Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate Review: Handheld Dragon Slayer

Capcom has brought another Monster Hunter game to the West, but this time, it's being released with the New 3DS XL in mind. Prepare to slay a lot of monsters that will challenge your hunter every chance they get.

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Capcom’s Monster Hunter series has been doing exceptionally well for the publisher over in Japan. In fact, Monster Hunter 4 sold 1.8 million units in just the first two days of it being available for sale in Japan, which by the end of 2013, had more than doubled that amount with 3.9 million units sold. Monster Hunter 4 then received an enhanced version that was available during the New 3DS’ launch in Japan in October 2014, which as of November 2014, has sold 2.2 million units.

The Monster Hunter series has yet to make as big of an impact here in the US, but that hasn’t stopped Capcom from publishing the game on a semi-annual basis. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate released on both the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS back in March 2013. This year, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is being released on the Nintendo 3DS, and just like the enhanced version that was released in Japan, it takes advantage of Nintendo’s New 3DS XL. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to access a New 3DS XL for my review, so everything you read beyond this point will be from the perspective from playing it on my standard 3DS XL.

The thrill of the hunt

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate starts off with the player being tasked with creating their hunter and Palico companion, or Felyne for those who played previous Monster Hunter games. Once you're pleased with how your hunter and Palico look, you then make your way to Val Habar after surviving a run in with a large, mysterious monster. In Val Habar, you’ll take on small requests from local caravan residents and merchants that start with something simple, like gathering wild mushrooms, to missions that pit you up against extremely large and ferocious monsters. You’ll soon be moving on to additional towns and locations that will require your assistance.

As your hunter progresses through various missions, you’ll begin to earn resources that can be used to improve your hunter’s gear. You could very well purchase new gear for your hunter, but the more rewarding gear is only accessible through resources that are obtained from various monsters, wildlife, or additional items that can be found during hunts. I felt the pace at which MH4U allowed me to upgrade my hunter’s gear was spot on as I never felt too powerful, nor did I feel underpowered whenever I would hunt larger beasts. I always had to stay on my toes regardless of what kind of upgrades I had.

There are a total of fourteen different weapons available to wield in MH4U, each of which offer their own distinct look and feel. Many of the weapons you’ll arm yourself with will be large and, at first, will feel cumbersome, but after several hours of play, I learned MH4U isn’t supposed to feel like a hack-n-slash. Instead, hunters are supposed to employ strategy while hunting, rather than swinging wildly at monsters in hopes they’ll eventually go down. There are smaller weapons, like the Sword and Shield and Dual Blades, that offer a better response when attacking, but these don’t deliver as much raw damage as something like a Long Sword or Switch Axe.

The hunter becomes the hunted

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate has quite the selection of monsters to hunt. You’ll start off slaying herbivores that don’t put up much of a fight, to carnivores who may deal a bit of damage if you swing your weapon the wrong way, to large monsters that will completely wreck you if you don’t dodge their advances. There are even missions that pit you up against a large monster while smaller monsters are also in the immediate area ready to annoy your hunter into making the wrong move at the wrong time.

One aspect of the game I was disappointed in was its inability to help me track the game I was hunting. When I made my way through one of my first hunts, I had no idea where I could find the monster I was hunting nor did I even know what it looked like. I ended up randomly killing most of what I came across in hopes that I would have killed the right monster to complete my quest. After several hours of playing, I got the hang of how things worked in MH4U, but I could see how it would turn off new players.

What was also frustrating was the lack of any visible health bar for the monsters I was attacking, which made it difficult to know not only how much damage I was dealing, but how many more strikes I needed to finally kill it.

Built with the New 3DS in mind

As I said earlier, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was created to take advantage of the New 3DS’ improved hardware, specifically its C-Stick. The C-Stick allows players to better control the game’s camera, which means I had to rely on either a virtual D-Pad or I had to remove my thumb from the analog nub to change the camera with the physical D-Pad. Either of these methods weren’t ideal when you’re trying to get the best view possible on your target, and as a result, I ended up mashing the L button which can be used to either center the camera behind my hunter or focus on a specific monster I’m hunting.

Loading times on the New 3DS are also significantly improved when playing Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. When playing on a standard 3DS XL, it takes a little over 40 seconds in order for the game just to get to its title screen. On the other hand, the New 3DS XL is able to boot the game up in just a little over 10 seconds. This isn’t exactly a deal breaker for me, although it’s something I thought I’d note in my review if you were considering picking up the New 3DS XL for MH4U.

Conclusion

Even though Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is available exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS, that doesn't mean it doesn't offer as expansive an experience as its previous console versions. Future New Nintendo 3DS XL owners will get the most out of this game thanks to its improved hardware and C-Stick, while current 3DS owners may want to consider an upgrade if they want to take their monster hunting serious.

As for the game itself, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is a great addition to the series thanks to its impressive combat mechanics, its highly-detailed and locales, and its ability to be challenging, but not impossible to beat. Even though it still has some aspects I thought could be improved, it's still a game that I ended up enjoying way more than I initially thought I would.

Senior Editor

Pros

  • The world is large, expansive, and highly detailed
  • A wide variety of fighting mechanics
  • Challenging difficulty, but not impossible to beat
  • Mini-boss style monster battles

Cons

  • Camera controls
  • Tracking monsters can be arduous

From The Chatty

  • reply
    February 12, 2015 1:30 PM

    Daniel Perez posted a new article, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate Review: Handheld Dragon Slayer

    • reply
      February 12, 2015 2:01 PM

      So I imagine it will be out on the WiiU eventually right?

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        February 12, 2015 2:43 PM

        Eventually, but that's at least two years from now for the US. And when they do, I think it's safe to assume that they'd allow you to transfer your character back and forth like in Tri, so i'm not waiting and am just going to get the game when it comes out.

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          February 12, 2015 2:58 PM

          I'm just hoping they don't announce a new Monster Hunter game prior to 4 Ultimate's eventual Wii U version. That'd really turn me off from picking up that version knowing there's a brand-new one around the corner.

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            February 12, 2015 3:38 PM

            What makes you think there will be a Wii U version? I like the Wii U version, but I'm not sure it did well enough, compared to the 3DS version, to justify a port for MH4U.

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              February 12, 2015 4:34 PM

              It did well enough for a port. IIRC it was outsold about 9:1 by the 3ds version but Japan makes up 5 million on the portable by itself.

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      February 12, 2015 3:51 PM

      Some thoughts from a monster hunter player.

      - The line "There are a total of fourteen different weapons available" should probably have "types of weapons" instead of "weapons".

      - There should be potions you can buy, or make, that will show where the monster is. There should also be skills you can gain from armor and skill gems that will also track the monsters.

      - I'd put the monster health gauge missing as a feature. Being able to tell how close a monster is to death and how tired it is are essential skills for hunters. There are signs you can use to tell. Is it drooling? Is it slowing down? Is it starting to limp? It varies from monster to monster, but you have to learn what they are and be able to see the signs if you are wanting to star capturing the monsters, instead of killing them. Putting a health gauge above the monster completely negates that entire aspect of the game.

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        February 12, 2015 4:35 PM

        ^This.

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        February 12, 2015 9:17 PM

        Yep, especially your last point. It's one of the key features of the series.

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        February 13, 2015 6:06 AM

        You make some good points, capt tripps. To be completely honest, this is the first Monster Hunter game I've played through completely. I've dabbled in Monster Hunter in the past, but nowhere near as much as I did MH4U. After hearing many fans of the series comment on that one point in my "Cons" for the game, I'll be removing it from there as I agree it would totally ruin the entire experience of the series if something like that was added.

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      February 12, 2015 4:45 PM

      Man I would kill for a MH game on the Vita. Either that or just port United to the Vita and remaster that suit

      I know there are a few monster hunter clones on you vita, anyone care to name a few?

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        February 12, 2015 4:59 PM

        Soul sacrifice or something, there's two of them, they aren't too bad either!

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          February 12, 2015 5:45 PM

          Ragnarok Odyssey Ace

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            February 12, 2015 5:48 PM

            Toukiden, both are decent. The demo for Ragnarok Odyssey does not do it justice. The demo for Toukiden is really nice. I think it's the first full chapter of the game with retro on the achievements. I'm not sure if it gives you a second chance to do it. I think it asks once. I could be wrong though.

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              February 12, 2015 8:49 PM

              Gonna check both of these this weekend.

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                February 12, 2015 9:20 PM

                Try to keep in mind that the Ragnarok demo really doesn't do the game justice, and look past the glaring "Hello, I'm a demo" issues. And Soul Sacrifice is decent and has a demo too.

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        February 12, 2015 5:41 PM

        Freedom Unite for the PSP plays very well on the Vita, and you can set the second stick for looking. An amazing upgrade just for playing it on the Vita.

        Setting the D-Pad to be mapped to the stick is a little tricky. They changed how it's done so some of the videos aren't accurate any more.

        To change it now, press and hold the PS button while the game is running.

        http://community.us.playstation.com/t5/PlayStation-Vita-Support/remapping-right-stick-camera-controls-for-psp-games-isn-t/td-p/41376909

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          February 12, 2015 8:47 PM

          Dude, thanks for this! I'm pretty sure United is in my downloads list, I'm gonna try this at home tonight!

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      February 12, 2015 5:01 PM

      I've been waiting for this game for over a year now (before it was even announced for the US). I can't wait for tomorrow! It's a shame that MH 3DS XL's sold out so quick. I'd pick that up if I could.

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        February 12, 2015 5:29 PM

        Yeah, I was too late on that too.

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          February 12, 2015 5:48 PM

          Didn't they sell out almost immediately?

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            February 12, 2015 6:28 PM

            They sold out immediately? That is nuts.

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              February 12, 2015 6:33 PM

              Yeah, same thing happened with the majoras mask 3ds iirc

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            February 12, 2015 7:11 PM

            Yes, but only because nintendo doesn't actually know how to release a product with sufficient stock.

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            February 12, 2015 9:16 PM

            Of Majora's Mask, I think Monster Hunter was available for a day...

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      February 12, 2015 8:52 PM

      I have a code for the demo, I really need to check it out. I have the Wii U version of MH3 which was pretty awesome. It's the kind of game that would probably dominate my play time if I didn't own a gaming PC.

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        February 13, 2015 6:07 AM

        I say let it dominate your game time. Just because it isn't on PC, doesn't mean it's worth a play. Sometimes you just need to jump on another platform in order to enjoy its sweet, sweet games.

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      February 13, 2015 8:48 AM

      Every time one of these games comes out it's the same review -- best starting place for new players! And I try a demo and it's the clunkiest weirdest low input lag controls ever and every three feet I get hit with a loading screen that takes like 20 seconds. I can't do it. I want to but I can't.

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        February 13, 2015 12:08 PM

        I understand your frustration as that's what I thought at first. Think of Monster Hunter more like Dark Souls in that you're not expected to hack & slash the monsters, but instead you need to choose your attacks a bit more carefully as well as employ strategy when attempting to hunt larger game.