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Newcomer Ramblings: Learning To Enjoy Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

This is not the first time I’ve unknowingly dove headfirst into a series lacking knowledge of what lay ahead. I could probably say that about every game I play nowadays, as I’ve grown to love trying to go into games blind. I got sick of following the never ending hype train of trailer, preview, trailer, preview, trailer, trailer, trailer, trailer long ago. Some games are significantly more unwelcoming than others though, and build up a mythos around themselves and their fanbase, challenging newcomers to try and breakthrough. As a result, over the years I have developed a large list (sometimes a literal pile) of games I believed I’d never play, simply because I prejudged their content, and thought I could never enjoy them.

Notably, the two main ones I have now put a checkmark beside were games I was all but forced by peers to attempt. I had deftly sidestepped them for years beforehand, but when I finally gave them a chance I genuinely ended up enjoying them. Enjoying them immensely in fact. I lost at least 150 hours to Persona 4 over two playthroughs, and probably double that to both the Dark Souls games combined. Then there is the fact I spent another couple of hundred hours watching playthroughs that encompass all three. Kay Plays’ intricate adventures, Jeff Green’s manic and often confused playthroughs, and Giant Bomb’s eminently enjoyable Endurance Runs were all great watches. It is a deep dark time sink for sure, but I never once felt bad for all the time I lost both watching and playing those games.

My enjoyment of the above led me to two realizations. The first, that I made horrible decisions to avoid them in the first place, with the second being that I really should step out of my gaming comfort zone more often – as the results rarely are all that bad.


These roads all led me to Monster Hunter – a game I set my sights on mid-March. I should note, this was not my first attempt to tackle this beast of a franchise. I had gone down the path of wanting to understand the minutia of the series many times in the past. So much so, that I am confused as to where my crusade even began. Before this current incarnation, I had at least 20 hours of hunting behind me – over what I believe to be two games – but always came away both annoyed and awfully confused. I could’ve probably finished 3 or 4 other modern releases in that same timeframe – but that commitment does not even begin to scratch the surface of what Capcom have created.

For me to figure Monster Hunter out I needed to try much harder. So I did! Over the past 30 days I chose to devote solid time to the series – Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate to be exact. I did this for one simple reason – my own peace of mind. I needed to finally grasp what was so loved about this series. There is obviously something here to love. There has to be with that many believers out there. But even after dozens, scores, and other combined units of measurement behind me, only one thing was abundantly clear. Although I was figuring things out as I went, I still in no way fully comprehended everything the franchise has to offer. I thought I’d write this anyway.

I have come to the conclusion that Monster Hunter does not care if I like it or not. Monster Hunter is, and forever will be its own thing. It is people that must change to understand it. I am one of those people that Monster Hunter does not care about. It is a title that almost defies criticism, as fans of the franchise seemingly can explain away what initially looks like the most inane gameplay choices. If you too are a newcomer that is reluctant to give it a go – thinking those apparent apologists are in the wrong – I now understand where they are coming from. They might just be the sane ones here.


At least the core gameplay loop of the series is not too hard to wrap your head around, so I’ll start there. It is basically one huge grind to mold your character into the best Hunter in the land by equipping them with the best items the game has to offer. You do this by killing monsters – a hell of a lot of monsters – over and over again. A quick glance at a Wikia (these are vitally important if you choose to play Monster Hunter) tells me there are 98 separate monsters in this game. The grind is the simple part, and is the main part of MH comparable to the plethora of other action RPGs available today. What sets MH apart from others that may initially look similar is the vastness of options on hand. Those previously mentioned monsters all need separate approaches to best, and depending on what weapon you wield even more options become available. Where as many games nowadays could be compared to a short 300 page novel, the Monster Hunter series is a monolithic tome of possibilities.

The amount of options are so boggling that it is difficult to even begin writing about them. I have heard many people criticize the game in the past for not explaining much of its content, making it impossible for newcomers to understand the possibilities are even there. The simple fact is the game cannot explain everything – if it did it would be a 100 hour long tutorial. Players must learn as they go – and not be afraid to look outside the game for help. The more I played the game, the more I thought I knew about it, but quickly came to the realization I had only pulled one more layer (of which there are many) back. I should now try and write some clever onion layer related analogy here, but I am not that clever. I’ll just get right to the point. Monster Hunter is the biggest onion – a big fucking never ending onion.

But for all it’s weird eccentricities, there is a certain indistinguishable something about the series that makes it enjoyable. Even though this entry seems to be the most welcoming the series has ever been – enough for even me to wrap my head around  – it is still a very unique, almost stupidly deep game.

Even though the game now tells you a lot of what you need to know, and even helps you to learn it, there are still many mechanics that can only be learned by personal experience. As the hours passed I grew to understand paintballing, and both cooking and the need to eat. Sharpening, dung, and ranks are all important too. It is also vitally important to become aware of the versatility of honey! There is a varying selection of things you’ll just have to grow to accept to enjoy the game. For example. Monster Hunter seems to like cat speak. If you have a purroblem with such puns you might get annoyed. On top of that, if you’ve learned to love objective markers directing you where to go, you’ll have to forfeit that here. The whole game is built around making objective markers obsolete. You’re here to hunt not just follow afterall.


There is a story holding the whole thing together. Although you’re not going to garner huge revelations from it should you pay close  attention, nor will you be shocked by twists witnessed along the way. There is a few funny lines of dialogue in there, but if you just want to hunt monsters (which is what the game does best), you have the choice to quickly button through it. Don’t skip all dialogue though, as there may be some hints to help you gameplaywise tucked away in there too.

But away from the story, which really is nothing to write home about, there are more gameplay oddities that matter. There’s the Crafting System that initially looks as confusing as other parts of the game, but delving in, it actually tells you everything you need to know to make all kinds of items – although does not tell you where to get them. As before, you can probably go to a Wikia to help find that info out. Don’t feel bad about that though. I learned that’s how things are supposed to work here.

Part of the problem I (and I am sure others) had with the series, was refusing to seek help when stumped. Monster Hunter makes it nigh on impossible not to ask for help. There is just too much content for one person to wrap their head around. I may have chosen to play the game solo – but no one person can do everything themselves. Even in single player, Monster Hunter forces you to look for help – and it is best to look outside the game for that.

When not grasping the 3DS firmly in your hands, you can scour online stores for apps (there is tons of them), dig around YouTube for people solving the same problem you’re having, or just lose a whole night consuming a tiny portion of a comprehensive Wikia dedicated solely to that tiny corner of the game. Embracing this spirit of jolly cooperation was my biggest roadblock in learning to enjoy the series. Finally accepting that was necessary made everything else about the game much easier to appreciate. Things started to fall into place.

Once you have absorbed enough knowledge to be dangerous, then you start to perform quests more diligently. After that you learn to do them faster. Then you learn to do them better. Like the little train that could, if you put in enough time, and try hard enough, you can turn “I think I can” into “I thought I could,” and reap the rewards of that effort as a result.


All else aside, combat is easily the most unique aspect of Monster Hunter. It reminds me a lot of what the Souls series asks from players – calm, meticulous swings, thinking ahead, and always planning. But it also shares it’s own totally unique ideals too. The most noteworthy aspect to mention is that each weapon is vastly different than the next. Where as the Souls games (pre Bloodborne), had a huge number of weapons to obtain, there was not sweeping changes between each and every one of them. In MH choosing to wield a new weapon is akin to learning to play a whole new game. Some weapons are exciting to use, but in turn hard to use correctly.

A huge amount of my time with MH4U was spent using sword and shield. It was the weapon set I started with, and I became comfortable using it. Once I had become decently proficient with what could be labeled the game’s default weapon, I switched over to a lance for a few hours. It took many fights to even begin to understand how to get the best out of it. Hours past, and even then I don’t think I was making the right decisions whilst wielding it in battle. After a while, I decided to switch back to what I was comfortable with – my trusty sword and shield. Let’s not forget, there are sets of ranged weapons here too. That’s a whole separate scary piranha filled kettle of fish to get your head around. To be honest, I did not even go any where near them. Too scared.

Early quests in the game can involve lots of searching, looking, and waiting. It all feels very much like tedious busy work, and it can be a bit boring as a result. Based on my previous failures at enjoying MH, I feel the series has had this problem since its inception. It is necessary though, as what it’s doing here is teaching you, and that’s what’s important. It reminded me of a really bad maths teacher I had in secondary school. He used to “teach” by writing everything on a blackboard with no explanation in hope the class would just understand. Like him, MH scribes line after line on its metaphorical blackboard and hopes you just figure it all out. But unlike math, as the game advances it gets much more fun. You need to know the basics before you dive down the massive all encompassing rabbit hole, and you won’t have the fun that the latter hours of the game delivers in droves unless you put that early effort in.

At times most newcomers will likely question is it worth putting in the work, and I now feel confident enough to say it is. With enough playtime under your belt, most people will start to become confident in how the game plays and what it asks of players. You start to instinctively learn what MH really wants from you – and do it without even thinking. It is at this point, and only then, that the game clicks, and a heavenly chorus of angels playing ska music on trumpets and harps will erupt inside your head.


This piece was written after spending large portions of my free time over 30 days with MH4U. Combine that with my previous brief MH experiences, and that’s by far the longest I have devoted to anything before choosing to write about it. Even after that time commitment, I will eagerly admit I still do not fully understand this gaming behemoth. But I don’t think many really do. Even the people who have made a living out of telling others about Monster Hunter on YouTube probably don’t fully understand the series. Some omnipotent being in the depths of Capcom probably does, but the majority are just like us mortals. Maybe Mega Man knew the secrets of Monster Hunter, but was ostracized because he knew too much? The series is just far too vast to fully understand, but I now feel that is also key to why it is so loved.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was the game that finally made me understand what is so great about this spectacular series. Instead of just blindly trusting the opinion of others, I have now pulled back the curtain just far enough to realize what’s hidden back there – something very special indeed. For anyone with enough hours to spare, that will likely end up totalling weeks when all is said and done. And if you are willing to question your decisions more than once in the early hours of your journey, then I wholeheartedly recommend you jump aboard the series with me. It might just end up one of your favourite games ever.