Monster Hunter can be a scary and unwelcoming beast to anyone unfamiliar with the series. A quick play generally yields the question "why is the attacking so slow and unwieldy?"
Well, much like the original Resident Evil series' tank controls, it's going to take you a while to adapt. By the time you do though, it'll all be second nature.
This is no ordinary RPG. There is no experience or levelling up for your character - it's all down to your skill, wits, and gear.
While the hubs in each region of 4U each have an armoury for weapons and armour, as well as a market vendor for some essentials, their stock leaves much to be desired.
To get more powerful armaments and the most useful tools, you'll first need to carve spoils from slain foes, scavenge each map's foliage, mine ore, catch bugs, and even do the odd spot of fishing.
These items can then be forged or combined to create something much more powerful. Whether this is your cup of tea depends on just how patient you are, but the payoff always matches the price.
Everything you equip can raise or lower certain stats. While wearing a themed set of armour from one particular monster might make you look fancy in battle, in practice you may be better off mixing and matching for an added effect, even if the end result makes you look ridiculous.
What's that coming over the hill?
While kitting yourself out is an incentive to keep playing hour after hour, the meat of Monster Hunter lies in the thrill of the battle.
Be prepared to face gargantuan bosses like a huge stinky baboon, an inflatable shark, and a winged Flukeman pulsating with electricity. Each one has a distinct temperament, so once you learn each monster's patterns, you'll feel like a boss yourself.
Defeating each behemoth comes down to bashing, sniping, exploding, or slicing away at it (ideally a combination of all four). Finding the weapon class that suits your style best is a joy, but you shouldn't be afraid to mix things up once in a while.
Once exhausted, your prey will start to salivate or look groggy, and once it's HP is low enough it'll wander off to rest up.
At this point you can choose to either finish the job and carve off bones and body parts, or capture the monster by sending it to sleep with a trap and a couple of tranquiliser bombs.
The latter will often net you more goodies, and you can increase your haul even more so by breaking or slicing off certain parts of each beast. The thrill of the carve cannot be overemphasised enough though.
While the average quest tends to focus on defeating one or two monsters, expeditions send you into a set of randomised areas where you can - but don't have to - battle a couple of monsters, as well as collect treasure... maybe even the odd Poogie outfit.
The single-player and multiplayer aspects of the game are entirely separate. Both need to be played if you plan to get anywhere. This is a bit of a drag at times, but everything you learn and every little bit of monster you take home with you can always be put to good use.
A friend indeed
Palicoes are feline friends who'll stand alongside you in battle. There's an assortment of minigames to play with them, and all manner of ways to customise them to fit your playstyle.
It's easy to get sidetracked into hiring a perfect set of Palicoes if you're a perfectionist, but I loved getting lost in a world of variable special abilities and equipment.
Anyone lucky enough to grab 4U with a New 3DS will be able to control the camera with the system's new right analogue nub, and access a couple of extra items easily with the two new shoulder buttons. Same deal for Circle Pad Pro owners too.
The extra buttons give more options for newcomers, but veterans will already know the control style that suits them and roll with it.
The two new weapon types should prove to be a blast for hardened hunters, and the tiered areas that lend themselves perfectly the new monster mounting system.
While novices like myself take the online mode for granted, it's undoubtedly the most welcome addition for 3DS Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate players.
It'll take many dozens of hours before you can master each weapon's timings, combos, and charge patterns alongside dodging manoeuvres.
Luckily though, the Monster Hunter community are a patient and friendly sort, even if you do spend much of your time accidentally launching them off cliff edges.
Let's be honest here - fans of the series are going to pick this up without any hesitation, as they should. If you're looking to join the hunt, this is undoubtedly the best place to start.
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