What’s this? A game where you actually hunt scary monsters, and not run away in terror you say? I’m in.
Let’s face it; the world is a supremely scary place. I’m not talking about growing up and suddenly finding everything more daunting and/or more expensive to ensure continual survival (although that could be classed as a somewhat more terrifying idea). No, I’m talking about getting back to nature; sharks and lions and things, which are perfectly capable of killing and eating someone like a human sausage roll. Perhaps it’s some primal instinct of ours, but for some of us seeing a Great White zoom out of the water and tear an innocent kite surfer to bits is enough to empty bladders at an extraordinary rate. Of course, to counteract this the human race does tend to shoot things that it doesn’t like, but that’s just part of the predator/prey cycle, right? In any case, Monster Hunter, released here in 2005, had us doing something of that nature, but with a bit of a twist…
…hmm. On second thoughts, it may be wiser to delay following that for the moment, and set a little scene for you, dear readers. In this game you were a hunter; a lowly little hunter, in a lonely village ( or town; offline and online respectively), perhaps just like any other. But you had ambition, you wanted to be the best hunter there ever could be! So, yeah, essentially you got given quests by the village elder, a strange little man around whose visage popped up various speech bubbles asking you to do stuff. There was a quaint little blacksmiths, from whence you could buy/make armour and weapons, a shop selling item such as traps and bombs, as well a man who could sell the player books about your prey. You also owned a little house, where you could eat, sleep and make merry (well, only sleep really, but it’s all about imagination y’know), and change your appearance etc. It was all rather nice, safe and comforting, until you stepped into the scary world and encountered…
…monsters! Ah, there we are. Yes, as the name of the game suggests, you were a monster hunter, tasked with tracking down all manner of hideous and rather large beings across the different sections of the map. Some of these tasks just involved collecting resources from these nefarious beasts, while others involved a full-on monster hunt! These monsters ranged from docile, hadrosaur-like herbivores, to the almighty and fearsome wyverns. Yes, wyverns: massive dragon type beasties that could kill you as soon as accidently treading on you. Your armour and weapons could be augmented with these resources to create truly cool-looking pieces of equipment. It wasn’t just about hacking and slashing the poor thing to bits, however, as it took skill and cunning too; luring down the larger species with raw meat was a viable option, then trapping it and setting off a large barrel bomb in its face also worked a treat. Of course, this needed to be repeated several times with the big fellas, for they did not come down easily.
The thing is, it was all rather terrifying to play, at least for me (who can’t look a scary game in the eye without bursting into tears). Although you were armed to the teeth with blades and gunpowder, it was somehow still hard to shake off the horrible feeling that you were going to be something’s lunch. I recall an early mission where Ihad to steal an egg from a Rathalos (one of the strongest wyverns; why I was forced to encounter it near the start of the game you could well wonder). Ihad journeyed through the different zones, ending up at the one marked as just outside the Rathalos nest. I was going in all sneaky-like, quite aware of what could be breathing down my neck in the blink of an eye, when all of a sudden this huge, red, angry wyvern lands some way in front of me. As if that wasn’t terrifying enough, it then proceeded to charge across the ground at great speed, larger than London, mouth open wide with fangs screaming ‘please let me use you as a chew toy’. Long story short, I ran for it, and kept running for it every time this happened. It didn’t always happen though, as sometimes it would be sleeping in its nest-, which was of course even worse when it woke up!
This feeling of sheer terror was great though, as without it Monster Hunter may have been just a mediocre hunting experience where the only element of danger was eventually running out of health against tediously hard to kill monsters. As it is, it was an amazing game with an equally amazing array of monsters, great and slightly smaller, which was pleasantly distracting from real life. And thank goodness it isn’t real life I say…brr…monsters (looks furtively over shoulder).
So it turns out I did a bit of running away from scary monsters. Ok, a lot of running. Fine, fine, most of my playing time was spent on the run. Don’t judge me! You weren’t there!