There are those of us who have played the first Monster Hunter games on the Playstation 2, there are those who started on the later systems such as the PSP, and then there are those who just started out with the 3DS release of Monster Hunter Ultimate - regardless of which generation you are a part of, enjoying the MH series is as easy as picking the game up. The monsters are inspired by dragons, dinosaurs, and other fantastic giant creatures -and have been designed to give players a challenging hunting experience.
While the game does features a single player story mode, the fact is that there is no 'greater conflict' in the world of Monster Hunter. Players take on the role of a completely new hunter and must use their limited resources to hunt down various monsters for more materials. Better materials will allow you to craft better weapons and armor for hunting tougher monsters. It is a simple cycle of advancement, but one that is ultimately satisfying and addictive. Aside from hunts, some raw materials can be obtained through other activities in between missions.
It Feels Organic
What makes the hunts in this game so exciting is that you actually feel as if the monsters are alive. The various creatures you meet in the game all behave in unique ways -passive creatures will tend to graze and herd together while more aggressive types can be seen practicing more predatory behaviors. The target monsters, of course, are all designed to behave uniquely -and players are encouraged to observe how they behave in order to be able to hunt them efficiently.
Will a monster try to scale a wall or run to the trees if threatened? What kinds of attacks will it do to targets at long range? Will it use its' tail or it's front claws? In most games, players tend to gauge the patterns and changes of enemy AI by the current state of its' health bar -MH is different. There is no UI depicting the monster's stats and players will have to determine how it will behave simply by observing the way it moves. In this sense, players truly feel like they are hunters -defeating enemies is done not just with overwhelming power, but with the use of strategy and tactics.
New on 3DS
The surprise with Ultimate is that it has been released on the Nintendo 3DS -despite the fact that MH started on the Playstation 2 and its' most successful iterations have been those released on the Playstation Portable (MH: Frontier G was released on the Vita at least). Visually, the graphics are well defined and the animations are smooth -though it would be easy to imagine that this would look much better on the Vita's larger screens. Still, the 3DS does a good job at delivering an insane amount of fun with the game (it is so easy to clock up over a hundred hours with Monster Hunter still feel like there is so much more to do).
Also new is the inclusion of Guild quests which adds even more missions that allows players to earn various types of randomly generated equipment. Also, for those who makes use of the Street Pass feature of the console -MH supports it as well. This is a great add-on for those who played previous versions as the game as it is one of the ways to earn some of the older types of equipment.
Connectivity is Key
As fun and enjoyable as Monster Hunter Ultimate is, this is a game best played with buddies -whether on local Ad-Hoc or online, being able to coordinate hunting parties and bringing down super tough monsters is what the game is all about. The gameplay dynamic changes a lot once you are accompanied by players with weapons and playing styles much different to yours. This variety is what gives parties of players a level of versatility and adaptability to deal with many of the monster that appear later in the game.
The Verdict: Everyday is Epic
The potential for huge battles in this game is constant -every time you decide to go on a hunt, it will always be a spectacular experience. Yes, there are plenty of other games out there where you can hunt for big mighty creatures (go check out dragonhunters-thegame.com), and they are all enjoyable in their own right. But in Monster Hunter, bringing down giant creatures is not a quest, not a mission, and not a special boss fight, it is simply your way of life.