Saturday, October 27, 2012

Monster Hunter 4 Developer Preview: Jump Attacks, Bug Staffs and Other New Features (video)

A NEW FRONTIER: So in case you missed it, Capcom posted a 20-plus minute video during the 2012 Tokyo Game Show with producer Ryozo Tsujimoto and director Kaname Fujioka discussing the new features of a certain highly anticipated game. Now some of you might be asking, “Wait, what is this ‘Monster Hunter Ho’ that Tsujimoto keeps talking about — and more importantly, how can I get in on some of that action?” Sorry to burst your bubble but that’s just his way of pronouncing “Monster Hunter 4.” Yes, I know it’s a huge bummer but I’m sure you’ll live through the disappointment and become a stronger person. Now that I’ve got the uncomfortable stuff out of the way ... so exactly what sorts of new goodies does Monster Hunter 4 have in store for its fans? Let’s start carving up the video, shall we?

Field Movement: Navigating your environment and properly using a field’s various elevations is a big emphasis in Monster Hunter 4. You can move sideways when scaling cliff walls and even attack with your hunting knife while climbing. You can also switch locations from high and low areas, which gives you more options when battling the game’s monsters. Unfortunately for you, the game’s major monsters can use the environment, too, so areas that you once thought were safe aren’t so safe anymore. This added emphasis on using the field adds an extra layer of strategy as opposed to just simply focusing on your target monster.
Meanwhile, a common complaint by uninformed heathens, er, certain folks about Monster Hunter is that it’s too “clunky” in terms of movement. Of course, hunters in the know are quite aware that this so-called “clunkiness” is woven into the fabric of Monster Hunter by design as it actually adds a level of technical proficiency to the game, encouraging thoughtful timing while discouraging mindless button spamming. (Do the latter and you’ll quickly find out what kitty carting means.)

In Monster Hunter Ho, er, 4, Capcom decided to add a bit more fluidity to its field movement by making changes to how characters move from lower to higher elevations. If the change in elevation isn’t super high, for example, you no longer need to press a button to scale a raised platform. Just continue running toward a short ridge and you will automatically climb while maintaining movement. Conversely, you can continue running even if you jump from a significantly higher area to a lower area. It doesn’t seem like a huge jump — pardon the pun — gameplay-wise but this is actually a good segue to arguably the biggest addition to the series in terms of attack mechanics: jump attacks.

Jump attacks: By hitting the attack button when you’re catching some air, you can perform a jump attack. It doesn’t look like much but if you successfully use it to land a strike on a specific part of a monster like, say, Tigrex, then you can knock it down temporarily to give you a chance to go all Shadow of the Colossus on the poor beast and mount it. As with Capcom game Dragon’s Dogma, you’ll need to alternate between attacking the monster and holding on for dear life. Fill up the blue gauge on display while doing so and you’ll stun the monster long enough for you or your team to unload attacks on its weak spots.

Bug staff: Another big addition to Monster Hunter 4 is a weapon called the “souchuukon” [操虫棍] (not to be confused with anime’s super creepy fixture, the “rorikon”) or bug tamer staff. One thing you’ll notice is that attacks with this weapon are quite fast by monster hunter standards. It’s main feature, however, is a giant bug that rests on your right arm. During battle, you can send this bug out by using the “R” button to aim and then hitting the “X” button afterward. A more advanced use of the weapon is to target a monster while holding the “R” button and then letting go to mark it. Once the mark is in place, you can then send the bug out to target a monster and it will give you a status buff upon its return, which is signified by a colored effect that emanates from your hunter. White boosts speed, orange/yellow boosts defense, red boosts attack and green boosts HP. The buff you get changes based on the monster and even what part you mark. Getting an attack boost also appears to change your attack combos with the weapon, which gets flashier. Buffs can be stacked as well. If that wasn’t enough, you can also use this weapon to launch yourself into the air without the need for an elevated jumping point. Not sure what the damage is like for this weapon but I expect it to be used widely by people interested in self-buffing and triggering jump attacks.

Dragon cart: OK, this wasn’t from the developer video but given my obvious love of kitty carts, I just had to include it. According to the official Monster Hunter site, you can now create a Rathalos-inspired cart for your felvines (or “airu” for purists) to use in battle. Called the “Nekoshiki Karyuusha” or Cat-type Fire Dragon Cart, this sucker not only looks cool but it also comes with tank treads and a huge gun that fires ginormous nuts. Yes, it’s a freaking nut cannon that fires freaking huge nuts. Needless to say, I’ll be first in line at the kitty cart dealership.

So there you have it, the key additions to Monster Hunter 4. Frankly, these changes have the potential to create the biggest impact on the the game’s mechanics since the addition of improved hit boxes, so I’m both curious and excited to see how it all plays out. Needless to say, given the release of Monster Hunter 4 combined with the arrival of Monster Hunter Ultimate in the West, March certainly can’t come soon enough.

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