We stopped by Capcom HQ earlier this week to meet two core members of the Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate team - producer Ryozo Tsujimoto and director Kaname Fujioka.
Approaching the game as a relative newcomer to the series, I was keen to get as much advice as I could, while also finding out more about each of their playstyles.
How approachable do you think Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is for newcomers to the series?
Tsujimoto-san: This is certainly the easiest Monster Hunter game for a newcomer to get into - not to say that its an easy game overall, of course! We've designed single player to teach people how to get into the world of Monster Hunter and how to play it as they go along.
Also, just in terms of the general game mechanics we really tightened it up and made it a lot smoother to play with fewer interruptions so that people who maybe aren't used to playing a game like this wont feel so intimidated.
One example is in the old games when you came across a slight variation in terrain you had to press a button specifically to vault over it, which interrupted the flow of your movement.
This time you're very free to move around, and the character will automatically scale the terrain for you. With things like that in mind, yeah, I think newcomers shouldn't have a problem getting into the wonderful world of Monster Hunter.
Something else beginners could do to get themselves into the game is play the demo that's in the pipeline. We've put together a mode in the demo specifically for beginners rather than having one demo for all players.
The beginner mode details what the player is supposed to be doing and when. It'll even have an arrow pointing towards where the monster's going to be; things that'll help them understand how the flow of a typical hunt goes.Any other top tips for new hunters?
Tsujimoto-san: This is is the first time we've had online network multiplayer in a handheld Monster Hunter game. It's accessible pretty much from the start of the game, so I recommend that beginners get online and find some veterans to play together with.
I think the game works really well whenever an expert hunter can play with someone who's not quite sure what they're doing yet. They can show them the ropes as they go along so the beginner won't feel so intimidated when going into a tougher monster hunt. I really recommend doing that.
Which weapons do each of you tend to default to in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate?
Fujioka-san: I've been using the Lance ever since the original Monster Hunter. I think that with so many weapons available, each player finds something that really fits them. In my case I like to get up close and personal with the monsters during a hunt.
The Lance really gives you a chance to take part in a close quarters battle, guarding and positioning yourself around the monster as it moves. It lets you get right into the middle of the fray and that suits me down to a T, so thats why I've stuck with it all this time.
Tsujimoto-san: Similarly, I've been using the Hammer ever since the first game came out way back when. I agree that personalities show through in the weapons. From working with Fujioka-san, I can say that hes a guy with a detail-oriented mind and he likes to take care of the little factors involved in something whether its in his work or in the game.
I'm someone who doesn't really worry too much about the details and just goes for it. I'm not really on guard much - I'm always attacking. The Hammer is the best weapon for just rushing in and swinging it wildly, hoping you hit something. It's got a huge hit zone, so chances are you will.
That suits me. I also tried the Bow for a period but it didn't really work for me. My record in Monster Hunter 4 and 4G is 2,000 battles with the Hammer, so it's served me well.
When I've asked veterans which weapon I should use, people have generally said Sword and Shield is good for starters, but that all the weapons are as good as each other. What have you done to ensure that each weapon is so balanced throughout the series?
Fujioka-san: Well, its obviously a multiplayer action game first and foremost, so most of the time were imagining people will be playing with others. Whenever we design a weapon we try to give each one its own personality, while not making one particularly overpowered compared to another.
The Sword and Shield example you gave - that's certainly a good beginner weapon. Then you have the Dual Blade which is not a million miles away from Sword and Shield, but its got subtle differences in terms of its tempo and which parts of a monster it can attack.
Each weapon is tuned a little differently to have a certain baseline, but we've tried to fix up each weapon so that no matter which one you choose you'll have a subtly different experience with unique gameplay coming out of it.Out of the new monsters in 4U, which are your favourites?
Fujioka-san: We have a lot of monsters and each one is unique. As a designer it's hard to say you like one more than the others - I certainly love all our monsters in the family. We do usually have a main featured monster who appears on the packaging and they are particularly special each time around.
In the case of 4 and 4U we've had Gore Magala and Seregios. Seregios is probably one of my favourites as it's got a unique battle scenario. Seregios is a very fast moving monster in the flying dragon mould of design.
It has an attack where it can throw projectiles at you, and if you get hit by them you'll go into a status mode where you'll take damage whenever you move quickly. You need to be very strategic when you're fighting it and try to avoid these projectiles while taking off the parts of the monster's body one by one to beat it. It's my favourite battle and that's a bit of a hint on how you might want to avoid getting hit by that projectile!
Tsujimoto-san: Theres a frog-like monster called Tetsucabra that appears relatively near the start of the game - it's not particularly fast but it's powerful.
I don't think its too difficult to beat if you watch it and learn its tells and how it's going to move, which is key in playing Monster Hunter. If its every attack is a hit on you then of course you're not going to make it through the hunt, but if you're careful you'll make it.
That's one I like because it's a test of what you've learned up to that point. It's one that I like to recommend as a monster for people to realise what Monster Hunter is all about when they're fighting it.
Another hint I could give is that you should not just fight monsters but also abuse the parts you get from them to create weapons and armour.
The Tetsucabra armour is very useful from that point in the game onwards, so treat Testsucabra as a test of what you've learned and when you get through you'll receive a reward that'll help you in subsequent hunts.
Why does a well-done steak restore more stamina than a rare steak, when a rare steak is clearly better?
Fujioka-san: Well you know, we're not talking about cooking at a Gordon Ramsey kitchen here! You're out in the wild with a campfire and a spit so the most important thing in cooking meat in that situation is to make sure that you've killed any bacteria there inside it.
In that sense, thoroughly cooked meat in the world of Monster Hunter is the hunter's friend and you don't want to have anything that's a bit raw and dangerous.
One thing that's been interesting for me as a newcomer to the series is seeing all the crossover collaboration armour, weapons, and Palicoes. Are there any still to be announced?
Fujioka-san: I think that all of the collaborative DLC that ties in with other series and other companies' games has been shown now. We take a lot of care to design carefully with respect for the characters, especially when we were borrowing characters from companies like Nintendo. We want to make sure that they aren't just a skin for a pointless visual effect.
In the Street Fighter collaboration there are punching sound effects taken directly from the old arcade games; a really solid smack noise that's quite funny to hear. The Mega Man one has his movement noises, and also whenever you die you hear the "boo boo boo..." death noise rather than having the Monster Hunter sound effect.
Each one is a little deeper than it might look at first blush, so in that sense it's taken a lot of time to create the ones you've seen and we're hoping players will be satisfied with the selection we've already announced.
How are they being released?
Fujioka-san: We'll be putting them out on a regular schedule to keep people excited for the next one. There are quite a few we're pushing out, so it'd be a bit confusing for our users if they were all released at once.Why were water environments cut out of the game?
Fujioka-san: Each numbered main title in the series has a concept or main theme. In Monster Hunter Tri the introduction of underwater battles and water-themed monsters was a big one. You could fight on land, sea, or both depending on the hunt.
The land-based battling in 3 was very much a continuation of the series tradition, so when it came to making 4 and 4U we wanted to re-evaluate it, and tighten it to be the best it's ever been. We integrated the 360 degree potential of water battling where you could approach the monster from many angles, attack it from above, and include that in the land-based battling.
This is what we've done with the new game. You can climb up cliff faces and other high terrain to get an altitude difference from the monster. While we haven't kept the water-based scenarios, the gameplay and what we learnt from it has been brought over into the new game. What we have now is a better than ever version of fighting monsters on land from the ground up.
What have you done to improve online play compared to the Wii U version of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate?
Tsujimoto-san: One important thing we've made sure of this time is that European and North American players are on the same servers. They'll be able to matchmake and find each other's lobbies and rooms.
We have full support for the 3DS friend functionality, but you'll also be able to add people you play with to an in-game friend list so you can hunt with people you've met previously very easily.
Also, the lobbies allow you to choose unique room numbers and add passwords so you can make sure only people you want to come in get in. We have a thoroughly thought out online experience I'm hoping players will enjoy.Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for iOS was released last year - will any future Monster Hunter titles will be released on smartphones?