Some say the best traits skip a generation.
This isn’t entirely the case for Monster Hunter Generations — the latest Nintendo 3DS entry in the series that released July 15 — which follows 2015’s adept Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, a game that took up months of my gaming time last year. In some ways, especially for people like me who drop everything and dig deep into new Monster Hunter releases, it seems almost a bit too early for another, as these often run into the hundreds of hours of playing time.
Yet Generations is an interesting cross section: It’s intended to be a celebration of the last 10 years of the series (it’s called Monster Hunter X in Japan), mixing (albeit, shockingly few) old monsters from throughout its history with new beast while sprinkling in additions and new gameplay features. Generations takes the already strong 4U foundation and mostly improves it, however does so in ways that feel more like a refinement than a revolution.
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I’ve been played Monster Hunter Generations for somewhere between 59 hours and 67 hours (the game and 3DS clock can’t seem to agree), and I have cleared the solo, offline mode, and unlocked my hunter rank online. While I’m not entirely sure I’m finished with it, I’ve reached the point I’m ready to call this one. And sadly, while parts of Generations improve on 4U, other parts simply don’t, and overall, it’s a bit of a let down.
Generations might be the first Monster Hunter game I put fewer hours into than the previous release since I got into the series.
What you’ll like
Ch … ch … ch … changes
Generations is taking the (again, top notch) template from Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and making it mostly better. It’s full of tweaks and adjustments: Players can now hold down the A button to gather items and carve monsters, no longer having to tap the button each time when collecting resources. NPCs now give you hints as to what quests are important to complete, instead of making players either guess which ones actually progress the story (and rank progression) or resort to looking online to get that information regardless. You can also deliver items back to your home (only once, though) mid-quest, which can be helpful in gathering quests. Oh, and you can leave meat to be roasted while you are off hunting, too. Yum yum yum.
Again: Most of these are small changes that are only going to matter to people who get deep into Monster Hunter (heck, they’ll likely be the only ones to even notice). But for folks like me, they are nice, little, and exciting changes.
Another new addition is the Hunter Art and Hunter Style system. I’ve stuck with Aerial style throughout my entire run, which gives you the ability to jump and mount monsters at any time, not just when you are launching off higher ground. And at this point, I’m pretty much convinced this just needs to be made a permanent feature for all hunters next time around.
Given mounting was one of my favorite mechanics from 4U, it’s something I’m glad to see back and that I’ll be able to use more often. Other hunters attacking a monster while you are mounting it now helps bring the monster down, instead of kicking you off like it did in 4U.
I’m not sure exactly what changed, but it deserves mention: The music in Generations is quite ace. The tunes take inspiration from some interesting instrumentation and cultural settings, and while some of the higher register instruments can be a tad grating, I’m jazzed at the direction the music seems to be heading.
The crux of Monster Hunter really is the online multiplayer mode. The feeling Generations elicits when four hunters are all attacking and bringing down a monster at the same time is great, and one particular run of online hunting may go down as being one of my favorite multiple hour stretches of gaming this year. Monster Hunter — once you get into it — is fast and frantic multiplayer action that I can play for hours at a time on end.
The new and the old
Unlike other Monster Hunter games, which tend to get one flagship monster, Generations has four. Gammoth (the woolly mammoth) may be one of my favorite monster designs in the series. And Glavenos? Yeah, the series could always use another T-rex. The more dinosaurs, the merrier, I always say, especially since 4U seemed to focus more on newer mammals than giant reptilian overlords. Why fight a monkey when I can fight a giant dragon or dino? Exactly.
The new monsters (for the most part), while too few, are strong entries into the lexicon, and at times Generations does feel like a battle of the bests reunion tour. Lagiacrus — another one of my favorites — returns, as does 4U’s Gore Magala.
I also am enjoying seeing the nods to the older games I have played — its making Monster Hunter feel more like a connected universe now, rather than just a series of totally independent games that have no overarching backbone.
And most important: That feeling of finally bringing down a monster? Generations captures the important progression and adrenaline of the thrill, rush, and reward of the hunt.
What you won’t like
Relying on nostalgia is a double-edged sword. And Generations shows how a greatsword can cut both ways.
I’ve only extensively played two earlier MH games — 4U on the 3DS and 3U on the Wii U/3DS — so Generations has more that’s new for me than might for more experienced players. But it still has an overall prevalent feeling of well-trodden territory, that I’ve explored these areas and hunted these monsters before. While it is nice to see returning faces, I’ve found that I actually don’t want to spend time (hours and hours, sometimes!) crafting armor I’ve made already in past games. The over reliance on older monsters may be one of Generations’ weaker points. And that’s coming from someone still relatively new to the series.
Sadly, this feeling is something it was never able to outgrow. Given how repetitious even entirely new Monster Hunter titles can be, relying so much on recycles monsters throughout makes everything feel way too familiar and like too well trodden territory. Generations seems to pull unevenly from the more recent titles — even the final boss in solo mode is a repeat from 4U — and a trip through Generations is a jaunt down memory lane, more so to its detriment than its benefit. The new Deviant monsters — as well as having an odd unlocking system — are also just new versions of old (or new) monsters, as are the late game Hyper variants.
Generations does have new monsters — and at least one that has never been in games released in the States — but it’s just too familiar feeling, and I’m also realizing how hard it can be to tell some of the more generic levels apart, as well.
Monster Hunter — essentially — has two play modes: Offline solo hunting and online (with up to four players). Armor is shared between the two modes, allowing players to move back and forth between hunting alone or with friends at will.
However, in Generations, the progression between the offline and online modes just felt mismatched. It’s quite easy to progress through online play with Low Rank armor — even up through some of online’s High Rank — and the balance of progression between then switching back down to offline Low Rank felt misaligned.
The ease of progression is another problem. Overall, Generations is quite easy to rank up and continue through, which can be a problem for someone like me who finds increasing rank a — if not the — vital carrot in driving me to hunt. Especially without a G rank, I was surprised at how easy and quickly I was able to reach the “end state.” I’ve also read some discussion about the difference in the story for both Generations and 4U, and I have to agree that 4U’s approach to its offline story mode was much better than Generations. Case closed.
It’s weird to talk about a game as massive as Monster Hunter being short … but it just feels like there’s less to do in Generations. A lot of this is due to the lack of G rank — which probably isn’t a fair criticism in itself — and one could easily spend hundreds of hours within Generations, it is just easier and faster to reach certain benchmarks than in the past. Someone online put it quite well that Generations is wider: there seem to be a lot more non-essential quests, while having fewer requirements to actually progress. And even with a wealth to do, without something driving me to do it, I can already tell that Generations is going to have a harder time holding my gaming attention than 4U did.
Weapon progression has also changed, and at least for some weapons trees, it’s impossible to create the High Rank version of a weapon without first making the Low Rank version and upgrading it: You can’t forge it directly once you hit High Rank. It’s one change I’m really not a fan of, and makes it both less flexible to try new weapons, while also somewhat locking you into a weapon path.
Graphics and glitches
Given the series’ focus on multiplayer, I’m always trying to get more friends into MH for extra people to hunt with. One thing that comes up? The graphics don’t look that good.
Even though I put over 100 hours in 4U, it wasn’t until I started playing Generations that I remembered just how ugly parts of it can look. Draw distance and pop in are bad, shadows are choppy,and I’ve had some animation issues (and one possible frame rate problem, as well). Now, I’m not picky about graphics (and I’m playing on an original 3DS XL, and some of this is a bit better on the New 3DS models), but either way, Generations isn’t a particularly pretty game and I’ve also already had some camera and frame rate issues as well, which I don’t remember happening in 4U.
It’s getting harder and harder to defend MH’s lacking visuals. Also, the (seemingly short) intro videos for each monster — and the slapped on text announcing their names — feels corny and out of place in the otherwise (somewhat) realistic world. (And some of the new, flashier attack animations are also a bit over the top and world-breaking, as well.)
I also ran into some glitches — one recurring glitch in particular wouldn’t register a death, which may skew the battle in my favor, but still not something that was suppose to be happening. (This is actually a food skill, not a glitch – Ed.). Mounting — especially with Gammoth — often resulted in glitches, as well, and there were a few others that popped up here and there. Hunting online was mostly lag free — and never was a huge problem — but I did have some weird lag pop up sparingly.
Chatting it up
The reasons that I more often played the Wii U version of 3U over the 3DS was pretty simple: the graphics and the Wii U’s voice chat, which the 3DS lacks.
It’s not much of a surprise then, given that 4U also didn’t have voice chat, to see it missing as well from Generations. But voice chat is still an essential function for any online team-based game in 2016. Communicating via keyboards and preset messages just doesn’t cut it anymore, and given other 3DS games have had voice chat, I’m not sure why it’s something that the 3DS Monster Hunter titles keep leaving out.
Monster Hunter has, over the past few years become one of my favorite series in gaming. But Generations, given its name, feels like an attempt to starve off a potential portable generation jump (especially when it comes to visuals), something to fill up time and piecemeal upgrade the previous title in the series before the inevitable Monster Hunter 5. The new mechanics and features — well welcomed — don’t make up for just how overly familiar everything feels, or the overall lack of new monsters and material, and I’m not sure if Generations ever entirely justifies itself.
It improves upon MH4U in many ways, but the results just aren’t as fresh. It’s uneven, and some parts are quite good, but the reliance on recycled monsters — and the shorter (comparatively!) length bring it down.
That doesn’t by any means make it bad — an apple that doesn’t fall far from the tree can still taste good — and it does improve on 4U in some areas. But small improvements on an already great foundation aren’t enough sometimes, and, ultimately, Generations cuts a bit too close to the proverbial loincloth.
Correction, August 15 2:47 p.m. Pacific: The death glitch is actually a food skill known as Felyne Insurance.
Monster Hunter Generations is now available on the 3DS. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a copy of the game for the purposes of this review.