By Ishaan . August 8, 2014 . 5:30pm
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is pushing the series forward in some interesting ways—ways that you may not have seen coming if you’ve been playing any of the Monster Hunter games for an extended period of time. Where combat was once firmly rooted to the ground, it now involves aerial attacks as well. Where weapon types once had very specific uses, there are now types that are able to serve multiple purposes. Where equipment was once rigid in its stats and abilities, it can now have randomized stats and traits, depending on where you find it.
These are all elements that the game appears to be borrowing from other, more mainstream genres. The two that come to mind are stylish action games like Devil May Cry and more regular action RPGs such as Diablo. The flashy aerial attacks that you can perform with the Insect Glaive wouldn’t look out of place in a DMC game, while randomized gear is the very core of a loot-based role-playing game like Diablo.
When Siliconera recently had a chance to speak with Monster Hunter director Kaname Fujioka, we asked him just how some of the new additions to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate were made, and whether they did indeed come from the developers playing other games and genres. Were weapons like the Insect Glaive (aerial attacks) and the Charge Blade (combo-heavy attacks) a product of games like Devil May Cry? Was the randomized loot something that came from a love for other loot-based RPGs?
The Insect Glaive:
“One thing that’s important to note is that Monster Hunter has its own flow… its own pace and control feel. It is different at its base from things like Devil May Cry,” Fujioka replied. “However, that doesn’t mean we can’t borrow elements that feel really good. Some things work in just about any game. The important thing for us when we create weapons for Monster Hunter is making sure none of them overlap. That you don’t have two weapons that feel the same. Two weapons that are effective from the exact same distance and in the exact same kind of situations.”
“So, for example, with the Insect Glaive [there’s] the idea of keeping your distance, sending the insect out. The idea of doing these flashy, acrobatic jump attacks. That was a piece of the overall weapon puzzle. We thought it would be a cool way to fill that [gap] and bring in a new kind of weapon that really is different to the styles inherent to the other weapons so far.”
The Charge Blade:
Regarding the Charge Blade, Fujioka said that the weapon being combo-heavy wasn’t really a conscious decision. “The important thing about the Charge Blade and Insect Glaive… you can do some cool combos with them, but you can’t just keep doing them forever,” Fujioka pointed out.
“What you’ve got here is very deliberate Monster Hunter-like gameplay cycle. In the case of the Insect Glaive, you send out your insect, bring back some energy and boost yourself to do some really good damage. If you don’t do that first, it’s not going to work very well. So you have the cycle of powering yourself up, then doing some combos.”
“With the Charge Blade as well… you start out with the Sword mode, get a few strikes in there to build up your gauge, then you go into Axe mode to do the real damage. Of course, it doesn’t last forever and you have to repeat that cycle as well. So you might see a few more combos than in previous weapons, but the important thing for us was to maintain the cycle of gameplay that is Monster Hunter’s strong suit.”
Naturally, the Charge Blade was in part inspired by the Switch Axe, which was introduced in Monster Hunter Tri.
“If you think about it, when you look at the other weapons in Monster Hunter, it starts out with one weapon, and then there’s sub-styles associated with it,” Fujioka said. “You have the Great Sword, the Dual Blades… the different kinds of swords. We felt there was room for different kinds of transforming weapons as well, since we only had one at that point. And they do play quite differently. The Switch Axe starts out with the axe, and you switch to the blade to do the big damage.”
“This time, we took the opposite approach—use the sword to build up your gauge, and the axe to do a lot of damage. There’s enough differences in the specifics of how they play that it makes sense for them both to exist and have their different roles.”
Influence from action RPGs?
If you hadn’t heard, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate’s Free Hunting takes the form of a randomized forest, where you can take on something called Guild Quests (English name not finalized). Through these quests, you can find equipment with randomized stats. Weapons found this way can have different sharpness or attack or gem slots, while the armour can be variations of other armour in the game.
This, Fujioka says, was something of an experiment, and not really inspired by action RPGs, but rather a desire to try something different from Monster Hunter’s usual cycle of gameplay. “I am a Diablo fan, but I don’t think that directly influenced what we were doing with the Guild Quest weapon drops,” Fujioka replied, when we brought up randomized equipment.
“As you know, the general gameplay cycle of Monster Hunter is defeating the monsters, getting the different parts, putting the weapons together. What we wanted to do with the Guild Quests is have a different kind of gameplay with these weapons that do have different statistics. Trade them with your friends—find the one that suits you best without having to make it yourself. The joy of discovery and finding something.”
The manga influence:
Fujioka is also a manga reader, and said to us that some influence from his hobby does make it into the Monster Hunter games, although not directly. “As far as manga I’m into… JoJo is of course a favourite,” he shared with a laugh. “I also read a lot of sports-themed manga. There’s one called Reggie, which is about a major league baseball player. That particular artist’s work is pretty cool and something I really like.”
“There’s not a lot of direct influence from manga that ends up in Monster Hunter. What I think you see is a more holistic thing.The ups and downs of dramatic story-telling. Ramping up to something exciting happening, then ramping down until the next big thing. That sort of pacing and the feeling you experience while reading manga. We try to replicate that in the game.”
The cycle of Monster Hunter:
That having been said, the development of Monster Hunter always comes back to the “gameplay cycle” that Fujioka keeps talking about. The cycle of powering yourself up and then letting it go. The cycle of constant preparation.
This applies not just to how weapons control but also the process of crafting your gear and planning for the hunt that lies ahead. So, for example, while there is ready-made equipment to discover during Guild Quests, Fujioka says, don’t expect to find ready-made potions while out exploring in the world in Monster Hunter.
“Crafting is such an important part of the cycle of gameplay, that it probably really wouldn’t be appropriate to put pre-made items in the environment. Again, we want to encourage that cycle—that’s what makes people play for so long.”
However, the crafting aspect of the game, too, is being rolled out at a more deliberate pace in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. We brought up the ability to make smaller adjustments to your armour, such as changing colour, since that plays a role in crafting and customizing your character as well. Surprisingly, Fujioka says this isn’t something he wants to encourage early in the game.
“Earlier in the game, we don’t want people to spend a lot of time changing colours and making minor adjustments to their weapons because it is an action game,” he said to us.
“We want them to get accustomed to how to play it. Once they get better with the different weapon types and understand how to play it, then once you’ve played for a while and get to the G-Rank quests, then you actually can do some of these things. You can change the colour of your armour, you can make some minor adjustments. We didn’t want people to have access to that too early in the game because we felt that it would take the focus away from the action.”