Diary of a Monster Hunter - Starting the Hunt


In Japan, there is no escaping Capcom's headline series, Monster Hunter. Board the train and you’ll find yourself surrounded by solitary hunters, eyes down, engrossed in portable slaughter. Journey to Akihabara and you'll come across groups of teens huddle together for multiplayer hunting, oblivious to inquisitive foreigners peering into their circle in hopes of glimpsing Japanese pop culture in its natural habitat. You cannot visit a video game shop without tripping over something MH related, as most stores are filled to the rafters with special edition software, spray painted consoles and feline hoodies. Supermarkets and convenience stores offer little respite, as branded goods and product placement line the shelves. Why settle for a regular energy drink when you can slurp your sickly syrup from a Monster Hunter can?

The series also pops up regularly in awkward, cross-cultural conversation. Inquisitive Japanese students, unsure of their English and suddenly afforded the opportunity to chat with a native speaker would often turn to MH in an attempt to establish common ground:

Q1. Can you speak Japanese? (It doesn't matter if they have already heard you speak Japanese, this one is a given)
Q2. Where are you from? America? (It's always America)
Q3. Can you eat Japanese food?
Q4. Do you have a girlfriend? (With new found linguistic confidence comes inappropriateness)
Q5. How old are you?
Q6. What is your hobby? (Video Games, of course)
Q7. Do you know Monster Hunter?

At this point you are fast friends and moments away from someone plucking a limited edition MH PSP from their bag. God I miss Japan.

Although I could not avoid it, I never succumbed to MonHan fever. I shrugged off recommendations from friends, lumping MH together with natto and train driving sims, being far too Japanese for my occidental tastes. I tested the water a couple of times - an early English demo for Tri at Tokyo Game Show and an hour or so of Portable 2 (Freedom 2 in the West) - but these short-burst sessions failed to leave a lasting impression.

Despite my MH avoidance, I've always been reluctant to completely write it off. I recognize elements that I enjoy in other video games and I'm a sucker for anything that promises hundreds of hours of gameplay. I love the fact that gamers are so passionate about the series, one that has tortured Western fans as much as it has rewarded those in Japan. It positively encourages conversation, providing inexhaustible fodder for twitter, blogs and forums.


I will finally get to know Monster Hunter a little better this summer, having purchased a copy of Freedom Unite (Portable 2G in Japan). Earlier this year, Lumines Electronic Symphony reminded me how much I enjoy having a handheld game that I can dip in and out of, and MH seems perfect for those evenings when the TV is spoken for or when I want to game in my pyjamas. It will also give my Vita a purpose at a time when there are scant few other games of interest. I'll be playing a digital copy of Unite on my NGP, where it runs smoothly and the PSP visuals do not offend.

I had hoped that MH would be an experience that my wife and I could share, as I already own a Japanese copy of Freedom 2 along with a PSP. I would download a second copy from the EU store and partake in some ad-hoc hunting, but it turns out that the game is not compatible across copies from different regions. I considered just buying two PAL versions of Unite but my wife didn't seem too keen; I'm as shocked as you are that not all Japanese people love MH!

I decided to spend my £7.99 on beer instead. Those drinks ended up being Asahi, a Japanese brewer and my former tipple of choice, which brings us nicely to my next reason for seeking out Monster Hunter. As I become further and further removed from my time living in Japan and the memories seem less real the more I reminisce, I do find myself drawn to aspects of Japanese popular culture that weren’t always of interest, as I try to maintain a connection to my former home. I think I'd be lying if I said that MH's popularity in the Far East hadn’t played some small part in my decision to give it a spin. I've also recently re-discovered the 8-4 podcast - 8-4 are a Tokyo based localisation company staffed by ex-journos and industry types - and they love nothing more than banging on about MH, which has further sparked my interest in the series.

So that’s my history with Monster Hunter and the reasons why, after all these years, I'm finally going to give it the chance it deserves. I'm hoping that this will be the first entry in a series of MH posts, as I chronicle my early adventures, victories and defeats. Once I've nailed down the basics and learnt how to hit an oversized lizard with a stick, I'll probably start playing online via ad-hoc party, so feel free to add me (talkingbook) if you are up for some co-op.

Happy hunting.

Comments

  1. I never liked this series, it just made me want to play Phantasy Star Online. Dragon's Dogma looks to be the kind of game I wanted this to be. Hope you like it though.

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    Replies
    1. I'll definitely be playing Dragon's Dogma at some point this year. It looks really interesting

      Delete
  2. I keep meaning to add you on PSN. Now that I'm on there more, and I don't spend every console moment locked into Xbox party chat. (You can probably ignore my old friend request on Live, should you ever find it, as I think the 360 and I are over.)

    The nostalgia angle is interesting. That makes a lot of sense.

    That MH talk sort of happened to me in reverse. Did I tell you that story? A few weeks after Tri G came out, I was driving to Louisiana, and I stopped at a McDonald's where there were two full buses of Japanese tourists! So I'm like OH THANK YOU I can do the stupid MH3G streetpass thing and get that function working!!! And somehow, out of all those people, most of whom were young and hip looking (AND trapped on a bus all day!), I was the only one with Tri G. Now I can cry in two languages.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, definitely add me on PSN. I can't remember seeing a 360 invite, but then I'm rarely on there anyway.

      I would have done the same if I had seen those tour buses! Japanese tourists should be forced to carry a street pass ready 3DS at all times. It should replace their passport

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  3. i tried multiple times but i never got into monster hunter. like you though, i had to go the psp route to enjoy my vita. i picked up my fourth copy of persona 3 when psn had it on sale.

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    1. Only two weeks until Gravity Rush! It's a shame that we are having to resort to older downloads to make use of our brand new Vitas. Here's hoping E3 will come with some big Vita announcements

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    2. yes it is a shame. the metal gear collection comes out the same day. i will pick that up as well just to give me something to play. Hopefully those will hold me over until persona 4 comes out.

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  4. I didn't like Monster Hunter at first. I thought the PS2 game was way to slow to start up. I lost patience with it quickly. My roommate at the time kept at it though, and fully experienced all the first Monster Hunter had to offer. I found myself watching him fight huge beasts with other players online, and I was blown away... Not enough to try playing the game myself again, but enough to remember it fondly.

    I myself didn't get into the series until it was on the PSP. I found the pacing for the PSP version to be a lot better then the PS2 one. I even managed to get 2 other friends into trying the game out... It was awesome! I put over a 100 hours into MHF2 and became a MH fan. I also picked up Unite, but my friends were done at that point so I didn't play it as much as F2. I also have to admit, that I'm probably done with the series myself unless Capcom shows me something new... Like a PS3 version... Also Sony needs to get MH on the Vita. Losing that series to Nintendo is not an option for them.

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    Replies
    1. MH on the Vita would certainly help in Japan - though it wouldn't be a miracle cure-all - but it would have little impact in the West. The more i think about it, the more i see CoD as being key for the Vita in the West. It would need to link up, in some way, with the console versions while being a unique CoD experience in its own right.

      Any tips for a Monster Hunter Unite rookie?

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    2. Any tips huh...? Here goes...

      1. Try all the weapons out to find out what works best for you.
      2. Don't forget to harvest at your farm between missions.
      3. Prepare for your missions. Strong monsters are no joke.
      4. All enemies have patterns. Learn them.
      5. Capture over kill.
      6. Learn the map layout and harvest points. It'll help you out in the end.

      That's all I got. Hopefully it helps...

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    3. Cheers for the tips.

      Think I've settled on the hammer as my main weapon, with the bow as my fall-back for faster foes. I'll be sure to visit the farm - I had overlooked it so far.

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