I tried to like Monster Hunter, I really did. I put a solid two weeks into the PSP’s Monster Hunter Freedom Unite and didn’t even get past the dozens upon dozens of tutorials. Protip for developers: I can learn more than one thing per introductory mission – it’s not against the law.
Then when the 3DS and Wii U Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate demos came out recently, I put a lot of time into them, as well. (It didn’t take long to realize that they’re exactly the same – a fact I was not aware of before trying both.) I keep giving the series a chance, however, because it’s a brand new Wii U exclusive coming out this week, and I would love nothing more than a never-ending world to explore with my underused Wii U.
Imagine: one game that can absorb your life for months… Sigh. I feel I am doomed to wait until Dark Souls 2 before I can find another game that will sink its barbs into me and never let go like I wish one would.
Each game in the Monster Hunter series is pretty much the same, and I think I’ve finally figured out why it doesn’t push the buttons I need, and why it probably never will. See, I grew up with RPGs, and Monster Hunter is definitely one of those. But it’s the wrong kind.
I play RPGs for the stories, the fantastical worlds they create, and the memorable characters (Final Fantasy VI springs immediately to mind). I put up with the random battles and the oft-boring and grind-y level up systems to get to the good stuff – the memorable parts in between the battles. The characters. The backdrops. The mini-games distracting me from saving the world. The relationships between the ragtag members of my team. The world-crushing enemies that will forever seem too tough to handle. We don’t play Persona 4 for the dungeons.
But Monster Hunter… the entire game is just the battles. Sure, there might be some huge scuffles with a different strategy for each of the dozen-or-so weapons in the game, but it’s a game comprised solely of my least favorite genre staple, without any of the character I want in an RPG.
That’s not to say that you should go 180 degrees in the opposite direction, though. Metal Gear Solid, for example, is just too much cutscene for how little controllable action there is. I’m not watching a movie. I’m playing a video game because I want to be the star of my story. I want to save the world, defeat evil, and get the girl. And when it’s all over, I want to think back on the time I spent in this digital world and say, “I’m glad I did that.”
One of the biggest problems with games is that, when it’s all said and done, and when you’ve finally polished off your 100-hour long epic, you haven’t actually achieved anything. You haven’t produced something useful for the world. You haven’t contributed towards bettering your environment. Hey, you haven’t even bettered yourself. Is the slight increase in hand/eye coordination and visual acuity worth the hundreds of hours the world wastes every day on Call of Duty? We’re just being entertained. And that’s fine. All work and no play makes people into serial killers. But what I want out of games, and what I want even out of RPGs… those things just can’t be provided by Monster Hunter. I wish they could.
Once, my British friend sat me down and made me watch Doctor Who. I watched about a season and a half with him and his girlfriend (not all at once), and I enjoyed it well enough. But the thing that always bothered me about it: why is the Doctor doing all this? Why does he take humans out of their normal life, put them in danger on a daily basis, and then, when they inevitably die, simply move on to a different expendable human? The only answer I could ever get was, “He’s old, he’s bored, and he’s lonely.” That’s… not really good enough for me. Boredom isn’t a great reason for putting people’s lives at risk. The Doctor’s motivation seems so… manufactured. Like maybe 50 years ago, when the series started, he had a reason. But it has long been forgotten.
And that’s the same problem I have with Monster Hunter. You hunt these monsters, and find and create better and stronger weapons and armor, and for what? You’re not saving the world. There’s no ultimate prize or goal to achieve. You’re just a person, doomed to walk these strange lands, striking down any monster that crosses your path. Why? Boredom. Because in the world of Monster Hunter, there is no other goal then to hunt and trap, or hunt and kill. Endlessly. Without remorse. Without meaning. Without fun.
Thanks, but I’ll take my traditional story-heavy RPG over this any day of the week.