Since its release on the PlayStation 2 back in 2004 (2005 for PAL territories), Monster Hunter has remained a relatively obscure series in the west. It’s come a long way in 10 years, but it hasn’t achieved anywhere near the success it has in Japan, where it is a cultural phenomenon and a household name. In stark contrast, most people in western countries just give you a weird look if you ask them “Hey, do you play Monster Hunter?”
Over time, Monster Hunter has gradually come into the limelight. It hit its first big break with Monster Hunter Tri on the Nintendo Wii. Providing gamers with a relatively “hardcore” gaming experience on arguably the most accessible console of its time seemed like a no-brainer. The deal was made even more attractive with a bundle that included both the game and a Nintendo Wii Pro Controller. However, online functionality had its issues, and Monster Hunter Tri came and went with little fanfare.
Then came Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for the Wii U and the 3DS, which touted some great features, such as cross-platform save transfers. However, as the name implies, it was essentially a massive expansion pack for Monster Hunter Tri. Putting the game onto the most common console of this generation (being the 3DS) seemed like another simple recipe for success. However, again, online was a huge issue. Playing online with the 3DS was simply not possible UNLESS you owned a Wii U as well. To make things even more complicated, you also had to own an ethernet adaptor for the Wii U. This made online overly complicated for the 3DS, and left most hunters to hunt on their own, which directly counteracts some of Monster Hunter’s core appeal. If you owned the Wii U version, online worked perfectly fine. However, most players did NOT own the Wii U version, as the Wii U had a very low install base at the time. The Mario Kart 8 promotion (which rewarded players with a free game if the game was registered with Club Nintendo) did help to get more people onto Monster Hunter, although it was one of 8 very attractive choices.
Soon, we’ll see the release of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. This generation’s release is a 3DS exclusive. It also seems like the majority of the main issues in the previous entries have been eliminated. Online is native to the 3DS, for example. Now, hunters who only own a 3DS can play online with their friends, or even strangers – provided, of course, they have a stable WiFi connection.
All of that is well and good, but why do I think that this version of Monster Hunter will succeed where the others failed? Well, it all comes down to Nintendo’s attitude. They’re pushing Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate very heavily. They’ve released a special edition New 3DS XL with Monster Hunter artwork. This alone speaks volumes. These limited edition 3DS variants are generally reserved for their flagship titles. Previous models include Zelda, Yoshi, Pokemon, and Fire Emblem, among others. This says to me that Nintendo has great confidence in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.
Another more subtle, but no less important reason, is that Nintendo released an early demo of the game to certain Club Nintendo members. Not only that, but those who received a code actually received an additional THREE codes to share with their friends. This is very clever marketing on Nintendo’s behalf. By giving 4 codes instead of 1, Nintendo encouraged players to share the game with their friends. The demo itself also has a “Beginner” difficulty, helping to ease newer players into the game. To me, this demo is not only a great show of confidence, it’s also very carefully planned, ensuring that word-of-mouth does its job by advertising the game.
Feel free to disagree with me, but with the New 3DS variant and exclusive demo, Nintendo is displaying a completely different attitude with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Look around the Internet, people are talking about it everywhere. It’s frequently been mentioned on Nintendo Direct. I absolutely cannot wait for it to release.
If you need further proof, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate releases on the same day as the remake of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask… On the same day as the release of possibly Nintendo’s most requested game – that certainly says something.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate releases on February 14th.