Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (3DS) Review

The Dragon Warriors Return

The Dragon Quest franchise has always been a hot commodity in Japan, with each entry selling millions of copies. The series hadn’t been as popular in the West until Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King shipped for the Sony PlayStation 2 in 2005. DQVIII captivated audiences with its beautifully animated 3D world, compelling storyline, and stellar fully-voiced cutscenes. Square Enix went on to re-release most of the mainline entries on modern systems, garnering fans on both sides of the globe. Hot on the heels of the Nintendo 3DS remake of Dragon Quest VII, the company has finally released the 3DS port of DQVIII, bringing the series’ Western renown full circle.

DragonQuestVIII_3DS_Review03
Say hello to your silent protagonist. He won’t say hello back though.

Continue reading “Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (3DS) Review”

Advertisements

Bye-Bye BoxBoy! (3DS) Review

So Long, Farewell

The time has come to bid farewell to our beloved BoxBoy. You’d be forgiven if you didn’t know there was a BoxBoy to say bye-bye to. After all, his first two games arrived on the Nintendo 3DS eShop with little fanfare. Developed by HAL Laboratories of Kirby fame, Bye-Bye BoxBoy! marks the finale of this 2D puzzle platformer’s trilogy and is just as enjoyable as its predecessors.

ByeByeBoxBoy_3DS_Review1.jpg
The 3rd game stars our heroes, BoxBoy, BoxGirl, and… TallBoxMan?

Continue reading “Bye-Bye BoxBoy! (3DS) Review”

Pokémon Sun and Moon (3DS) Review

The Pokémon Series Evolves

The original Game Boy Pokémon games inspired a generation to be the very best like no one ever was. Worldwide, trainers set forth on an adventure to capture and raise the titular Pocket Monsters. Twenty years later, the series remains as strong as ever, spawning dozens of sequels and hundreds of Pokémon. Pokémon Sun and Moon cap off the series’ yearlong anniversary celebration and show us how far the franchise has come. Not only does Pokémon’s seventh generation provide a robust execution of the game’s ever-growing mechanics, but it also challenges the traditional structure of every other mainline entry, resulting in a fresh evolution of the series.

pokemon-sun-moon-hold
Cue The Lion King

If you’ve ever donned a Pokémon trainer’s cap, Sun and Moon’s base gameplay won’t surprise you. For those uninitiated, you play as a young trainer and raise unique creatures known as Pokémon. By capturing them in Pokéballs, they are yours to train. As your Pokémon battle other trainers’ monsters, they become more powerful, sometimes even evolving to stronger, larger forms. Each Pokémon is distinct, sporting different elemental types (Fire, Water, Electric, etc.) and game-changing abilities. The joy of discovering new Pokémon and picking a team of six favorites still forms the backbone of these installments.

Fans have enjoyed this structure for decades, but the developers at Game Freak have wisely chosen to spruce up the formula. The biggest difference is there are no gyms in the new region of Alola. You may be crying blasphemy, but the new Island Challenge feels fresh while still holding on to the series’ beloved gameplay. Instead of gyms, you engage in Trials scattered throughout the four Alolan Islands. These Trials vary from gathering ingredients to taking a memory quiz. Upon completion, you fight against a buffed-up boss-like Totem Pokémon. After finishing the trials on an island, you are worthy to fight its Kahuna, essentially a gym leader.

Pokemon Sun Mon Battle 2.jpg
You can now see your opponent during battle.

The autonomous Totem Pokémon mark a shift of focus to the lovable creatures themselves. Sun and Moon remind us that Pokémon are the stars. The new Pokémon Refresh, an upgrade to Pokémon X/Y’s Pokémon-Amie, lets you pet and feed your creatures via the Nintendo 3DS’ touch screen. Through Refresh, you can heal status ailments after battles at no cost. Even better, as you take care of your Pokémon, they will return that favor in battle. Loved Pokémon gain more experience points, land more double-damage critical hits, and dodge attacks more often. I hardly used Amie back in X/Y, but here, Refresh is clearly displayed as an option post-battle. You can ignore it if you’d prefer as well. But when I see my Pokémon ruffled up, I can’t help but want to clean it.

Pokemon Sun Moon Totem.jpg
This Raticate is more than buffed-up.

The focus on Pokémon extends to your means of travel. Instead of a bike, you traverse the world on Pokémon like Lapras and Charizard. They aren’t yours, but you are free to summon them as soon as they unlock. By far, the best aspect is that the series has finally gotten rid of HMs (Hidden Machines). In the past, you had to teach your Pokémon these special moves to get around. The HMs wasted potential slots for a Pokémon’s limited four-move set, but were mandatory to beat the game. Now, you can teach simply call on the new PokéRide summons to push boulders or surf. It’s more intuitive and also purely fun to charge a Tauros into a blockade of rocks.

Pokemon Sun Moon Ride Pokemon.jpg
Riding on Lapras

There is a downside to giving Pokémon more autonomy. Wild monsters now sometimes call for help during battle, transforming it into a two-on-one fight. These “SOS Battles” can lead to some bonuses with stronger and evolved Pokémon appearing. However, it is a hassle during regular gameplay, especially since you can’t capture until you defeat one of them. Even worse, there’s no penalty for a wild Pokémon to call for help, so it does so immediately after attacking you. It’s a neat idea, but one flawed by its inconveniences.

Pokemon Sun Moon SOS.jpg
Magikarp may call on Gyarados to battle.

The new Pokémon are high-quality and have a hint of tropical flavor. From the adorable owl, tiger, and seal starters to the majestic cover legendaries, each new creature breathes life into the world. There are new monsters based on Hawaiian leis, salamanders, red pandas, and sand castles, just to name a few. Additionally, new Alolan forms of old Pokémon allow you to see old favorites in a new light, for better or for worse. Though there are some amazing inclusions, like the fire-dancing Marowak and snowy Ninetales, there are also hilarious oddities like the awkwardly tall palm tree Exeggutor. While the effort to make old Pokémon new is appreciated, it would have been nice to see more novel creatures.

Pokemon Sun Moon Battle (1).jpg
Litten takes on the new Alolan Raichu.

Sun and Moon’s new major battle mechanic is the Z-Move. Although intended to follow up to last generation’s popular Mega Evolutions, it doesn’t garner as much hype. Like Mega Evolutions, you can only use one Z-Move per battle. However, your opponent can block or lessen the damage considerably, with a move like “Protect,” for instance. There is a corresponding Z-Move and Z-Crystal for each type, and you obtain each type’s Z-Crystal through the Island Challenge. They are incredibly flashy and are fun to use during the game. However, as far as battle mechanics go, it’s more style than substance.

pokemon-sun-moon-z-move
Pikachu performs the electric Z-move.

The new optional battle format, the Battle Royal, is decent. Battle Royal pits four players into a free-for-all match. You earn points by landing the final blow on a Pokémon, and the game ends when one player has run out of usable Pokémon. This mode generates unique strategies as well as luck-based outcomes. Brought a Pokémon to a sliver of health but an opponent finished it off? Shame, you get nothing. Battle Royals can be entertaining as a party mode, but they’re not meant to be taken seriously.

Pokemon Sun Moon Battle Royal.png
Four Pokémon go in…

There are other quality-of-life improvements that trainers will appreciate. You can now see which moves are “super effective” or “not very effective” from the move selection screen, eliminating the need to memorize the type chart. It only activates for Pokémon you have faced before to prevent spoiling your initial encounter. When you catch a Pokémon, but have a full team, the game now asks if you’d like to add it to your party. You can increase a Pokémon’s base stats with Hyper Training. Grid movement is also gone, allowing you to move freely in any direction with the circle pad. Finally, a map with objective markers on your bottom screen ensure that you will never get lost.

Both Sun and Moon are fundamentally identical, with the exception of version-exclusive Pokémon. Additionally, Pokémon Moon reverses day and night in-game, which means if you play during the day, it’s actually nighttime in the game. It’s a minor difference, but one to keep in mind.

Pokemon Sun Moon Team Skull.jpg
Would you hang out with these guys?

The story is a step up from previous generations with one of the most entertaining teams in recent history, the nogoodniks of Team Skull, and some of the most mold-breaking characters the series has to offer. The journey’s linearity is par for the course, but this game especially makes it clear by blocking you off from areas until you beat the Island Trial. Coupled with the slow opening, veterans may get disheartened. Worry not, for the game picks up after the first island.

What a journey it is! The Hawaii-inspired region of Alola comes alive through the impressive visuals and music. Thanks to a shift from the traditional overhead view to a more natural perspective, the world sucks you in with its vibrant colors and lush life. Each island is distinct and offers an array of environments. Even battle backgrounds display your current terrain. The animations during battle are as exciting as they’ve ever been, with some new ones added in. The only con is that the game chugs on an old 3DS, especially during battles with more than two Pokémon. There’s also a lack of 3D, aside from a new lackluster photography mode (it’s no Pokémon Snap!). For the first time, characters have realistic proportions. This complements the character customization tool, and your custom hairstyles and clothes will stand out.

pokemon-sun-moon-city
The Pokémon world has never felt so alive.

Relaxing island tunes comprise the soundtrack, and the trademark composition of battle music is familiar and energetic. Of particular note are the hip beatbox stylings of Team Skull’s themes, the futuristic Aether Foundation music, and the island chantings from the main Alola theme.

When you’re not journeying through Alola, you can also visit the new Poké Pelago. Here, you interact with your stored Pokémon in gradual increments, similar to how mobile games work. You can train your team, hatch eggs, send Pokémon on expeditions, and perform other tasks, provided you are willing to wait hours for them to finish. Its passive nature makes it super effective. While you are playing the game proper or even while not playing, everything continues moving in Poké Pelago. You then return and reap the rewards later.

Pokemon Sun Moon Festival Plaza.jpg
The Festival Plaza, your online Pokémon theme park

Festival Plaza is not as effective, and is actually a downgrade of a feature from Pokémon Black 2/White 2, Join Avenue. Within the plaza, you can interact with trainers who you’ve passed online or offline. By taking their requests, you gain Festival Coins which you can spend on any of the facilities in your specific plaza. Each facility has a different function, whether training your Pokémon, dyeing your clothes, or selling rare goods. However, unlike Join Avenue, you can’t upgrade your facilities. You either get a random new facility after earning coins or buy facilities from other trainers. While a great setup can go a long way, a barebones set of stores is only moderately useful.

More importantly, the Festival Plaza is where you engage in online multiplayer. Whereas previous games allowed you to always be online while playing the story, you are now limited within the confines of the plaza. That said, the online is fantastic. All the multiplayer options that have kept the community alive are present here. Battle with trainers around the world through the Battle Spot or official championship tournaments. Compete in singles, doubles, and Battle Royals online. Trade with anyone in the plaza, or test your luck with a random Wonder Trade. The Global Trade System (GTS) likely represents your best chance at catching ‘em all, with players depositing their Pokémon and requesting specific creatures in return. Even though it’s all limited to the plaza, it works. The extensive multiplayer and the everlasting desire to catch ‘em all and raise the best battle-ready Pokémon will keep your adventure going past the roughly 30+ hours of story and postgame.

Pokemon Sun Moon Alola.png
Welcome to Alola!

Conclusion

There is always an expectation for Game Freak to deliver the classic gameplay that has enamored us for years. With Pokémon Sun and Moon, I can safely say that they have not only accomplished this, but have also given us groundbreaking changes in how we perceive the traditional Pokémon journey. Whether there are gyms or trials in the next game is unforeseen, but this newest generation represents a radical shift and a wondrous excitement for the future. If you’ve somehow avoided the Pokémon series up until now, this is one of the best entry points the series has ever had. For those of you who already love the series, pack your bags for the Alolan Islands and embark on one of the freshest journeys to date. Alo-la!

Rating: 9.5/10

What are your thoughts on Pokémon Sun and Moon? Which version are you getting? What are your favorite new Pokémon and starters? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!

Note: Both Pokémon Sun and Moon were used for this review, with Moon being the primary version played.

Yo-kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits/Fleshy Souls (3DS) Review

Build a Supernatural Entourage

The Western release of the original Yo-kai Watch for Nintendo 3DS finally brought Level-5’s Japanese monster-collecting RPG phenomenon overseas. The first game had flaws, notably its battle system, monster-befriending mechanics, and fragmented story progression. While the game gained a following, it didn’t live up to the lofty precedents from its home country. Despite this, Nintendo and Level-5 have given the franchise another chance in the West with Yo-kai Watch 2 for 3DS. À la Pokémon, the game has two versions: Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls. Each come with its own set of exclusive monsters but are otherwise similar. While it is easy to compare this series to Pokémon, Yo-kai Watch is its own unique breed. With general gameplay improvements over the original and plenty of new quirky ghouls, Yo-kai Watch 2 may find a home in the hearts of monster-collecting fans.

Story

Yo-kai Watch 2’s story builds upon the Saturday morning cartoon concepts of its predecessor. Yo-kai are mysterious ghoulish creatures that cause numerous daily problems. For example, if you suddenly forget something, begin to sweat profusely, or get over-excited, you may be inspirited by a Yo-kai. Many Yo-kai are based on Japanese myths and folklore, and a stellar localization ensures that fans outside Japan can appreciate the cultural creatures. For example, Predictabull is a human-like bull based on a mythical beast that can predict misfortune, but the localized name itself helps unfamiliar players understand some of the significance. The quirky Yo-kai are easily the stars of the game, and with over 180 additions in this installment, there are hundreds of fun spirits to befriend.

yw2_giantnyan
This Yo-kai makes objects big…

YW2 begins with the (male or female) protagonist forgetting all memories from the first game. While it is a common trope, he quickly regains the memories following a helpful tutorial, which streamlines the gameplay elements from YW into an easily digestible two-hour lesson. Following that, the hero is able to go back in time 60 years to meet his grandfather, who also has the ability to see Yo-kai. As you travel between past and present, you discover a scheme that could alter both time periods. The story is more cohesive than the original’s, with less filler elements breaking up the pacing. The main plot is still divided into episodes, but nearly every part contributes something meaningful. The game is even more humorous with tongue-in-cheek jokes reminding players to simply enjoy the wacky world. As a result, YW2’s campaign is more satisfying.

Gameplay

There are several improvements over YW, but the battle system and befriending mechanics are mostly unchanged, for better or for worse. Using Yo-kai that you befriend throughout the game, you build a team of six monsters. Unlike traditional RPG battle systems, Yo-kai fight on their own, creating a more passive experience. However, don’t confuse passive with easy or boring. Rather, it’s better to think of the player as a general commanding Yo-kai troops in battle. While the Yo-kai battle on their own, you are in control of several aspects. For instance, you decide which three Yo-kai are in the frontlines at any time. Although you bring in a team of six, only three can fight at the same time. However, you can literally rotate your team around using a wheel on the bottom screen. By spinning the wheel, you can substitute in benched Yo-kai to continue the battle, effectively making your team a revolving door of creatures.

YW2_Bottom Screen.jpg
Battles are three-on-three affairs. Use the touchscreen to rotate your frontlines and activate Soultimates.

The player also decides whether to strike hard or get back and recover. When a Yo-kai’s Soul Meter is full, you can activate its Soultimate move, which manifests as either a strong special attack or helpful recovery/stat boost. Upon using a Soultimate, you engage in a brief touchscreen minigame like tapping bubbles or spinning a circle. When your own monsters are inspirited, or debilitated, by enemies, you can rotate them to the back and engage in a similar touchscreen-enabled purification minigame. There are only a few minigames, and only a couple are new, so it can get tedious if you do them often. The new Yo-kai Watch Model Zero tweaks the battle engine a little by allowing two new actions: M-Spirits and Poking. M-Spirits are supercharged Soultimate moves that draw upon the Soul Meters of the Yo-kai next to the user. Meanwhile, poking a Yo-kai in certain sweet spots nets bonuses such as a higher chance of befriending the enemy. Lastly, players can target which opponents to attack and use items to affect the flow of battle.

There is clearly more to the auto-battle system than meets the eye, and it can get overwhelming keeping track of everything during a fight. Boss battles especially can get heated since you must strategize and target weak spots, similarly to fighting bosses in platformers and adventure games. Unfortunately, those who didn’t like the battle system before will likely not change their opinion. Since Yo-kai act on their own, they may not always perform your desired actions. Depending on a Yo-kai’s attitude, it may even loaf around in battle. There is quite a bit of dependency on luck, which may turn off some.

YW2_Boss.jpg
Bosses are fun to fight and strategize against.

Continuing with the “Yo-kai General” analogy, preparation is half of the battle. Where you place Yo-kai on the wheel is important. For example, you may want a balance of offensive and defensive Yo-kai, or you may want to put a healer next to a weak creature. Additionally, Yo-kai belong to one of eight tribes, such as the strong Brave tribe and the quick Charming tribe. When putting two or three of the same tribe in the frontlines, they receive “Unity” stat boosts. Yo-kai attitudes also matter greatly when building your team, as they affect stats and likelihood of loafing around during battle. It’s fun to come up with team strategies that produce the greatest chance of success.

Befriending Yo-kai was one of the big complaints from the first game, and it sadly doesn’t change much in the sequel. To add a Yo-kai to your collection, you must first have the Yo-kai randomly approach you after battle to join you. You can throw its favorite food at it to improve your odds, and thankfully, the game tells you what Yo-kai like when you hover your target over it. However, it’s discouraging to use up an expensive slab of meat on a creature only to have it ignore your advances. Even worse, you must finish a battle before you can find out if it has deemed you worthy. If it doesn’t join you, you must find another one to battle. There are some additional actions you can take to improve your chances, such as “poking” a Yo-kai’s sweet spot and having the right equippable items. While this makes befriending more likely, the mechanic remains a strictly luck-based affair that is more frustrating than fun, particularly for completionists.

yw2_battle
Befriend and build a unique team of Yo-kai.

There are no random battles; you either find hidden Yo-kai with a special lens or engage them in dungeon areas and alleyways. In a clever effort to highlight their role as spirits that affect the world, the game introduces Baffle Boards, in which you must guess the name of a Yo-kai using clues. Once you do so, summoning them to that spot changes the world slightly. For instance, putting a Hungramps in front of the convenience store will bring in hungry customers, allowing the store to provide big discounts on its products. You can fuse certain Yo-kai together, evolve others into stronger creatures, or transform them into equippable souls that benefit their holder. Finally, you can have your favorite Yo-kai follow you around, which is a small but fun feature.

The game is immersive, leading to some of the game’s greatest strengths and weaknesses. As in the first game, most of YW2 takes place in the large town of Springdale. Though many assets are reused, there is still plenty to do and see, even if you played the first game. You can run around the town, rest at the bathhouse, give offerings to a shrine, and even attend a festival. The town of Springdale is alive, filled with interesting people and Yo-kai alike. The addition of two new areas, the rural Harrisville and the port town San Fantastico, bring more variety to the world. The game is sometimes immersive to a fault, most evidently through the game’s train, in which you must wait at every stop until you get to the right one. This is a minor issue, as it soon gets rectified once you can warp. Regardless, the few times you are forced to use the train are a waste of time, considering there is nothing to do at most stops aside from a couple of sidequests.

YW_SanFantastico.jpg
The large world of the first game has expanded in the sequel.

Replayability

There are a lot of Yo-kai to befriend and sidequests to complete. An enhanced map, that both labels landmarks and guides players using arrows, heavily improves the original’s convoluted quest structure, making it more enjoyable to complete the quests. Besides NPC requests, you can also search for hidden Yo-kai Spots, enter Gate of Whimsy challenge rooms, collect new rare Yo-kai using the daily Crank-a-Kai capsule machine, and obtain a large number of achievements. An extensive postgame keeps the game alive long after you beat the 15-20 hour story.

By far, the biggest enhancement to replay value is the new online battle and trade modes. You can take on other players’ teams online in engaging six-on-six battles. Though it’s possible to get competitive, the fact that Yo-kai attack automatically makes battles somewhat dependent on luck. Nevertheless, online functionality is a huge improvement. Online trading also helps for completionists, especially since exclusive Yo-kai are split between the game’s two versions. No matter which version you have, trading makes it easier to obtain a full collection of the 300+ Yo-kai. You can also engage in these social features locally, as well as a bonus game, “Yo-kai Watch Blasters.” This multiplayer-enabled action game, based on the in-game “Terror Time” stealth-esque segment, lets you directly control a Yo-kai to battle evil Oni demons in 2D Zelda-like gameplay. It’s a decent diversion that only adds to the fully-featured package.

YW2_Past.jpg
Battle Yo-kai in both the present and past.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics contribute much to the game’s charm. The Yo-kai are all well-animated with standout designs that speak just as loud as their descriptions, and each Soultimate attack features its own mini-cutscene. The multiple towns, both past and present, are filled with intricate details and add to the immersion. Animated cutscenes look just like the anime.

The music remains as catchy as ever, with upbeat ghoulish and cartoonish battle themes and nostalgia-inducing town themes. The voice acting is fun, and each Yo-kai has at least one spoken line upon befriending, giving it personality. Some cutscenes are also fully voiced and give vibes of Saturday morning anime. Level-5 did a tremendous job with both graphical and sound design, making the world feel alive.

YW2_Banner.jpg
Yo-kai is Why

Conclusion

Yo-kai Watch 2 provides a more fulfilling experience than its predecessor. Although there are still some aspects that could be improved like the befriending system, the game makes many other improvements in story flow and sidequest structure. Battling remains a passive experience, but once you learn how to affect the tide of battle, the system can grow on you. YW2 builds upon the original’s biggest strengths, giving life to an immersive town and hundreds of Yo-kai. The 180+ new Yo-kai add to the charming roster of hilarious souls and spirits, and learning about each one is smile-inducing. The game won’t appeal to everyone, but monster-collecting enthusiasts should give Yo-kai Watch 2 a try. The only question is: will you go Bony or Fleshy?

Score: 8/10

Note: The version used for this review was Yo-kai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls.

What do you think of Yo-kai Watch 2? Do you have any experience with the Yo-kai Watch series, whether games, anime, or toys? Which would you choose: Bony Spirits or Fleshy Souls? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments section below!

Monster Hunter Generations (3DS) Review

The Hunt is On

The Monster Hunter series began on the PlayStation 2 and defined its own unique genre of giant creature battling action role-playing game. Its signature gameplay loop of hunting monsters, carving their bodies, and forging new armor has since been replicated in games such as God Eater and Final Fantasy Explorers. Nevertheless, Monster Hunter continues to build off of its own strengths and expand it with each game. After four mainline games and a number of expansions and spinoffs, Monster Hunter Generations for the Nintendo 3DS brings them all together. MHG collects fan-favorite monsters, village hubs, and characters in one adventure while introducing new hunting variations and special moves that completely alter a hunter’s playstyle. With hundreds of quests and a robust online multiplayer mode, MHG is a monstrous force to be reckoned.

Gameplay

If you liked any of the recent Monster Hunter offerings such as Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, you will enjoy this game. MHG features the same refined control styles and weapons from MH4U, and it’s easy to switch from one game to the other. The callbacks are welcome fanservice, and the additions allow you to experience MH in a new way. Although this is a novel adventure, a large chunk of the monsters and areas are recycled from previous games. Unless you are completely satisfied with MH4U tiding you over until a new mainline game, this game is highly recommended as a celebration of all things Monster Hunter.

MHGen_Fight.jpg
Use a variety of weapons to take down larger-than-life monsters.

Now, for everyone else who hasn’t experienced Monster Hunter, the core gameplay composes of your customizable hunter taking on quests to battle large creatures. The monsters provide widely different fights and have distinct appearances, such as dragons, wyverns, dinosaurs, snakes, and sea beasts. Upon beginning a quest, you are placed in one of several maps from wintry mountaintops to volcanic cliffs. Each map is partitioned into several sections (usually around 10), and you must search through each area to find the targeted monster. Once you find it, the monster lets out a mighty roar, showing you that it’s ready to fight back.

Battles are real-time action affairs where you must find opportunities to strike while dodging monster attacks. It’s not a strict back-and-forth, however. Your actions are limited by your speed and stamina. Unlike faster action RPGs, every move carries specific weight. Some may see this slower approach to gameplay as a setback, but the controls are deep and sophisticated. Each motion has value to it, and the flow of battle will vary between different weapons and monsters. If you are using a hard-hitting Hammer, you aren’t going to be able to swing it around easily. Each of your actions must be deliberate and strategic, while running on instinct. Lighter weapons like the Dual Blades allow you to attack more swiftly, but you sacrifice power and defense in the process. Since you are up-close to the monster, you need to dodge carefully, which brings stamina into play. Running, dodging, and some other actions use up stamina. If you run out, you slow down and start panting. You can consume items to keep your health and stamina in check, but even the consumption animation takes time.

MHGen_Battle.jpg
Survival requires strategic timing.

Conversely, there are times where the monster may get tired or even topple over. You can take advantage by wailing mercilessly on the monster or by powering up. Each monster has its own vulnerabilities, and targeting those weak spots can result in big gains. Monsters also have their own tells, or animation cues that tell you what they’re about to do. Just like reading an opponent in a fighting game or memorizing patterns in a boss battle, evaluating and reacting appropriately to monsters’ moves separates seasoned and rookie hunters.

The steep difficulty curve is the biggest turnoff from this otherwise exhilarating battle system. This isn’t a hack-and-slash game, and players who attempt to make it one may struggle. Learning the ropes has always been the biggest challenge in MH games. It’s never really explained how you should hunt. While this fosters independence, the lack of feedback can be frustrating. There are no monster health bars or indicators of an attack’s power. If you lose a fight, you may not know how well you were doing or what you’re doing wrong. MH fans have grown accustomed to this and even like it, but new players will likely have trouble. There are optional tutorial quests that teach you basics and weapons’ controls. However, truly learning how to succeed will take a lot of patience, effort, and possible external help from veterans and guides.

MHGen_Lightning.jpg
The game is tough to learn, but fun to master.

Once you get past that hurdle, the rest of the game provides an addictive loop of fighting monsters and building stronger weapons and armor from their carcasses. The moment a titanic monster finally goes down after a lengthy battle is comparable to delivering the final blow on a difficult boss. Carving its skin for goodies is the cherry on top. In-between quests, you are free to prepare for your next mission by making and upgrading valuable equipment based on a set number of needed materials. Usually, you’ll need to aim at specific monster parts to gain materials you need. Since the drops are random, you may end up grinding to defeat a single monster several times. It does get exhausting sometimes, especially when playing alone, but it feels great once you finally forge your new creations. Your new equipment actually looks handcrafted from the monster’s remains. The sense of progression feels satisfying as you find yourself defeating more difficult monsters and taking their powerful materials.

Your hunter doesn’t level up, so your equipment defines your stats. They also affect your skills, in another vaguely explained game mechanic. Unlike what you might expect, the skill-up bonuses from equipment only matter if you’ve gained enough to reach a certain threshold (usually +10). Upon gaining 10 points, you gain the new skill. They include stat bonuses, elemental resistances, weapon perks, dodge abilities, and more. Unfortunately, you often need to wear a complete 5-piece set of armor to gain certain skills. If you’re crafty, you can combine certain sets and forge special decorations to optimize your desired skills.

MHGen_Armor.jpg
The armor and weapons formed from monster materials look great up-close.

Materials can also be used to make powerful weapons. The large variety of weapons is one of the best aspects of this game, giving the game customizability and replayability. With 14 weapons types, you can find at least one that suits your playing style. A standard Sword & Shield allows you to balance attack and defense, the Lance tests your patience as you wait for opportunities to strike, the blunt Hammer charges up for heavy stunning moves, and Bowguns allow you to fire at monsters from afar. There are even status-changing weapons like the insect-powered Insect Glaive and the music-based Hunting Horn. There is a weapon for everybody, and mastering one is inherently satiating, especially in such a heavily skill-based game. Wielding another weapon completely changes how you play, so trying out new weapons can freshen up your hunting experience. The controls are all different but feel great. As a note, the game works best with the New 3DS or Circle Pad Pro. The extra nub/circle pad for camera control helps during hunts and is almost necessary for some weapons like the Bowguns.

MHG also has a brand new 15th weapon, or rather playable character, in Prowler Mode. You can now hunt as a Felyne, a cat that usually assists your character during single-player hunts. Felynes fight similarly to hunters, though are limited to blades, blunt weapons, and boomerangs. Besides being adorable, these cats run without losing stamina. They can also gather materials easily, catching bugs and fish with their own unbreakable nets and rods. You can activate special abilities, like healing or throwing bombs, by filling a meter. Felynes actually level up, offering a more standard progression that players may be more used to. Prowler Mode improves the less-entertaining gathering missions thanks to a Felyne’s abilities, but don’t underestimate leveled up Felynes when taking on monsters.

MGGen_Prowler.jpg
The Meownster Hunters

The biggest additions to MHG are the new Hunter Styles and Hunter Arts. Styles represent different schemes to use a weapon. Fans who want to stick with neutral, familiar territory can use the Guild Style, which is essentially the MH4U control scheme. The three new ways to play are the Aerial Style, allowing you to better jump and mount a monster’s back to topple it; Adept Style, rewarding you with power-ups for successfully dodging a monster’s attack; and Striker Style, focusing on activating the new Hunter Arts.

Arts are special moves that come in the form of powerful attacks, effective dodges, and weapon-specific bonuses. For instance, a Great Sword can unleash a ground-splitting slash, a Light Bowgun can reload all ammo at once, and a Hunting Horn can activate all power-up songs at the same time. Each weapon has three exclusive Arts, and there are another half-dozen Arts that any weapon can utilize. Between the four Hunting Styles and multitude of Hunting Arts, the amount of playstyles essentially multiplies tenfold. For seasoned hunters, these are the most enticing incentives to pick this game up.

Apart from these additions and some quality of life improvements, MHG doesn’t add much more new content. There is one new village and one new hunting area. At least the few novel monsters are all high-quality, including a sleep-inducing owl and a new group of monsters dubbed “The Fated Four.” Regardless, anyone new to the franchise can witness all of the best MH monsters in one game.

MHGen_Malfestio.jpg
One of the new monsters, the owl-like Malfestio

MH titles have never been too dependent on story, and MHG is no different. Instead, you progress on quests with a loose narrative tying them together. Quests range from large monster fights to item gathering. Although the game is mostly about the former, the latter is crucial in building up a stock of items (which can be combined to form better items). They can get boring, but they provide nice breaks in-between heated monster hunts. Likewise, capture quests – in which you must weaken and trap a monster – and one-on-one arena showdowns keep the grind from getting stale. In both offline and online play, there are ranked tiers of quests. Finishing certain quests unlocks an Urgent Quest, which upon completion grants access to the next tier up. However, there is no way to tell which of the dozen quests within in a rank are important aside from checking a guide or simply playing them all. Regardless, the higher-ranked quests produce some of the most exhilarating battles with multiple monster “hunt-a-thons” and epic arena fights with dragons. Returning fans may be disappointed to learn that there is no insane G-Rank difficulty, but jacked-up Deviant Monsters provide a worthy replacement challenge.

With all this said, the most enjoyable part about the MH series is its multiplayer mode. Up to four people, either local or online, can cooperate on a hunt. A group of hunters, all trained in different weapons, taking down a large beast, is where the true MH experience shines. Your group can participate in a large set of quests geared for multiplayer. One person picks the quest, and the group can decide if they want to go on it. For the most part, any cleared quest will count as completed for each player. The exceptions are the Urgent and Deviant Quests, whose completion only counts for the person who picked it. This unfortunately means that you’ll have to grind these quests multiple times for each player.

MHGen_Multiplayer.jpg
Multiplayer hunting is one of the game’s biggest highlights.

Online play works great, and connection hiccups are rare. Joining or hosting a room for randoms is fast. A lack of voice chat hurts communication, and players are limited to keyboard chat and preset greetings. Voice chat would have been welcome since this game is so dependent on working together and communicating which quests you need completed. Although you can use outside chat proxies, there is little excuse to exclude voice chat, at least with friends.

Playtime/Replayability

With dozens of monsters and hundreds of quests, each taking an average of 20-30 minutes, there is a lot to do in MHG. Finishing the main storyline can take anywhere between 50-100 hours, depending on how many quests you do. Finishing all the quests, earning every achievement, and grinding to forge equipment easily adds several hundred hours to that count. Finally, playing with friends adds replay value on top of that.

mhgen_quest
The action looks and sounds exciting!

Graphics and Sound

The graphics look as sophisticated as they’ve ever been, with gorgeously detailed monsters and scenic areas. The animations are spot-on and help you easily notice monster tells. Your customizable hunter fluidly attacks with little to no problem in framerate. There aren’t many cutscenes, but they all look stunning. You will quickly notice the music starts out eerily quiet when you begin a mission. This is purposefully done to offset the moment that the monster notices you, in which an alert jingle plays, leading to orchestral-quality battle music. Some of the new tunes, including “The Fated Four” battle songs, energetic arena music, and the calm Bherna Village theme, are beautiful pieces that are worth listening to on loop. The victorious jingle that plays when you finish off a monster is sure to fill you with a triumphant feeling. Characters only grunt, but you’d be convinced the creatures were real after hearing their roars and battlecries.

mhgen_banner
Gotta Hunt ‘Em All!

Conclusion

Monster Hunter Generations is an engaging foray into a world filled with menacing monsters and spirited hunters. Although it’s not a new full-fledged entry in the series, there are enough exciting features and monsters to make this a worthwhile purchase. The Hunter Styles, Hunter Arts, and Prowler Mode, combined with the already impressive 14 weapons, add to the diverse playstyles. A solid multiplayer mode, albeit lacking voice chat, keeps the game a highly entertaining social experience. Even single-player’s addictive gameplay loop of epic monster battles and beefed up equipment is enough to keep any hunter engaged for hundreds of hours. It may have a steep difficulty curve, but mastering its deep strategic gameplay to take down huge monsters is a thrill worth the investment.

Score: 9/10

What are your thoughts on Monster Hunter Generations? Are you a veteran hunter or looking into the series? Do you have any favorite games, weapons, or monsters from the series? What do you think of this game or any other game in the “monster hunting” genre? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments below!