As I mentioned in my 2016 in review post from yesterday, I'd actually already spent quite a bit of time last year playing Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (on 3DS). I got to a stopping point yesterday, so this first post of 2017 will be about that game. I'd posted about my first Monster Hunter game, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, about six months ago. I'm not quite sure why I got the urge to dive into the series again, but a big draw for me was definitely all the crossover DLC, including costumes of such unlikely characters as Isabelle and Resetti from the Animal Crossing series and Samus and Zero Suit Samus from the Metroid series.

I found out pretty soon, however, that most of the DLC armor I wanted were limited to hunters at a pretty high rank. This was a bummer, but once again I got sucked into the addictive game loop of hunting, gathering resources, and crafting more-powerful weapons (although I didn't spend much time with armor this time around since it seems upgrading a single set of armor is about as worthwhile as crafting new sets). This time around since I didn't have to learn all the intricacies of the game mechanics I could focus on working my way through the story mode, and I also had fun trying out different weapons. In the end I focused on the hunting horn, which was different from the sword and shield weapons I used in the previous game (and much more fun actually). This time around you also get two AI-controlled helpers (the cats that in the MH world are known as Felynes), and it was fun to manage the roster of Felynes and upgrade their gear as well.

It was kind of a bummer to go from a big screen to the 3DS, although I used the New 3DS XL so it wasn't too bad. The game is much more optimized for the 3DS than the previous game was (i.e. the on-screen text is actually readable), and it's handy to have a lot of the info and shortcut buttons on the lower screen where they're easily accessible. The game felt noticeably easier than the previous game, and I don't think it's just because I had more experience this time around. The solo missions didn't get to feel that challenging until quite a ways into the game. Once again I didn't see the point of having the multiplayer missions being the same as the solo missions, other than to give you more opportunities to get the parts you need to craft specific weapons or armor. This time around I had an easier time finding people to play with online, and this time around I didn't mind having higher-ranked players carry me along to easy wins since my focus is mostly on the single player experience anyway. And smacking huge monsters in the face somehow never gets old. ;)

This edition replaces the awkward underwater combat from the previous game with an emphasis on "mount" attacks, whereby you jump onto the monster and hack at it to cause it to topple. This changes things up a bit, although it doesn't seem like it's as huge a change as what follows in Monster Hunter Generations. MH4U also replaces the static locale of the "free play" mode to a more worthwhile mode called "Expeditions" where you can gain rare loot, which was also a nice change. I appreciated that this game had more of a story and villages to wander around in than MH3U (and I probably would've stopped playing sooner if there hadn't been any story), but it seems like Generations once again doesn't have much of a story. MH4U also shoehorns in some awkward battles where you're confined to a ship, but fortunately those don't make up a huge percentage of the overall game time.

Much as I enjoyed my time with MH4U, once again I'm happy to set it aside well before I get to the highest rank. There were still a lot of intricacies and systems to learn about and read about, but despite all the tweaks the game feels essentially very much like its predecessor, and even though I enjoyed both I can't say that I'm that motivated to run out and try Monster Hunter Generations. If I had someone to play with on a semi-regular basis I could see myself spending more time with these games, but as it is I doubt this is something I'll pick up again until at least another six months passes. Which is just as well, because they suck up a ton of time!

Speak softly and carry these giant Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate links:
- Entry at monsterhunter.wikia.com, which is an essential reference
- Nintendo Minute feature on the game
- Review at NintendoLife
- And just for fun, here's Capcom's look back at the original Monster Hunter game on PS2