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With the fantastic Monster Hunter World recently reaching 10 million worldwide sales, it's clear that Capcom's bold reinvention of their enduring series has appealed to far more players in the West than recent entries—well, everyone except Nintendo Switch owners, that is.
If you're into concepts like "corporate loyalty," it may seem a bit unfair that Monster Hunter kinda jumped ship after a good half-decade as a Nintendo console/handheld exclusive. And even if you're not, you could still be experiencing some serious fear of missing out if the Switch stands as your only contemporary console. For all of you waiting patiently for a new Monster Hunter, Capcom has the next best thing: a sorta new Monster Hunter. And though Generations Ultimate lacks the visual pizazz and sheer elegance of Monster Hunter World, this final trip through the previous era of Monster Hunter still manages to be just as addictive and rich as its shinier younger brother—and features more content than your poor brain can stand.
A Monster Hunter for All Kinds
Rather than being a wholly new experience, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is a Nintendo Switch port of Monster Hunter Generations' 3DS sequel, which never hit our shores. I fully encourage you to go back and read my Monster Hunter Generations review from 2016, because Ultimate is essentially that experience with more stuff. In case you missed it back in 2016, Monster Hunter Generations exists as an unofficial "Monster Hunter 5," and introduced major features like Palico Mode and Hunting Styles. Ultimately the original generations acts as a sort of "greatest hits" package for Monster Hunter, collecting fan favorite monsters, maps, and characters in one huge game I once assumed would be the true end of "old" Monster Hunter. Somehow, Capcom found a way to overload that game with a surprising amount of additional content.
The kind of baggage you carry with you into a game can definitely affect your enjoyment of it, and potential MHGU players can be broken down into three basic groups: those new to Monster Hunter as a whole, those who played World and want Monster Hunter for the Switch, and Monster Hunter fans who haven't played World and simply want more Monster Hunter. Will each of these players have a distinctly different experience? Yes. Would I recommend Generations Ultimate to all of them? Also yes.
Though this older version of Monster Hunter still requires plenty of wiki-diving and digging into other outside resources, since the basic mechanics don't change much from the original Generations, it's still the most accessible non-World version of Monster Hunter to date. Players who started with World shouldn't feel too alienated, either; though you'll definitely miss some of the refinements and graphical flourishes, after spending 150-plus hours with Monster Hunter World this year, I'm finding myself just as addicted to a take on the series I thought I'd moved past. And for those of you who played the 3DS entries and just want more, MHGU delivers exactly that. In fact, you can even import your 3DS Generations save, and the amount of stuff they let you bring over is downright impressive. After sending my save over to the Switch, I was surprised to see not just quest progress and items/weapons carry over, but my unique loadouts (and the names I gave them) make the trip as well.
A Quick-and-Dirty Port
If you played the Wii U's Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate back in 2013, you should know what you're getting into with this port. Though Capcom has offered some refinements to make this a single-screen experience, if you're expecting a complete visual overhaul... maybe don't. While I still believe the original Monster Hunter Generations stands as the best-looking 3DS game ever, those same 3DS assets presented at 1080p instead of the 3DS' 240p end up looking a bit different. That's not to say the game looks bad; in fact, it looks perfectly fine on the Switch's screen. But if you're playing it on a TV—and I did for the majority of this review—expect to be staring at something that resembles an extremely high-resolution PlayStation 2 game more than a modern Switch release.
That said, this Switch version excels in pure ergonomics. Though I very much enjoyed my time with Generations on the 3DS, keeping my hands clamped to a flat piece of plastic for such a demanding game could be downright painful at times. The much more comfortable controls of the Switch make this the only version of classic Monster Hunter that doesn't cause debilitating joint and wrist pain, and for that I am thankful.
The multiplayer also works just as it did in Generations, and though getting into a game isn't as graceful of an experience as what's provided in World, after a few matches you'll pick up on the basics. Since so much of Monster Hunter's play focuses on loot and drops, MHGU kindly allows you to search out specific hunts, and even groups dedicated to farming. In this pre-release period I can't judge its multiplayer accurately, but with 2016's Generations, I managed to jump into online multiplayer matches pretty reliably, and with no real snags or lag. With the current excitement over the Switch and a new Monster Hunter game, I fully expect the player base to be extremely robust right out of the gate.
Since Monster Hunter made its biggest bucks as a local co-op experience, that still stands as the best way to play with friends. Before writing this review, I got together with USG EIC Kat Bailey to play a few rounds, and being able to directly communicate with another person adds so much to Monster Hunter. Of course, it's a fine single-player experience, and the online communication options allow you to deliver essential info to other players, but the camaraderie of teaming up with a real person to take down massive beasts can't be beat.
Almost Too Much Monster Hunter... Almost
After carrying over my 130-hour save from the original Generations—just on the brink of taking on high-rank quests—I wondered just how much content MHGU had to offer. But even if you (like me) spent a sizable amount of time with the last 3DS release, Generations Ultimate still has a lot of content to offer. A lot. While detailing the specifics of what this version adds would amount to a dry wiki entry, some basic numbers should give you a general idea of its scope. For instance, MHGU contains 93 large monsters to hunt—that's three times as many as what's found in World. Hunting Styles—an option wholly absent from World—previously provided four different movesets for each of the 14 weapon types; now each weapon type has six potential movesets. And, of course, Palico mode returns, meaning you can play as a team of cute kitties, each with unique classes, skills and abilities. (If Monster Hunter World desperately needs anything, it's this.)
Where I could have easily spent a lifetime exploring the depths of Monster Hunter Generations, the improvements and additions found in Ultimate could easily take up three lifetimes. Admittedly, there's something a bit clumsy and cluttered about Capcom cramming just about every Monster Hunter thing to date into a single game, but it's a fine way to say goodbye to the previous generation of Monster Hunter. Rest assured, if there's ever been something you've wanted to do in a Monster Hunter game, Generations likely has it—and it'll probably keep you busy for more than 100 hours.
ConclusionWhile it comes in the form of a no-frills port, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate exists as the most thorough exploration of Monster Hunter to date. If you can get over its 3DS-era visuals, you're in for a seemingly endless experience you can easily devote a lifetime to—and one worth devoting a lifetime to. Whether you're new to the series, someone who started with Monster Hunter World, or just a fan of the previous 3DS games, you're bound to get addicted once MHGU gets its hooks into you. Just don't be afraid to ask for help.