I’m an animal lover at heart. I’ve owned two dogs, a squirrel and over 20 cats throughout my life. I feel very strongly about subjects like animal torture and cruelty. I’m also the type that wants to adopt every stray cat he sees and holds off on taking a shower for a few hours so the spider in his bathroom doesn’t drown.
I like to think that my love for creatures is reflected in my gaming as well. I grew up playing Pokémon and spent over 200 hours breeding and caring for my monsters in Pokémon Crystal alone. I never released any of them back into the wild, no matter how useless they were in battle or how many duplicates I had. To me, each one was unique and each one deserved a place in my bestiary. If I had more than one of the same kind, I’d give them different names so I could tell them apart. If I ever put one in the box after a battle, I’d make sure it was at full health so it wouldn’t have to suffer in pain while I went gallivanting across the countryside in search of others.
The same goes for Rune Factory, where I always maintain a large barnful of monsters. In fact, when it comes to Rune Factory games, I make sure there’s never an odd number of the same monster type in my barn so that every monster has its own mate and doesn’t get lonely. In Okami, I made it a point to feed every single animal I came across, even if meant searching far and wide to find food for them. That’s how far my animal love – even for virtual pets – extends.
I’m certain I’m not the only one. People tell stories about how they felt horribly guilty for hunting down the colossi from Shadow of the Colossus or how they felt awful during a certain incident with Agro. Video games have reached a point where they’re fully capable of touching us emotionally.
No, scratch that. Video games have always been capable of touching us emotionally. The difference is, where they once frightened or irked or touched us through writing, music and design, they can now do so through mere production values. And this is the cause for my dilemma.
Everyone’s seen the videos for Capcom’s latest technical masterpiece, Monster Hunter 3. It looks gorgeous. Every creature in the game is intricately textured, right down to the individual scales on their hides. Every sound they make is completely believable, from their threatening roars to their cries of pain. Every animation in the game…from charging to attack you to squirting blood when hit to limping away in pain and fear…they all add up to making the experience of battling these “monsters” completely believable.
And then, there’s the AI system. Creatures interact with each other if left to their own devices…they fight back against predators if threatened. They retreat when they know their chances of survival are slim. Capcom have successfully recreated something akin to a virtual ecosystem with Monster Hunter 3 and are understandably proud of their efforts.
Capcom have expressed interest in marketing the franchise better in the West, so there’s no doubt we’re going to see a localized build of the game heading our way eventually. It’s got online multiplayer, it’s got local co-op, it’s completely devoid of Friend Codes…overall, it looks great for fans of multiplayer games.
In the end though, it’s just a game about killing dinosaurs and using their hides to craft better equipment or for food. Sure, your usual Monster Hunter boxart shows off absolutely diabolical Dungeons & Dragons style beasts that you’d happily stab through the heart, but as you can see from the videos above, this is clearly not what the majority of the experience revolves around. A lot of those creatures look harmless. In fact, a lot of them look like herbivores!
I’m not aware if there’s a feature that allows you to tame or adopt them, but even if one does exist, the primary draw of Monster Hunter is hunting big game…and it’s not a draw that I can relate to.
I want to buy the game to show my support, but at the same time, I don’t want to spend $50 on an experience I will most likely not enjoy. I want to buy the game to satisfy my inner geek…to see what happens when someone really decides to push the hardware of “two Gamecubes duct-taped together” because the Gamecube itself was capable of some outstanding visual feats. But at the same time, the videos of innocent creatures gushing blood and limping away from you in the hope of survival, as you pursue with a giant axe in hand are a little unsettling.
And so, I turn to our community to help me out here. What’s the Monster Hunter experience like? Will it disturb me? Will I get caught up in the excitement of hunting down gargantuan creatures alongside my friends and forget my qualms? Will the long loading screens keep reminding me I’m in a video game? (ZING!)
By all means, leave a comment and school me in the theory of monster hunting.