Capcom has long wanted to penetrate the Western market to the same extent it has with the Japanese market for Monster Hunter since the series inception, but for most of the franchise’s life, it was simply unable to do so. Being a largely handheld-based franchise that had an extreme learning curve played a big portion in the Capcom’s inability to capture the Western market. Suddenly, with the advent of the second Monster Hunter title to release on the 3DS, everything started to change. The franchise was growing more popular in the West, more so than ever before. With the 3DS having such a large pool of players, combined with the handful of quality of life changes Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate made, the series found its footing. While Monster Hunter Generations would be the game to follow Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, it wouldn’t be the title that built upon the lessons learned from the Western market. That claim would be reserved for the current most popular game in the franchise, Monster Hunter World.
Monster Hunter World took most of the portions of the franchise that many found distasteful and removed or streamlined them to such an extent that the title became not only the best selling of the franchise in both the West and the East but also Capcom’s best selling game, period. Unfortunately, Capcom being Capcom, they look to be either making an extremely smart decision or an extremely misguided one for the franchise in their announcement of Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate.
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is the expanded version of Monster Hunter Generations. Traditionally in Japan, the Monster Hunter series has followed a pattern of releasing a new title and then—usually a year later—releasing an expanded version. In regards to Monster Hunter Generations, known as Monster Hunter X (pronounced as ‘cross’) in Japan, it was followed by an enhanced version called Monster Hunter XX (pronounced as ‘double cross’). Monster Hunter XX released March 2017 on 3DS with a Switch version releasing a few months afterward. Finally, Monster Hunter World would release in all major territories in January 2018.For the West, this release schedule (illustrated below) looks a little different and is the main source of the confusion in both Capcom’s decision making and consumers trying to understand where they can jump into the series.
For the West (specifically the U.S.A in this case) Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (the previous title) is releasing after Monster Hunter World (the most recent title); causing a world of confusion.
Welcome to the Land of Confusion
For those whose first exposure to the series is Monster Hunter World, this late release of Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate puts a wrench in understanding the series. Monster Hunter before the introduction of Monster Hunter World was a much harder, complicated, and all-around unfriendly game by comparison. In addition to these changes, there is the more obvious, graphical difference between both titles. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is a scaled up version of Monster Hunter Generations, a 3DS title. With this, there are certain concessions made in both design and looks. Monster Hunter World, on the other hand, is built around being a home console entry, so its design and looks match that experience.
For a new fan of the franchise who came onboard with Monster Hunter World, they will certainly be left confused. Not only is there a distinct difference in looks, the feel of each game’s style is different, and arguably, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate will be a step back. There will be no scout flys to guide players to the monster, there will be no merger of online and offline quests, there will be fewer explanations on how systems or monsters work, monsters will behave differently, weapons will have different move sets, combined with an even longer list of smaller differences. Of course, difference alone isn’t a cause for alarm, what makes it jarring is that it’s a notable step back.
Scout flys create a way of directing the player, through the environment to find the monsters, as opposed to searching aimlessly and hoping to mark them with a paintball to track them. Merging online and offline quests result in less overlap in progress and content. There is no system in place to teach players what is weak to a monster and what parts can potentially be broken without an extraneous amount of data gathering. Weapons such as the Gunlance will go back to having desperately dated move-sets and counterintuitive mechanics (Ex. Heat Gauge). All of these changes and many many more are going to make a new player from Monster Hunter World have a less than stellar experience when they dive into Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate.
This brings up a big question in regards to Capcom’s plans. Is Capcom just doing this for a quick sale or is Capcom testing the waters for Monster Hunter on the Switch? What remains true regardless of either of these intents, is that it’s still just confusing for everyone.
The first and arguably most obvious reason for Capcom to bring this game so late to the Western market is to simply make some quick money. Capcom knows that fans of the franchise were disappointed to learn that the title would be moving to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One after it has been on the 3DS and other Nintendo consoles for so long. As a way to appease and tap into that market, Capcom had an easy candidate to fill that role, Monster Hunter XX. Having already been developed in Japan and partially localized in the West already, it serves as the perfect game to bring over to the West, after all, the only work needed to be done is localization.
With Capcom taking this route though, it is signaling that all those confusion problems mentioned earlier in regards to fans of the franchise and outsiders are an acceptable risk (or never considered it). The money made from this decision will outweigh whatever fallout and confusion that will come to the brand as a whole.
The other potential reason for Capcom wanting to localize this title so late to the West is to test the waters. Monster Hunter World was the best selling game in Capcom’s history, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a potential secondary market for the franchise that may exist on Switch. If the Switch player base is found to enjoy Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate on a level that Capcom finds acceptable, it might become the home of a different type of Monster Hunter. As a series, Monster Hunter already has two teams working on entries to the franchise; one team worked on Monster Hunter World, while another on Monster Hunter Generations. While one team takes the game in the direction of Monster Hunter World that focuses on a home console based experience, the team for Monster Hunter Generations focuses on a more portable like experience.
Regardless of either of these potential reasons, the issue of confusion still exists simply because of how this was done. If Capcom had made a concerted effort in splitting the franchises up into these two different paths in a chronologically sound manner, this discussion wouldn’t need to exist. Instead, Capcom is taking the cheaper path but bringing with it a world of confusion that a franchise such as Monster Hunter doesn’t need any more of. New players and potential players to the series are simply going to be confused. Potential players to the franchise are going to think Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is the latest and greatest addition to the series, while new players whose first entry to the series was Monster Hunter World is going to be left scratching their head why Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate seems worse than Monster Hunter World, even though it released later.
Hopefully, the fallout Capcom receives by doing this is minimal, but it’s obvious there will be some confusion.