Update – Monster Hunting

I’m sure it looks mighty suspicious that I finished one big project, then announced another, and then basically disappeared.

Well, my PC died. That’s pretty much the long and short of that. I’ve figured out the problem, and now things seem to be in order, so I can proceed once more. I’ve got a couple of things that I’m working on, that I started formulating during my downtime, so it wasn’t a total waste.

Since I’m stuck here and quite sick, I feel like doing something I’ve never done before, and just writing about some things that I’ve been doing. Nothing personal–I don’t mean to get weird just yet.

Monster Hunter

With very limited access to the internet for a few weeks, I decided to dust off my PSP and finally restart my Monster Hunter Freedom Unite journey, mostly in anticipation of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate getting localized.

Freedom Unite is the only Monster Hunter I’ve really played. I haven’t been much into console gaming for a while, and haven’t owned a Nintendo system since I lost my original fat DS what seems like a decade ago.

I like the game, but it feels odd to be playing so far behind. I’m used to being late to the party, but not with the awareness and intention of catching up. When I first played Freedom Unite, which was a while ago, I used mostly Great Swords and Long Swords, because why not? I think the only other Monster Hunter going on at the time was Tri, which was on the Wii, and I had no interest or intention of ever getting in on that, so I used the weapons that I liked to use in the moment, without regard for anything else. I never did beat the game–my PSP died and I had to do some surgery to get it working again, which didn’t come till much later.

When I restarted, my first impulse was to stay far away from Long Swords. In fact, I wanted to do some preparation for Monster Hunter 4. I wanted to get familiar with some of the other weapons. I started with the Sword and Shield, but dropped that soon enough. Not because it’s supposedly weak in Freedom Unite (I had no idea), but because I spent too much time looking at all of the cool things that could be done with the weapon in 3rd and 4th Generation games, and became too focused on what I couldn’t do compared to what I could. Next up was the Gunlance, with much the same result. Though I did get more done with it than I did with the Sword and Shield, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing out.

So I reversed my selection criteria and went after weapons that hadn’t changed very much. That is how my love affair with Hammers began.

Freedom Unite is an odd game when it comes to difficulty. It starts out slow, has a few bumps, and then really kicks it up a notch for the beginning of High Rank, after which it plateaus for a while. I was able to brute force my way to High Rank, which is a good 60% of the game’s content, just swinging my hammers wildly with little regard to damage zones or KOs. I don’t think I knocked a single monster out for the first 20 hours of hammering.

I hit a slight hurdle mid-way through High Rank, with the Nargacuga, though a lot of that was just the desire to make its armour. My real problems came soon after, when I went up against the double Tigrex urgent quest in the Guild Hall. Try as I might, I could not keep myself alive while also doing enough damage to win before time ended. The largest obstacle was the limited areas in which the Tigrex could fight, meaning that they would often be hanging out in the same place. Fighting one High Rank Tigrex is already a problem; fighting two of them at the same time is a non-starter. As well, after a while the Tigrex would go into rage mode after every hit. A raged Tigrex is incredibly fast, and does enough damage to one-shot anyone with less than full health–keep in mind that I hadn’t yet figured out the kitchen yet, and was just throwing random food combinations together, though I’d kind of attached myself to the sub-optimal meat and fish combination, which gives full stamina, but not full health, so it’s not as if I was at maximum health to begin with.

Freedom Unite forced me to do what most other games do not: learn how to play optimally. I buckled down, figured out patterns, and finally started using the hammer properly. I timed monster turn rates to land headshots with my charged super pounds, and even with the 3-hit golf swing, and soon I was knocking the teeth out of those Tigrex, bashing their brains until they were staggered, and then knocked out, and I beat that urgent, which got me into Guild Hall High Ranked quests. From there I branched out a bit, deciding it was time to try a ranged weapon. In order to use bows the way I wanted, I needed to get my hands on the Barrage Piercing, which meant beating every training mission with every weapon. Having finally figured out how to play the game somewhat properly, that turned out to be a cinch.

At this point, I’m farming Akantor to make his bow and armour before I take down Fatalis and move on to G Rank quests. It’s satisfying progress.

I know Monster Hunter has never been that big outside of Japan, and that’s a shame. It draws many favourable comparisons to the beloved Dark Souls games, as far as mechanics and combat goes, even if the structure and intent are completely different. I’m hoping that Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate’s expanded story mode helps draw in more players, but it seems unlikely at this point. I find it more rewarding than Dark Souls. Anyone who hasn’t given the games a chance, or couldn’t get into them in the past, owes it to themselves to check the games out again. You want something difficult? Something that will make you hurt? Something that demands attention and skill, with combat that makes every choice and attack meaningful? Monster Hunter is what you’re looking for.

Not to say the game isn’t without its problems. Freedom Unite seems to be considered one of the more challenging entries in the series, and a lot of that has to do with some very questionable hitboxes for monster attacks, which I feel keenly at all times. They can be dealt with, but one of the main things I look forward to in Monster Hunter 4 is being able to stand next to a monster without worrying that I will lose half my health to attacks that will forever be suspect. Even without those issues, there are some enemies that are just tedious to fight. Rathalos, who spends 70% of every fight flying around, out of reach. Black Diablos, who spends most of every fight either underground or charging back and forth so that he’s impossible to hit with melee weapons. Plesioth, who I won’t even fight with a melee weapon, both because of the obnoxious hitboxes on its attacks, but also because of the way it runs away constantly. Fights against the epic monsters like Shen Gaoren and Lao-Shan Lung are monotonous and take far too long. Worst of all, there are too many random death combos, many of them coming out of nowhere: if I had a Coke for every time a Ratholos has instantly gone into rage mode when I hit him, stunned me with a scream, and then charged me for a one-hit kill before while I was still reeling, I’d have lost all my teeth long ago. That’s just how it works sometimes, and you take the punch and keep going.

So, yeah, Monster Hunter is a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate if only for some more consistent hitboxes and a Gunlance that’s fun to use. The Switch Axe also looks neat. Hopefully with the 3DS’s online play I can actually hunt with other people as well. Until then, I’ve got the rest of G Rank to get through. It will be the greatest challenge yet, but that’s no reason to flinch.

Oh, I also watched some Attack on Titan, but I’ll leave that for my next update.

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