If Capcom’s the predator, then I’m its docile, leather-carrying prey. Each year, the wily publisher-turned-hunter sets a fiendish and dastardly trap to extract a rare, paper-like material from that leather.
That trap, of course, is Monster Hunter. And that paper-like material, my bank balance.
Still year after year I fall for said trap. And year after year, I hit that seemingly insurmountable forty-hour wall, a wall on which – hastily scrawled in my hunter’s blood – are the words ‘YOU SUCK’.
Indeed, I’m uniformly terrible at a series that’s effectively about crafting terribly-awesome uniforms. Pretty, high-powered uniforms with spikes, feathers and cat decals.
Lots and lots of cat decals.
Yet despite promises to myself that I would climb beyond this wall and out Capcom’s wicked sinkhole, I remain a treasure trove of failure at a game that’s supposedly the most accessible in the series, Monster Hunter: Generations. Capcom’s newly-released attack-and-miss simulator has so far generated ten hours of fun and as many hours of panicked weapon-swapping shenanigans, as I aim to find a weapon with which I can actually, well, aim.
Monster Hunter can be as harsh and unforgiving as its environments and the Big Bads that inhabit them. Missed attacks, wasted specials, friendly fire – these characterise my co-operative Monster Hunter missions, largely a symptom of personal stupidity and no direct lock-on mechanic. This would be an omission that would be almost intolerable in almost any other action game.
But not Monster Hunter – because in Monster Hunter, everything matters (except cat decals).
Capcom’s reluctance to hold your hand bypasses an ailment common to loot-driven games: luck. Your armour isn’t a badge to show you outsmarted a random number generator, it’s a badge to show you fought time and time again and won – a badge that show you presumably hit more than you missed. That you actually achieved something.
To make Monster Hunter more accommodating – for it to hold your hand even by the pinkie – would be to knock the sheen off this badge, to cheapen that armour set you spent hours constructing. It’s for this very reason that Monster Hunter can do things other games can’t – because the badges in question look really frickin’ cool.
For every five missed attacks, the one attack that makes contact and knocks a beastie on its feathery arse more than makes up the difference. Monster Hunter makes seemingly simple things seem monstrously difficult, like actually hitting the monster you’re fighting, because the carrot on the end of its stick is so goddamned alluring: awesome weapons and armour.
It’s so alluring, in fact, that I’ve spent a hundred and twenty quid on a series that’s barely yielded as many hours. In entertainment terms, that’s not bad. In video game terms, though, I’ve been had – hook, line and sinker.
And I’ve loved every button-bashing, money-spending minute of it.