Published: Aug 16, 2016 12:00:00 PM

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No Man's Sky and Pokemon Go's releases this summer really get you thinking: what if a game on such a scale had a game attached to it? Your mind might drift to the MMO genre, matching its scope and size.

Is that truly what you seek?

In reality, a full-sized, HD Monster Hunter game on PS4 or Xbox One is what your mind is imagining.

Let's actually consider what it would take for a PS4 Monster Hunter game to be successful?

Monster Hunter for PS4 would have to make its game systems clearer

Monster Hunter's game-loop backbone is exquisite design. It's smooth, even in its roughshod locomotion. You can run your fingers along the MH game design and get no splinters. It's so refined in the hunt / craft / hunt bigger / craft bigger flow that you'd be forgiven for thinking it's a vanilla sundae.

While it houses supreme polish all the way up to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Monster Hunter Generations, its deeper armor and skill system explanations are opaque. They don't function the way you'd imagine, even if you're an experienced player. The common terminology might be called "perks" thanks to the ubiquity of Call of Duty 4. Armor pieces in Monster Hunter carry certain positive or negative point-values. When you equip the pieces, these points are summed and can cross a threshold, whereupon the skill is activated.

No other game on the planet functions like this. Even Destiny conveyed its system with sharp UI indicators of light-levels increasing and decreasing as pieces were equipped.

Meanwhile, Monster Hunter as an admittedly unique system for managing mandatory functions for an RPG. It just needs in-game clarity.

Monster Hunter is a plush-core game. It has a huge range for either minimal players dabbling in a dino-hunt or maximal players putting in 500 hours to kill a god-beast. It's bad messaging if they can't work out a way to make their systems easier to comprehend.

The hypothetical Monster Hunter PS4 needs to maintain its soul

Weirdos without any critical taste who feed off gigantic game publishers' press-release verbiage have been tricked into believing an open world sandbox is the apex of environmental design.

These people have been tricked by marketing. They are children at the mercy of advertising copy. You can almost hear their mesh shorts and flip-flops rustle as they tremble in excitement when they discover, "You guys, Metal Gear Solid 5... is gonne be open... world!"

There is so much real estate between the landmarks of fun in most open worlds that it betrays the sense of continuity.

Monster Hunter isn't open world and it's a sensational feeling. Instead, Monster Hunter has maps for you to hunt on. Each map contains zones. Each zone has all the topography of a ski mountain's terrain park or a single-screen Mario stage. You might fight a monster there. Maybe now? Maybe in a few minutes. The zone might be empty at the moment. Zones are isolated from each other by super-fast loading screens. The loading screen shows you your map for a brief momen to help you orient yourself among the isolated zones.

This isolation is critical to the feeling of the hunt. It builds tension, crossing off potential locations. The monster isn't at the waterfall. Not at the river either. Not at the cavern. Not in the shallows, then the only other place it could be is—SUDDENLY!

Action.

These isolated zones are vital to Monster Hunter's identity. If there is a Monster Hunter game for PS4 or Xbox One, it has to maintain this design principal. Even with all the processing power, searching the individual zones for your prey is a miniature real-time strategy game you engage prior to the action kicking in. You examine the map, take a guess, and X out any you find empty.

It's unlikely Capcom would change anything in Monster Hunter's combat or gameplay loop for an HD home console version. The isolated zones is the most worrying. It's integral to the game's hunter-feeling. But it isn't in vogue, design-wise for a home console audience.

When you finally find your quarry, and you size each other up, it has to feel like you've searched all the available terrain. An open world would wound the game's hunting soul.

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The inventory management is the only other element in Monster Hunter that could be misinterpreted and falsely updated in the name of making the game more successful.

Navigating inventory items mid-battle by holding the R-button is also vital to how Monster Hunter lives and thrives. It's the thrill of throwing the clutch on your truck and changing gears. You cannot attack while switching items. It's a different, deliberate mindset. It's a commitment. However, you still have a free view at the action to get into cover or dodge enemies. Using a selection wheel in an attempt to fool you into thinking you can fight and change items at once would be misplaced effort.

Monster Hunter is a game of shifting gears:

  • Gather materials
  • Team up
  • Fight monsters
  • Press the attack
  • Fall back to regroup
  • Re-assess
  • Attack again

These are all steps in a process unique to the game. To lose them for an HD home console version in the name of reaching a wider audience would mean Capcom has learned nothing from the seemingly-impenetrable Dark Souls.

Make this Monster Hunter PS4 game with the beauty it deserves

Leave it to the Japanese developers to add detail where you'd least expect. Each trinket, blade, and bit of toothy monster saliva is rendered with as much fidelity as possible in the portable Monster Hunter games.

The design to Monster Hunter is brilliant. There is nothing else like it. Capcom has clearly drawn influence from:

  • Cavemen
  • Arthurian knights
  • Steampunk
  • Mesoamerican mythology
  • Japanese animation
  • Zoology

It's all modeled appropriately to make the influences fit.

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Monster Hunter deserves to be beautiful. It's so confident in its design. People will see it and accept it. The audience is ready for an HD Monster Hunter.

What about Monster Hunter Nintendo NX EDITION?

You could not be more right. If the Nintendo NX is a portable console with dock for your television and breakaway controllers, as rumored, Monster Hunter could not be a more ideal fit. Never mind the ultra-powered PS4 Neo and Xbox Scorpio. Monster Hunter lives in the vibrant versatillity afforded by portability.

While it cannot reach the ubiquity of Pokemon Go, wouldn't it be great if everyone was playing a portal game that actually had a game you could jag around with, instead of a Google map with an interactive Pokemon overlay?

Nintendo NX might be the answer.

-- Alex Crumb
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