Friday, October 17, 2014

Japan's Monster Hunter honeymoon may be over

I've monitored (and participated in) Japan's love affair with Monster Hunter for most of the franchise's lifespan. From the series's ubiquitous handheld presence on Tokyo commuter trains, I've been conditioned to assume that nothing could break the spell that the "hunting action" phenomenon has woven over Japan's gaming public.

But history has taught us that, if anything is capable of souring gamers' opinions of Capcom, it's Capcom. More cynical fans of franchises like Street Fighter and Biohazard / Resident Evil have accused the publisher of squeezing money out of its customers by releasing streams of paid DLC and updating popular titles piecemeal, rather than putting an earnest effort into creating new games. Of course, Capcom isn't the only game company that does this, but its recent treatment of Street Fighter IV has been a particularly sore subject with some fans.

Now the public has turned a critical eye on Monster Hunter 4G, which came out last weekend (and which many are calling a small update to Monster Hunter 4, albeit for a ¥5800 ($54.45 US) price tag. Customer reviews on have been brutal so far:

As of Friday afternoon (Japan time), the game's customer review average is only about 2.38 stars out of 5 (after 428 reviews, more than a third of which garnered a score of 1 out of 5 stars). This is in direct contrast to the previous 3DS title in the series, Monster Hunter 4, whose ratings bar graph looks like 4G's bar graph inverted.

Players cite a number of reasons for being dissatisfied, but a recurring theme in the reviews is the overblown difficulty level. Capcom often allows gamers to port player data from one MonHan game to the next, so that seasoned players don't have to feel like they're always starting over. But in order to challenge these players, the game apparently features quarry described by reviewers as too fast, too strong and cheap. Quests that in previous iterations were described as "challenging" have now become stressful, particularly when playing solo.

Many customers also express dissatisfaction with the amount of content. There is a consensus that the amount of value offered by MH4G deserves a price tag of about ¥1500, not ¥5800, and should have been marketed as a DLC expansion to MH4.

I'd offer my opinion but I'm not a professional game critic and the Amazon reviews have scared me enough to stop me spending my money on the game. And yes, Famitsu loved MH4G (giving it straight 9's in their Cross Review system for a total of 36 out of 40), but I haven't valued Famitsu's opinion for years, nor should anyone.

I repeat, Famitsu is garbage.

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