Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate comes to the Switch on the 28th. Yesterday, Paul and I streamed the demo and faced off against a massive Valstrax. It’s a sort of laser-shooting dragon that darts around like a fighter jet. As I wait for the full release, it occurs to me that Monster Hunter: World could learn a lot from the strange monsters in earlier games like Generations.
Monster Hunter: World has some pretty great beasts to battle, from the lava-swimming lavasioth to the dopey dodo Kulu-Ya-Ku, but stepping back to Generations feels like going from a serious nature show to a high-energy anime. Fighting Valstrax was a wake up call; the fight was as tough as it was packed with wild ideas. Valstrax is an elder dragon with laser cannons inside its wings. Those wings can expand in length and stab at you like massive knives or come curving down like a scythe. When Valstrax gets pissed off, it literally blasts off into the air and darts around before it blasts into hunters like a missile. Monster Hunter: World has elder dragons, but none as wild as this.
More and more monsters have arrived after release, but Monster Hunter: World’s expanding roster is less about flair and more about mechanical experimentation. The pickle-shaped dinosaur Deviljho can feast on other monsters and grab them in its jaw, using them as impromptu weapons. The glittering Kulve Taroth requires a sessions full of players to cooperate if they want the best rewards. Lunastra teams up with its near-cousin Teostra to unleash massive firestorms. The Final Fantasy-based Behemoth transplants MMORPG boss fight sensibilities into Monster Hunter’s rigid frame. These are all good fights, but once you hit high ranks, your daily grind as a hunter doesn’t have many surprises. You usually fight one of the same handful of elder dragons—which are still enjoyable and dangerous hunts—and never really break out of that pattern.
Monster Hunter Generations has some of these same problems; it’s not really a Monster Hunter game without grinding and repetition, after all. But the stable of monsters is full of extremely diverse opponents. Within the lowest ranked hunts alone you have the raptor-esque Velocidrome, the rock-chomping Tetsucabra, and the freaky hermit crab Daimyo Hermitaur. The latter monster is a giant crab hiding inside a fallen monster’s skull. One side is heavily armored while the other is fleshy and vulnerable. If it wants to, it can burrow into the sand and poke the skull’s horn out at you. There’s nothing comparable in Monster Hunter: World.
Some of this is due to cost. It’s easier to make a giant gold monster with the same skeleton and animations as another monster than it is to make, say, a massive dinosaur with a bladed tail and highly unique behaviors. But Monster Hunter: World’s taken big risks on the actual design of newer hunts, remixing what it means to fight a monster. Embracing some of the stranger designs of yesteryear, with all of their transforming limbs and gnarly specimen types, would grant the designers even more chances to apply their smart combat design chops.
We have enough dragons and birds in Monster Hunter: World. Whatever comes next should be as bizarre as possible.