If Monster Hunter: World was your first experience of the Monster Hunter franchise, Generations Ultimate may shock you. As a souped up version of the last 3DS title it is, or was, a celebration of all the previous entries in the series, bringing together monsters, hunting grounds and villages from the past in one lovingly curated package. It did have a few tricks of its own – a range of different Hunting Styles and flashy Hunter Arts that you charge up during combat – but at the time it still felt like the franchise needed freshening up. Of course, World did that to startling effect.
So Generations Ultimate is a step back in more ways than one. Bringing together strands from the original PS2 game as well the previous 3DS, Wii, Wii U, and PSP titles, this is as much Monster Hunter history as it is a standalone game. While you don’t need to recognise any of the nods to those that have gone before, you will miss out on some of the glorious nostalgia from hundreds of hours spent hunting these incredible beasts in what are now classic hunting grounds.
Setting out from Pokke Village to hunt a Bulldrome immediately sent me back to long evenings huddled with my PSP. If you don’t appreciate that you can now play the game with two analogue sticks rather than fashioning your hand into a cramp-inducing claw, then somewhere the gods of Monster Hunter may find you unworthy. Then again, Generations Ultimate is all about enjoying this game and its legacy in the best shape possible. Having made the move to the Switch, this is undoubtedly the place to play it.
The classic visuals obviously look much better here than they did on the diminutive 3DS, and while they’re a long way short of those seen in Monster Hunter: World, they still do a great job of conveying the scale and grandeur of the creatures and the lands they inhabit. Everything is sharp and clear, and most importantly, runs nearly as well in handheld mode as it does docked. If anything, the graphics look better on the Switch’s screen.
I don’t think I’d ever realised just how vibrant Monster Hunter’s palette had become, and compared to World at times Generations Ultimate looks almost cartoon-like, though it manages to hang together incredibly well. This is a world where cats are chefs and you wield huge swords crafted from even bigger crabs, so if you’re after realism you’ve come to the wrong place.
So many of the quality of life improvements that made World as welcoming as it is are nowhere to be found here, and that’s liable to be pretty jarring for newer fans. It’s clearest when you’re gathering, forcing you to recognise the spots where you can grab materials, and in the hunt itself. World’s Scout Flies can feel like cheating at times, but they do highlight everything of interest and take you straight into the action. Regressing to actually hunting for those damn beasts significantly slows the experience down, and for anyone that’s walked aimlessly for twenty minutes from area to area can attest, it’s not actually that much fun.
Combat remains as wonderfully measured and archaic as it ever has though, and if you’re coming from World then you’ll still feel right at home when you’re in the thick of it. The Hunter Arts do look great and add in an extra level of strategy to your set-up – which is close to the heart of every hunter – but fundamentally they don’t alter the way you approach things. Any monster you don’t give respect to will tear you to pieces whether you use them or not, though their placement on the Switch’s D-pad as standard is a poor substitute for the 3DS’ touchscreen. There are fortunately a couple of more intuitive options if you seek them out, unless you really feel like getting as close to playing on the PSP as possible.
Some of the things here are wonderfully comforting to long-term fans though, from the separated areas that take a moment to load in, but crucially give you chance to sharpen your sword and heal up before the next round with a monster, to the need for Paintballs to track your prey or having to resort to online guides to find where to gather a particular mushroom. Perhaps of most comfort though is the expanded roster, which sees a whopping 129 monsters appear from across the breadth of Monster Hunter games, 93 or which are your headline big fellas. From Agnaktor to Zinogre they’re going to take some serious time to deal with.
Fortunately, having come to Switch you’re going to be able to do that wherever and whenever you like, and perhaps that’s the biggest thing about Generation Ultimate; it’s still a handheld game. Sure, it works absolutely perfectly on your TV, but as anyone that was stuck with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate across the 3DS and Wii U will attest, the ability to seamlessly jump from one to the other is hugely welcome. Besides that, you get the return of local party play – a defining part of the PSP and 3DS era – as well as online play, so you’re covered on every front to experience the game at its multiplayer best.
That could well be World’s one true failing, that it lost the series handheld heritage. Generations Ultimate not only preserves it in fantastic style, it shows that both strands of the Monster Hunter lineage are as important as one another. Hopefully Capcom has enough success with this Switch launch to consider continuing with handheld outings that go beyond a slimmed down version of World’s successors. For all of their differences, the more stylised artwork of Generations Ultimate and the games that came before it work exceedingly well on a smaller screen. It would be a shame to lose that.
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate ties up the entirety of the series’ history prior to World in spectacular style, and emphasises why the game has worked so well as a handheld title for all these years. While it leans heavily on the past heritage of the series, here’s hoping that there’s a place for further similar titles in Monster Hunter’s future.