The Capcom booth never fails to attract a crowd at San Diego Comic-Con, and while Street Fighter is always a sure hit, 2014 went to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. A downed Gore Magala drew the attention of any passerby, and taking a picture with the beautiful statue meant having to wait in line. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to wait nearly as long for a shot at the actual game. Thus began my immediate conversion to Monster Hunter.
I won’t hesitate to admit that I’ve never invested in Monster Hunter as a series, mainly because I’m a late adopter when it comes to handhelds. For all intents and purposes, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is the first game in the franchise I really got to enjoy, where genuine curiosity was met with patient guidance from Capcom's Yuri Araujo. You can imagine the constant mix-up between the X and Y buttons, coming from someone who does just about all her gaming with an Xbox controller.
Thankfully, my experience with the game wasn't soured by muscle memory. The demo I played was set to Intermediate difficult and pit me against the Tetsukabura boss, also known as the Giant Bullfrog. Not quite as iconic as Gore Magala, but he proved more than annoying enough. My first attempt as killing the overgrown monster-frog resulted in the demo time running out, while the second attempt ended prematurely with my death. Let's just call these my "practice runs." Even my two Felyne Comrades couldn't carry me through.
So after those two unsuccessful attempts, which ran me a little over half an hour, I decided I was ready to accept the challenge of multiplayer. Joining three strangers at the multiplayer station, we agreed as a group that Intermediate would be the best option, and proceeded to divvy up the weapons. I took up the bow, taking on the only ranged role, and noticed that one of my teammates had opted for the Insect Glaive, one of two new weapons added to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.
When introducing me to the glaive, Yuri described it as being a more "technical" weapon. Heavier, two-handed weapons in Monster Hunter tend to be tougher in general, but one of its multiple functions includes the ability to launch an insect (hence the name) at a target, then bring it back or... not. It also grants buffs, apparently, but that wasn't something I could clearly see as a ranged fighter on my team.
Searching for the boss took a bit of time, and the Tetsukabura will periodically flee during fights, which really added a sense of urgency to the whole encounter thanks to our demo timer. While rushing through the nine zones, Benny Hill's "Yakety Sax" played through my head.
The big guy didn't exactly stick to a set areas. Finally, someone would say, "There he is!"
We charged as a group, my bow-wielding hunter always just a step behind the other three. Drops and walls presented no challenge, and the sight of our small group leaping into the abyss toward uncertain fate or scaling a rock wall proved epic even when displayed on a tiny 3DS screen.
That wider range of movement is something new to Monster Hunter, one that may not seem particularly groundbreaking of paper, but adds some surprising depth to the whole experience. No one wants to stare at flat terrain for hours on end.
In the end, we were able to take out the Tetsukabura well within the 15-minute mark. While my teammates hacked away at the monster up close, sometimes jumping onto its back to deal additional damage, I struck from afar with my bow, only approaching with the creature was in a disabled state.
The entire experience was incredibly rewarding, doing away with the frustrations from my solo runs. Granted, trial and error is just a part of certain games, but the cooperative aspect really won me over in the end, and I'm hoping to play more of that when Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is released next year.
When I asked Yuri about the release window, I was only told that Capcom is looking at early 2015, but nothing more specific has been worked out yet.
Follow Lydia on Twitter @RabidChinaGirl or check out her news and reviews every day here on Neoseeker.