At New York Comic Con (NYCC) this year, I was able to get my hands on Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate for 3DS, which turned out to be quite the enjoyable foray back into the world of Monster Hunter. Ultimate for the West is based on the re-released version in Japan titled Monster Hunter 4G.
As in previous titles, players choose their weapon class based on their preferred play style. There are now 14 classes in total, with two new additions: Insect Glaive and Charge Blade. You can also customize your character, however, that feature was not available in this demonstration.
There’s the familiar formula of choosing a mission, which requires you to find and then take down a monster target within a given time-limit. My mark was called a Glaive and what should have been quick work with my speedy twin daggers turned into a battle between woman and environment as I was forced to traverse various areas in search of my quarry. This reminded me how important strategy, intelligence and diligence is when facing enemies — taking a “running and gunning” approach here will get you nowhere.
Boss monsters have an unseen health meter and players must use visual clues to figure out how much health they have remaining. A good indicator that a monster is very close to dying is when they begin limping and try to flee to their hideout.
My particular mark loved to run and I was able to wander around massive environments, climbing and jumping to find new paths, trying to locate it. Environments themselves are very intricate with beautiful and unique designs. I love that every new area you step into can look so distinctive from a previous one. To make tracking easier, players can tap the left shoulder button to hone in on the boss monster’s general direction with a series of red arrows. It’s also useful in battle, as the button will center the camera to face said monster.
Battles themselves are just as heated here as in previous titles, as players must maneuver around, carefully observe attack patterns and then dodge attacks in order to avoid taking damage from the enemy. Standing still while trying to wail on the foe is the best way to meet an untimely death. You of course have your two Felyne companions to aid you in battle by attacking the enemy, supporting you, laying traps and other such actions.
During battle you can still interact with the environment, such as scaling vertical cliffs. If you jump from one and hit “A” when you reach the apex of your jump, you can perform a powerful air attack that may even knock down your quarry. Jumping from a height also allows you to perform a mechanic called Monster Riding.
By landing on a certain part of the enemy, you can mount it and repeatedly attack for massive damage. When the foe attempts to buck you, holding down “R” has the character holding on for dear life. Especially powerful monsters can also alter the landscape by making even ground jagged and raised or even knocking the character into another area.
The 3DS bottom screen is used for a few but vital tasks. The area map, which has your character and the boss monster marked, can be viewed there. You can also use items to restore your character’s health and action bar. A portion of the action bar is consumed when you perform dodges and sprint, and it steadily declines when you activate the powered-up mode that increases attack power.
All-in-all, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is shaping up to be an excellent new entry into the franchise. The new features add even more depth to an already polished and deep battle system and there’s also online multiplayer to boot. Any fans of the franchise, as well as newcomers, have no reason to skip out on this installment.