Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (Switch) Review
I’ve been playing Monster Hunter games for a long time — my first was Monster Hunter Freedom Unite on the PSP all the way back in 2009, and my most recent, prior to Generations Ultimate, was Monster Hunter World earlier this year. It’s a series that I love, but it’s also a series that has varied wildly in quality from title to title. A lot of this comes down to the platform — some platforms require a lot of work to make the controls enjoyable. When Monster Hunter first came to the 3DS, its controls were a bit unwieldy and not particularly fun to use, but by the time Generations released, Capcom had refined and, ultimately, perfected the 3DS control scheme, regardless of whether you were playing on an original 3DS or a New 3DS. But wait, this is a review for Generations Ultimate, why am I talking about the 3DS games? Well, for everything Generations Ultimate does right, and there is a lot it does right, there’s no escaping the fact that the controls are just kinda awful, and I think that largely stems from the fact that it started its life as a 3DS game.
But let’s start at the beginning. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, known as Monster Hunter XX in Japan, is an expanded version of Monster Hunter Generations for the 3DS. It originally released as a Japan-exclusive on the 3DS in early 2017, was ported to the Switch in Japan for release in August 2017, and finally made its way to the West this year. As an expansion of Generations, it’s more or less the same game, albeit with a few extras, some quality of life changes, and horrifying new monsters to hunt. If Generations Ultimate had released on 3DS in the West, I’d probably have suggested you give it a miss if you’d already played Generations, as you’ll mostly be retreading familiar ground, but the jump to Switch has it feeling fresh — at least, as fresh as a 3DS port of an 18 month old game can be.
Graphically, the game looks fairly decent, but there are a few moments where its handheld origins shine through. Unfortunately, one of these moments is particularly glaring at the very start of the game; after being greeted with an utterly beautiful pre-rendered animation upon booting the game, you’ll be thrown into the character creation. Here, you’ll see that the character models in-game are, well, low in fidelity, to say the least. The difference between the pre-rendered animation and the in-game models is like night and day — like comparing the Super Mario Odyssey models to, say, Super Mario Sunshine. Facial features are flat and ill-defined, skin looks very plasticky, and any fine details are a blurry mess. What might have passed as a toned set of abs on the low-res screen of the 3DS now looks like a serious case of internal bleeding on the crisp HD screen of the Switch. It’s definitely not game-breaking, but it is disappointing, especially when other areas of the game look like quite a bit of work has been put into them to get them looking decent for the Switch.
The gameplay itself is pretty solid, too, if you can get past the controls. There are hundreds of missions to complete in a wide variety of areas, each with their own unique gimmicks and requirements, and that’s just the solo missions, there are even more missions available from the game’s multiplayer hub. These can be completed solo, too, but anything past the lowest level missions will take a lot of time and skill to finish alone; you’re better off teaming up with friends. There’s also a series of missions to tackle as a Palico — a friendly cat buddy that normally accompanies you for support in solo missions. No matter how you play, there’s a lot to do here, mostly in terms of hunting monsters (as the game’s name would suggest), but there’s also a wide variety of calmer missions that have you collecting resources. These can be a bit tricky without a guide, as some resources require very specific circumstances to be met before you can collect them, but given how well the game is documented online, it’s only a quick google search to find what you need. It would have been nice to have these things explained in-game of course, but the Monster Hunter series relies a lot on community interaction, so I can understand at the very least why they’re not.
Traditionally, combat has been where the Monster Hunter series shines its brightest, and Generations Ultimate is no exception. As always there’s a tonne of different weapons to hack up monsters with, from the classic sword and shield combo to the strange and unusual insect glaive. There’s no right or wrong way to play Monster Hunter, you just pick whatever weapon works best for you and go headfirst into danger. Where Generations Ultimate, and Generations before it, stand out, is with the inclusion of Hunter Arts and Hunting Styles. Hunter Arts are big, flashy moves that can deal tonnes of damage, get you out of a tight spot with evasive manoeuvres, or heal a sizable chunk of health to you and your allies after you’ve charged up the Hunter Art gauge. Each weapon type has its own set of Arts tailored to the weapon — for example, the starting Art for dual blades is a spinning attack, where the starting art for hunting horns allows you to play all melodies at once — but there’s also a set of support Arts that are available no matter the weapon. As you progress through the game, you’ll get access to a lot more Arts, and therefore have a lot more ways to customise the way that you play. Hunting Styles are an extension of this system; each Style allows a different amount of Arts to be equipped, alters how quickly the Hunter Art gauge charges, and introduces a few minor Style-specific abilities. The whole system has an incredible amount of depth, and it can be a bit overwhelming at first, especially since there’s no practical tutorial for it outside of some dialogue options. That said, if you take the time to learn what each Style has to offer, and what each Art brings to the table, you can find something that fits into your play style, no matter how you play.
Of course, the control issues rear their head here, too. Some weapons are incredibly difficult to use, not by design, but by execution. The bow, for example, is a clunky mess, with aiming being overly complicated to the point where even hitting a monster, let alone hitting the part of the monster you want to hit, is a challenge. It’s a huge step back from World, which totally reworked the controls for use on a standard controller, and in the process made it significantly more accessible for newer players. Of course, it’s unfair to compare Generations Ultimate to World, with the latter releasing some six months after the former in Japan, and with World being built from the ground up for newer systems. But for a lot of people, myself included, the controls will be a significant barrier to enjoyment if they’ve played the newer World on another system. In my case, it meant that I couldn’t play with a weapon I loved and instead had to settle for something I could actually use without messing up every single hunt I played. It’s a small thing for sure, and it won’t affect everybody, but when the whole game is seemingly built around playing the way you want to play, I couldn’t help but feel the compromises made in bringing the game to Switch.
As a final note, it’s worth mentioning that the multiplayer aspect holds up pretty well. Like most Monster Hunter games before it, the hub system is a little bit clunky and unclear, but once you wrap your head around it, you can be hunting with your pals across the world with no problems at all. In the two dozen or so games I’ve played online, both with friends and with random players, I only had two instances of connection problems. One had me faced with gigantic amounts of lag, with my button inputs not registering for several seconds and my character zipping back and forth across the screen when trying to run. The other was a strange quirk that dumped me from the party whenever a hunt was initiated while my teammates went on without me. Both of these things could just be down to my unreliable Tasmanian internet, though, so your mileage may vary.
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is a hard game to recommend. Series veterans and anyone who skipped Generations on the 3DS will find a lot to enjoy, but newcomers to the series, especially those who played World, will struggle to get past the clunky controls and inaccessible design choices. There’s a good game here, it’s just obscured at times by its 3DS origins, and more often than not feels like a huge step backwards.
+ Ridiculous amounts of content
+ Multiplayer works quite well
+ Heaps of different ways to play
- Clunky controls
- Character models look extremely dated
- Not very accessible