As game premises go, the Monster Hunter series has been a sort of monkey's paw. You get to fight a menagerie of giant, awe-inspiring creatures that go well beyond your typical fantasy beast. But before you can engage in these epic battles, you have to farm resources. A lot of resources. Only when you're amply prepared can you succeed against your prey. That success earns you the right to make cool armor from its hide, assuming you carved off certain parts of it. If you didn't, you fight it again. And again. And again. For all of its creativity, Monster Hunter has you repeating certain actions to a tedious degree.
Fans of the series will disagree on the tedious part, and, to be fair, the repetition in Monster Hunter is totally intended by its developers. It can feel empowering to defeat a monster for the umpteenth time, knowing that you have its pattern down pat. Some gamers also find a comforting familiarity in grindy games. MMOs are a testament to this.
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, as the name implies, is a culmination of monsters and elements spanning the entire series. That means an all-star cast featuring the most ferocious and bizarre creatures in series history. It also means menus and progression pulled from a decade-old system. For better and for worse, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is Monster Hunter in its purest form.
Story in Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is pretty nonexistent, but in a good way. Your character shows up in a village, is recruited into the local Hunter's Guild, and sent out into the wild. The first few quests teach you the basics of gathering resources, exploring the map, and fighting. Then you hunt your first big monster and gain access to the other villages. There are four villages in total, and while they each have their own distinct character to them they're really just staging grounds for your hunts. Unlike this year's other entry in the series, Monster Hunter World, there's no attempt to build an elaborate setting or get you attached to the characters. Generations Ultimate knows you're here to hunt, and it's willing to oblige.
Sort of. While Generations Ultimate doesn't bog you down with cutscenes, it does throw an awful lot of menus at you. A prepared hunter is a victorious hunter, and so you'll spend a good deal of time sifting through your storage, going to shops, and crafting items. It's annoying when you just want to take on the newest monster, only to find that you need to buy/make enough Cool Drinks to survive the desert it calls home. This isn't exactly unique to Generations Ultimate, the series has always placed as much emphasis on preparation as it has fighting skill. Still, the process of gathering materials and making items seemed to be more seamless in World. You could casually gather herbs and bones while doing other quests. In Generations Ultimate, gathering often is the quest.
There is one benefit to all these menus: customization. From the moment you create your character, you have almost every option at your disposal. Generations Ultimate lets you use fourteen different weapons, from poison-tipped arrows to giant transforming axes. The 90-plus monsters means a huge selection of armors. Unlike in more traditional RPGs, a Monster Hunter character can use every weapon and wear every armor without worrying about things like class or level.
Generations Ultimate adds another layer of customization in the form of Hunter Arts. Once you fill an Art's meter, you can unleash a powerful attack combo or make a life-saving retreat maneuver. Hunting Styles further expand your combat options. There are six of these to choose from, and basically serve to define how you'll fight. You can style yourself as an aggressive attacker that spams Hunter Arts or a more defensive fighter who specializes in well-timed counter attacks. Hunter Styles and Arts can be changed at any time, giving you the freedom to experiment without needing to make a new character.
But wait, there's more: Palicos. These bipedal cat-creatures are your A.I. sidekicks, bravely charging at monsters and maybe healing you if they get around to it. You can change your Palico's armor and weapons, as well as decide what skills they equip. That lets you turn your buddies into trappers, brawlers, or supports, whatever you need. Generations Ultimate also gives them the ability to strike out on their own in Prowler mode. Prowler mode puts you in direct control of your cat while the hunter takes a break. It was apparently added with newer players in mind, but it's helpful for everyone. Palicos have unlimited stamina and are more efficient at farming resources, making Prowler mode a decent way to have gathering quests be more palatable.
If this all sounds like a lot, that's because it is. Generations Ultimate is a remaster of 2015's Monster Hunter Generations for 3DS. Meaning Capcom took the culmination of everything Monster Hunter and added even more content to it. More monsters, more ways to trick out your hunter, and more DLC. With all this more, it's clear that the game is aimed towards longtime fans of the series. This isn't the friendly introduction to newbies that Monster Hunter World was.
Try as I did, it was hard not to compare Generations Ultimate to World. Maybe because Capcom decided to release both in the same year. World seemed consciously designed to streamline and modernize the Monster Hunter experience. Its maps were all one big landscape, whereas Generations Ultimate separates them into zones that prompt a loading screen every time you pass between them. Resources were placed in World where they were needed most, meaning I could craft an Antidote on the fly if I got poisoned. If I didn't craft Antidotes ahead of time in Generations Ultimate, I was doomed. Even little things, like a camera that locks onto the monster you're fighting, was present in World but not Generations Ultimate.
That's not to say that Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is inferior to World. The best of Monster Hunter is still very present in Generations Ultimate. You can can engage almost 100 monsters in tense, strategic battles. You can team up with friends via local or online to hunt together or just mess around and dance. You can even drive a tank as a cat. It's challenging, it's ridiculous, and it's fun. Just be prepared to spend a good chunk of time navigating menus and Googling things the game doesn't tell you.
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is now available for Nintendo Switch. A copy of the game was purchased by The Gamer for this review.
4 out of 5 stars.