How I stopped worrying and learned to hate loving Monster Hunter
By SeanNOLA 02-08-2010 07:28 PM
I’m a Monster Hunter. No, it’s okay, I’m not going to try to evangelize you; I just want to talk. When I tell people of my love of Monster Hunter, they usually reply with “I tried that but I didn’t get it because of the lack of targeting,” or “I couldn’t get used to the camera” but is it really that simple? I rarely like to admit that a game can be made better by simply adding familiar mechanics from another game – if that were the case “Gears of War Clone” or “God of War Knockoff” would have a much more positive connotation. So what if Monster Hunter had a targeting system? Would it catch on in the US? I’m going to hazard a guess and say “no.” There is a lot more about Monster Hunter that keeps Westerners at an arm’s length.
Americans play a lot of Loot-Grabs, that is to say games in which the player’s primary focus is the collection of new, fancier equipment. Monster Hunter could be called the quintessential Loot-Grab, as there is very little within the game that doesn’t revolve around the procurement of new weapons and items. Even though one might think popular Western games, like Diablo, are essentially the same, on a second glance they have one major difference: an end game.
It seems as though we grew out of being thrown into an arena with no direction and being expected to press on for no reason back in the 8-bit era. Although not every successful game has constant reference to its story, we tend to take comfort in the fact that when we’ve finally killed that last boss, we will be rewarded with, at the very least, a text-based resolution to some imaginary conflict. Even World of Warcraft, which is an infinitely spanning, open-ended game, has a story arc which players can follow in order to feel productive on a narrative level.
Monster Hunter’s story is as follows: You are a Monster Hunter. You hunt monsters. There is an old lady and a guild office, each of which will tell you which monsters you should hunt. Do it, because it is your job to hunt monsters.
After 200+ hours, you aren’t any closer to achieving anything. There is no princess that needs rescuing from a monster, or any political strife that could be resolved by exterminating them, nor are dragons encroaching on your village, causing the townsfolk to live in fear. You’re just doing your job: you wake up, grab some coffee, kill monsters and go to bed – every day, forever, just like real life. And just like real life, sometimes, it gets hard to convince yourself to get up in the morning to fight monsters/file TPS forms for your boss, and since you aren’t getting paid real money, staying motivated can seem even harder.
“It’s a time sink”
After saying “where is my auto-targeting,” most people’s secondary response to “I like Monster Hunter” is “OH EM EFF JEE! I heard that you have to play that game for over 9000 hours! I don’t have time for that!” No, you don’t, and neither do I. In fact, neither does anyone with a life or a commute that doesn’t involve a cross-country bus-trip. Let’s face it: I’ve got other things to do. I work 9 hours a day and new games are coming out every week. Finishing a 30 hour JRPG these days can seem like an impossible feat, but somehow I’ve managed to log over 100 hours into Monster Hunter without missing out on Uncharted 2 or White Knight Chronicles.
See, the thing that most 200 hour Hunters won’t divulge is that you rarely play Monster Hunter for more than an hour at a time. It sounds impressive when they stick out their chests and make it sound like they have been sitting in a corner, PSP in hand, killing monsters for 11 days straight, but that really isn’t how the game works. I wake up in the morning, walk the dog, go for a run, take a shower and play a quick monster hunter quest and watch the morning news before I go to work. Then, after work, I come home, eat dinner, do whatever else I had planned for the evening and squeeze in another quest before I fall asleep. I rarely play longer than an hour, unless the mood strikes me or I’m at the Laundromat, and fast-forward 2 months later and you have over 100 hours. There’s something about having a game that’s part of my daily regimen that I love, and I doubt I’m alone in that.
“No Online Multiplayer”
This complaint goes hand-in-hand with “I don’t have a friend with a PSP to play with.” I’ll hand it to the Monster Haters on this one: After 3 iterations of portable Monster Hunters, it’s about time we had some online multiplayer hunting. I understand that we have AdHoc Party now, so it is technically possible, but the barrier-to-entry is way too high. In order to get an AdHoc Hunting Party going, you need to have a PSP, the game, a PS3 with WiFi (sorry Launch PS3 owners. At least you have your PS2 games) and a Hunter Rank of at least 4, because let’s face it: none of the elitist hunters want to help out a n00b. So you’ll need to play for about 40 hours before you have enough experience to log on and figure out whether or not you want to play this game online.
Monster Hunter 3 is hitting American shores next month, and will no doubt be the scapegoat for online Monster Hunting scrutiny from both fans and critics alike. “They gave you online play, what’s your excuse now,” they’ll say, with an accusatory finger, but we all know that an online multiplayer Wii game is doomed to miss the point. In order to play with other hunters, I’ll need their friend code, which means I’ll need to go in search of that elusive community which, as I stated before, barely exists.
I’ll admit, I was late to the party where Monster Hunter is concerned. I played it for the first time when I moved out to Los Angeles. I had heard that there was a tight-knit community of players that were crazy about Monster Hunter, and how they would all band together to help each other out. “What a cool way to connect with other gamers,” I thought. I snagged a copy of Monster Hunter Freedom 2 and checked to see if there was a forum somewhere that listed fellow hunters in my area. To my dismay, there was no such list. The US Monster Hunter “community” is made up of a bunch of people who buy the game on day 1, take an arms-length MySpace picture of themselves holding the shrink-wrapped game, and then are never heard from again. As far as I can tell, very few of these copies ever make it out of the box, but I guess owning the game makes you a special kind of elitist snob.
I figured by now that there would be Monster Cons or something, where people could share their love for such a bizarre game. There are whole Monster Hunter Lounges in the UK –real brick-and-mortar structures designed with the purpose of people coming together to play Monster Hunter - why not clubs or get-togethers in the US? Instead, US Monster Hunters are a self-righteous and reclusive group. Even the few fans I’ve run into in the wild seem as though they are proud of the fact that they haven’t been able to find others to play with – like they are some kind of video game martyr on the altar of niche-dom.
Having a game that relies heavily on social interaction with real human beings is difficult enough just by the nature of handheld games: you have to to find someone else who made the $200 investment in a PSP and a specific game – I thought that was a lesson we learned with that GameBoy, but apparently all we learned is that Link Cables are the enemy. It certainly doesn’t help when you finally meet a fellow hunter, only to find out that they are a 250+ hour veteran hunter who doesn’t have time to help you with your piddley 4th rank monsters. I can’t really fault Capcom with how gamers approach their titles, but I can fault them for not doing anything to foster a community. Capcom gives very little for fans to go on other than “here’s a game. The Japanese love it.” The least they could do is create a forum for the Monster Hunter community, maybe figure out a way to let us show off our characters, but while we’re at it: why not encourage hunters to get out there and support each other? Or plan a national gathering for Hunters? I think if players were encouraged to train for an annual sponsored get-together, Americans would be more inclined to network and play together.
At the outset of this article, I wanted to discuss the finer points of Monster Hunter aversion. I thought I might list ways for Capcom to “change” the game, but I really don’t want that. I obviously love Monster Hunter enough to write about it, and honestly wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t mind the camera or the lack of narrative direction – I feel like that all fits within the theme of the game. If I had to boil this whole article down to a tweet, it would read “New Hunters: Give it a chance. Old Hunters: Get your heads out of your asses. Let new players get excited.” I would love to have a slew new people to discuss the finer points of collecting Bullfango Pelts and slaying Kut-Kus with, but first I think we should make a more inviting home for them. If anyone wants a guide to the wonderful world of Minegarde, let me know, I’d love to show you the ropes.
|Comments (Total Comments: 11)|
- 02-08-2010, 09:32 PM
Updated 02-08-2010 at 10:45 PM by Pck21
|Hydro2Oxide - 02-08-2010, 10:51 PM|
|Waterhouse - 02-08-2010, 11:39 PM|
|Halo05 - 02-09-2010, 12:15 AM|
|Gamer SDP - 02-09-2010, 12:23 AM|
|metaly - 02-09-2010, 01:06 AM|
|phantasyx - 02-09-2010, 08:07 AM|
|AvidWriter - 02-09-2010, 04:36 PM|
|RelentlessRolento - 02-09-2010, 05:25 PM|
|shadowrep - 02-09-2010, 07:51 PM|
|SeanNOLA - 02-10-2010, 12:37 PM|
|Recent Blog Entries by SeanNOLA|