Monster Hunter used to be one of the gaming world’s best-kept secrets: a franchise which was absolutely huge in Japan but obscure elsewhere, in large part because it generally resided on Nintendo’s handhelds. Then along came the brilliant Monster Hunter World, powering onto the fastest consoles and taking the franchise deep into the mainstream.
Monster Hunter Generations, meanwhile, has a fin de siècle fell to it. It brings the Switch to the Monster Hunter party, but its roots lie squarely in the old Monster Hunter school: it’s a nicely reworked version of 2015’s Monster Hunter Generations. One day Monster Hunter World might make it onto the Switch – in the meantime Generations Ultimate will do very nicely, thanks.
Whether your first encounter with the series came via Monster Hunter World or one of the older games on the 3DS, you should find Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate reassuringly familiar. Indeed, it functions as something of a history lesson, exposing the solid foundations on which Monster Hunter World was built. Gameplay-wise, it’s pretty much identical to both versions: you’re given a multitude of quests, generally involving tracking down and killing specific monsters (although in the early stages, resource-gathering quests abound).
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate proves to be every bit as addictive as Monster Hunter World
As you gather a bewilderingly huge stock of resources and combine them into useful objects, you can upgrade weapons and armour – a key mechanic which amounts to levelling up your character. Generations Ultimate adds fighting styles to Monster Hunter World’s core gameplay (two, essentially a tank and a support class, are brand-new) and Hunter Arts, which are special attacks.
Story-wise, well, there isn’t one, really – as was the case for all Monster Hunter games prior to World – with no story quests beyond those you take on for the villagers you meet. The game’s villages are stable and established, unlike the bases in Monster Hunter World, and each offers a different flora and fauna, plus Palico Ranches where you can nurture your roster of faithful feline hunting companions.
In true Monster Hunter style, Generations Ultimate is totally unforgiving, refusing any hand-holding whatsoever. It does start off rather sedately, with a number of quests designed to get you up to speed with the game’s controls and conventions, but if you’re new to the franchise prepare for some head-scratching moments and frequent recourse to your Hunter’s Notes.
It’s well worth persisting, though, because Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate proves to be every bit as addictive as World and, if anything, is even meatier with a vast roster of monsters. It’s particularly compelling if you play it co-operatively, with up to four people able to participate in a hunt; if your co-op group adopts complementary styles, you really start to feel the power of the collective. And the way in which the Switch enables players to co-operate while in the same room is particularly pleasing.
If you’re coming to Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate from Monster Hunter World, you will notice aspects that betray its handheld roots. You don’t get scoutflies for tracking purposes, for example, and every level is split into discrete areas which you have to move between. Armour spheres are harder to come by, until you develop a stock of machalite ore. Loading times between areas are mercifully short, but one aspect annoys: the game’s mini-map is absolute rubbish, so you have to learn its geography intimately.
Otherwise, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is thoroughly impressive. It looks pretty good in comparison with its handheld predecessors (especially when you dock your Switch) and, above all, provides what may well amount to hundreds of hours of that incredibly moreish monster-hunting gameplay, all set in a world which is simultaneously arcane and familiar. It’s one of those games which more or less enables you to lead an entire vicarious fantasy life, and is a fittingly top-class means of bringing Monster Hunter to the top-class Switch.