Oh I should have guessed! I should have known by the outstanding quality of the opening scene that I was in for an average game. I don't know if it's because I am
jaded or just unlucky but generally when I find a game that has a kick-arse opening sequence it turns out that this is where 80% of the developers imagination was used up.
This game harks back to the days of early role playing games, the type of game that busies itself with mundane pursuits like buying and selling supplies and being sent on quests that slowly improve your skill levels and wealth but Monster Hunter adds blood and gore - so much in fact it warns you at the start of the game!!. While in most of today's violent games the upgrade of weaponry comes about by running over the
Multiblast Hyper Rifle (or whatever) so it's added to your seemingly endless capacity for bulk, this game makes you wander around and buy swords and knives as well as sharpening stones, potions and countless other things that will be needed at some stage no doubt. But even if you like this kind of game and the thought of shopping for weapons while chatting with the locals has you weak at the knees you might want to
keep reading before you go out and buy this latest adaptation. There are a number of things that make Monster Hunter just a little more dodgy than the average.
After you have named your character and chosen from a large selection of hair styles, skin colour and face shapes (all of which is rather pointless because your never see the character again in any kind of detail) this game falls into 2 distinct modes which I will call 'village' mode and 'fighting' mode - and both have their problems. Lets start with village mode.
As is the case with games such as these text and endless lists of options are very important. Unfortunately the choice of font in Monster Hunter makes for very difficult reading if you are anything more than a reasonable distance away from your
screen (let's say 2 feet) and this is made doubly worse because there is a lot of text in this game to squint your way through. Panel afterpanel of voiceless conversation makes its way across the screen and before long you are reminded of vintage games
like Leisure suit Larry that used the same technique when actual speech was technically not an option. This process is made all the more tedious by the lack of any atmosphere or decent music to while away what seems like the hours it takes to suffer these moments.
The first time you enter the village it quickly becomes obvious that you need to get your first hunting job to earn some much needed cash and before long you are
directed to the village elder to do just that. After some words of wisdom he sends you out to collect raw meat the only job (he charitably informs you) that you are good for. Once the village elder has delivered this uplifting news you are given a retainer and directed to go through the gate and to your first hunt. At this point you can still go to the other stalls in the village and go on a shopping spree but by now you really want to get out there and get the job done, and this is just what I did.
The 'fighting' mode takes on a different format, one more akin to action games like Tenchu or Tomb Raider. It is while you are in this mode that you quickly realise that this game has less to do with the hunting of monsters and much more to do with the hacking to death of dinosaurs. While it's true that you do come across some monsters from time to time, the vast majority of the beasts are in fact just stylised dinosaurs that lumber around just waiting to be taken down. The fighting is both awkward and noneventful.
You control the direction of the character with the left joystick and the right joystick delivers a different blow depending on the direction you choose. This sounds
a little tricky and it is but even after you have mastered it, each attack is as hollow as the last and so in the end you wonder why you bothered. Also the resulting blows seem not matter either as a blow to the beasts tail has much the same affect as a blow to the neck. Once down you can stand on the beast (well the graphics only managed to have me stand IN the beast) and carve it up for meat or other goodies. This all sound rather gory but its really rather pedestrian but believe it or not this is one of the better tasks, sometimes you are sent to pick herbs or mushrooms - and that is truly tedious.
This game really is a very odd bird indeed. It mixes role play with slash and hack and does neither very well. My guess is that whoever is attracted to violent video games will not appreciate the tedium of shopping or mushroom picking between fights and
those that prefer the pace of role play will have very little stomach for the violence - such as it is. And I doubt very much if either camp will want to spend their time picking a bag of virtual mushrooms.