(Or “Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G” in Japan.) Branded with a bizarre string of Engrish, this game is centered around near-impossible, bland, and repetitive boss fights. But then why am I so utterly hooked?! My workflow goes something like this: mash the square button until I have collected all the plants/rocks from my Pokke farm, have my Felyne Chef dance while I scarf down a Frozen Apple Rib Roast, stock up on potions and paintballs, hunt down the monster, die in a frustrating way, rinse and repeat.
Swear to God, that’s all there is to it. You can create/improve your own weapons and armor, but that may come in to play every other hour or so (probably less), at which point you have to SCRUTINIZE the options on what type of build(s) you want to play. Sure there’s gathering, Gunner, and Blademaster outfits along with eleven different styles of weapons…. but not much else. Bows have an ammo coating status effect, blades tend to have range or charge attacks, and you can literally play a guitar/drumset for buffs before wailing on the enemy’s face. You can build up your Farm’s gathering prowess or tackle some Training Challenges. Heck, you can even hunt in a group online, but all of this stuff equates to a game that is seriously lacking in overall content. If you disclude the preparation before (and clean-up after) each mission, you’re left with very little to actually DO in Monster Hunter. An abridged citation of the bulk actions include: 1. amass raw materials, 2. combine them (possibly on the fly), 3. the fishing mini-game, 4. re-travel across tired stretches of landscape.
Comparing stats and honing your knowledge of the monsters isn’t only a facet; it is literally the only way to progress in this game.
And that’s the rub. The more you know about Monster Hunter, the better you will become, consequenting in your increased enjoyment of the monotony. Your equipment does get sturdier in time, but the “xp” in this game isn’t quantifiable rather, it’s the skills and know-how you mentally accumulate through routine play. Similar to Demon Souls, you can kill things much higher in level if you counter the enemy’s predictability with patience, and then drive the point home with split-second timing. If you immerse yourself in the lore, learn the weaknesses of the critters, and tailor your equipment in response, you will discover a wealth of enjoyment below a seemingly shallow surface. This game is indeed ankle-deep, but even puddles can be a blast to splash in.
Beware Congalala's butt.... Trust me.
You soon gain a comraderie with your stubby cat companion, a rapport with your chefs, and a compassion for tending your garden since each and every edge you can acquire proves itself invaluable against the punishing boss battles. And they are punishing. You must learn how to craft raw ingredients, how to combine meals, and how to stack item buffs. You must know the affects of night and day, the dangers presented by the poisonous/explosive landscape, in addition to being dressed for either a scorching desert battle or a chilly swamp encounter. You must discover shortcuts, sacrifice power for mobility, sacrifice range for versatility, balancing the flow of combat with the deft use of trapping and health items, painting the target and doggedly following the wounded creature until it is assuredly dead. You must absorb the prime gathering spots, know what animal yields what material, and discover how the game works in your favor while noting how it defies you. Do you trade in your dual swords for a duller pair with a fire attribute? Do you give up your beloved stockpile of Plesioth fins for an armor upgrade? Do you attempt that pesky Blangonga fight for the 20th time or do you play a different mission? Do you get used to the callouses caused by the “finger hook” PSP grip, or full-on gnarl your hand up with “the claw” shoulder button-hitting method?
All the negativity that I can conjure still doesn’t explain why I have 100+ hours on this sucker, even though I’m not even close to putting it down. At star 4 of 11, my trials are guaranteed to have just begun as I delve further in, though I very much assumed I would have run out of steam by now….
Gamespot did this game a horrible disservice with a score of 6. I’m not sure if my impression applies to all incarnations, but I freakin’ love Monster Hunter!