but you really nailed the feeling of making these moves look awesome without dumbing-down the game. What did you do on the development side to find that balance between bringing in these great-looking new moves and having them fit in the Monster Hunter universe?
Tsujimoto: We spent a lot of time on getting that balance right. As we mentioned, if you get the impression that they’re just big and flashy and they’re not Monster Hunter—just to reassure people, this is absolutely Monster Hunter gameplay. You can’t just go up and hit a move and it’ll blow a monster away. It’s still a game of reading the monster reactions, finding the right timing, dodging at the right time. It isn’t just a hack-and-slash game. You feel really cool, but it’s still up to you to be skillful. The game isn’t doing it for you.
We want to bring out a new kind of accent, a new kind of approach, while keeping true to the series. Capcom has done that before with games like Street Fighter. That’s a very long-running series, and after a certain amount of time you want to bring the action to a different level. You want to add more cool visual effects, or even totally change the visual style like in Street Fighter Alpha. But we’re always careful to make sure that when we reinvent a series, we don’t reduce it. We always stay true to the series’ core.
GamesBeat: What’s your favorite aspect of Generations? Is it something big or something small.
Tsujimoto: To give you a big thing and a small thing, the big one is the prowler mode. It was great to be able to include a totally new way of playing Monster Hunter. It’s an intriguing feature for veterans, something that lets them come to grips with a new way of playing Monster Hunter, and it’s a great entry point for new players to try a version of hunting that’s not quite as intimidating off the bat.
The small thing that led to that is when you’re a prowler, to gather items you can just hold the A button. You don’t need to keep pressing it. It’s a tiny change, but you really get spoiled by that once you try it. [You can do this in all modes, not just prowler –Ed.]
Kojima: I really enjoy seeing older NPC characters from previous games make a comeback appearance. If you recognize them, you’ll think, “Hey, I met that guy in the village back in that game years ago.” It’s a very nostalgic feeling for players who’ve been with the series a long time. And if you’re a newcomer, you’ll be meeting all these classic characters for the first time. I hope players can have a conversation about that. If you’re relatively new but your friend has been around, he can tell you, “Yeah, that guy did this in one of the old games.” It’s a talking point for players, regardless of their experience level with Monster Hunter.
GamesBeat: With Generations, we’ve seen two years in a row now that the U. S. has been lucky enough to get a Monster Hunter game. Is one of your goals going forward to make this an annual series?
Tsujimoto: Even in Japan, we’re not dogmatic about whether this is an annual franchise. We don’t have to release one every year. With the number of games that have come out in Japan, it may have wound up being annual, more or less, but it isn’t because we decided to make that a deadline.
Talking about the west, as you say, this is the first time we’ve had two years in a row with a new Monster Hunter game, which is great for our fans. We’ve seen a lot of feedback from players about the amount of time it takes us to bring a new game over from Japan. Localization has to be done. We’ve tried to refine that process and make it more efficient, so that we’ve been able to make that gap shorter and shorter. This is the shortest wait we’ve had so far. It’s still a matter of months, but in the past some titles have taken up to a year. We’re getting closer and closer to the Japanese release time frame.
In the future, I’d love to be able to reduce that wait even further and get Monster Hunter out simultaneously in the U. S. and Japan. We’ll keep doing our best to bring our games to western players as fast as possible. We appreciate everyone’s patience.
GamesBeat: With Generations, is there anything you’ve done specifically for new players to help them get acclimated? Monster Hunter 4 and Monster Hunter 4U had a lot of features that helped in that regard.
Tsujimoto: 4U and Generations both tried to make sure that new players could ease themselves into the world of Monster Hunter, whether it’s through quests that let you practice different weapons, or in Generations where we have quests for specific styles as well. First-time players can be a bit overwhelmed by the amount of things you can do in the game.
But it’s important to let them remember the set of actions that are available to them and know what tools they have at their disposal, and then let them put those to use in a series of increasingly difficult quests, so they feel the real satisfaction of learning. That’s one of the things Monster Hunter does so well. It’s a key part of the series as a whole, that sense of achievement you get from putting your knowledge to good use and finally slaying that monster.
With Generations in particular, the prowler mode is great for that. Every Monster Hunter game has been about having these weapons and tools at your disposal, but you have to watch the monster’s behavior and read their tells and understand their moves, so you’ll be able to dodge whenever they attack and use that opening to counterattack. It’s never been a game where you could just run up and hit the enemies.
To get to that point, though, you have to have a chance to observe the monsters. Some new players have had a hard time balancing watching the monsters and staying alive as a hunter. Prowler mode offers a great opportunity, because the prowlers can actually burrow underground and move around unseen. That lets them avoid most monster attacks for a while. It gives you a chance to hang back and take time to observe without feeling like you’ll get killed at any moment. That’ll help you come to grips with the game even quicker than before. I highly recommend that for newcomers.