Monster Hunter Tri has a lot of hopes riding on its shoulders. To Capcom, the game represents an opportunity to begin expanding the brand outside of its Japanese fanbase. To Nintendo, it’s their first significant collaboration with a third-party developer this generation; one that they hope will demonstrate their willingness to push high-quality software on their systems.
This is easier said than done, however. Monster Hunter is, perhaps, one of the best examples of the cultural differences between the western and Japanese gaming audience. It’s a game that’s difficult to explain in a few words, as even Monster Hunter Tri director Kaname Fujioka and producer Ryozo Tsujimoto admit in a talk with Nintendo president Satoru Iwata.
Hunting in a Theme Park
One of the most important aspects of the Monster Hunter series is that it doesn’t feel overly brutal, which could turn people away from playing it. The inclusion of more lighthearted elements to accompany the hunting aspect — such as the ability to go fishing — are essential to maintaining this feel.
“I always think of this game as a theme park,” game director Fujioka explains, speaking to the nature of the series. “Once you go in, you find a fun world, and just doing something there is fun.”
Satoru Iwata elaborates: “Just like a theme park, there’s a comfortable world, and monsters live there. You can hunt them, but those who don’t want to can go fishing. If you encounter a monster you can’t defeat on your own, you cooperate with others to defeat it. And after you beat it, you receive a reward. That’s fun, so lots of people keep playing.”
Fujioka goes on to reveal that the original concept of Monster Hunter was inspired by a manga from the 1970s named Hajime Ningen Gyatoruzu, a humourous series revolving around cavemen and prehistoric creatures, where violence was depicted in a comical fashion.
Monster Hunter “Try”
With Monster Hunter Tri, the team at Capcom decided to scrap existing material they had developed for the home console games thus far, as they felt they had reached the limits of the existing framework, and start over from scratch. The problem was figuring out how to surprise series veterans and encourage newer players to try the game at the same time.
For newcomers, Capcom invested in the splitscreen multiplayer mode, named “The Arena.” The reasoning behind this was that the better player would be able to guide his partner and teach them the basics.
“That’s why we made the game so that when someone thinks, “That looks fun,” they can split the screen in two, and if they have two controllers, start playing right away,” Fujioka explains. “There’s no need to jump right into online play. First you can play offline with the screen divided in two with your friends or family. Then you can go online.”
Word-of-mouth publicity and the social aspects of its design are a large part of Monster Hunter’s success in Japan. The portable installments tend to be more popular than their console counterparts, due to the appeal of carrying your game around with you and the adhoc multiplayer feature. In the case of Tri, this was replicated by allowing save data to be stored in the Wii remote, which could be carried to a friend’s home.
Fujioka elaborates: “It would be too bad if you went to a friend’s house, played, and didn’t get anything from it. It wouldn’t carry over into your next session. So we made it so that you can take a controller with you and return home with the rewards you’ve gained.”
While Tsujimoto and Fujioka aren’t certain if the feature will serve its intended purpose, they remain hopeful that players take advantage of it.