Monster Hunter Freedom Unite: On Throwbacks, Difficulty, and Satisfaction

Monster Hunter Freedom uniteI got Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite a while ago on my Vita, played about five minutes of it, got totally overwhelmed, and gave up. The game is HUGE. Whether it’s crafting stuff, figuring out the best armour combinations (which can grant you skills, I think), or just picking a weapon that works for you, the game has tons of content and I’ve seen people say that they’ve sunk hundreds and hundreds of hours into it.

My first instinct when I come across a game like this is “I don’t get it and I don’t want to get it.” That’s a shitty attitude, I agree, but it’s hard imagining myself dedicating that much time to one game when a) there are so many other awesome games out there and b) I do not, in any way, have that much free time on my hands. Still, I’m now trying to get into it again and there’s one thing I’m starting to notice, something that hasn’t really shown up in a lot of other games I’ve played recently: Monster Hunter is weirdly satisfying in an incredibly elitist way.

“It’s hard so if you’re good at it, you are basically a god.”

What I mean is that the game rewards you for being REALLY good at fighting monsters. It doesn’t hold your hand, it doesn’t have you kill bunny rabbits for your first mission, and it certainly doesn’t pretend to be a game that you can coast through.

When I put it down after playing for my first few hours with the game, I felt exactly like I did when I finally beat Mega Man 9 (which I’ve talked about before). There’s definitely a feeling of “haha, that was so insanely hard, I’d love to see anyone else in the world do that.” Of course, tons of others have beat it, but it did feel nice to be part of that elite group.

Monster Hunter Freedom unite2

I have been killed so many times by this guy’s mutated, reject offspring.

That’s maybe what I think is so appealing to all those fanboys/fangirls over in Japan where this game has completely taken off: it’s hard so if you’re good at it, you are basically a god. Of course, when enough people are good at something, you have to be better than even them to call yourself a god again, but that’s a story for another day.

So, after dying at the hands of an idiotic velociraptor-bird-thing like twenty thousand times, I decided to look up a walkthrough. Maybe I was doing something wrong? Maybe I had missed some key tutorial that would make all this ten times easier?

My hope fell through the floor when one of the first paragraphs in the game said something along the lines of “If you think this game is too hard and you came here to find out how to make it easy, we don’t want you here. This game is for hardcore gamers only.”

 “The truth is, I probably won’t ever be a “hardcore” gamer. I have a wife, a day job, and a short attention span.”

I was stunned. Not just that anyone who writes a walkthrough could be so insensitive, but also that the attitude of being “hardcore” (i.e. not a “filthy casual“) was still a thing. Here I am thinking that drawing some imaginary line between hardcores and casuals was a thing of the past. Turns out I’m wrong about that, too.

There seems to be a re-emerging trend in video game promotion that calls attention to just exactly how HARD a game is. When I wrote my article about Olli OlliI talked a lot about how the developers made it simple and quick to restart a level because, as the trailer says repeatedly, you are going to die over and over again. This same attitude is showing up in other games of late, coming into light especially with the massive popularity of Darks Souls II.

The truth is, I probably won’t ever be a “hardcore” gamer. I have a wife, a day job, and a short attention span. What I can do is appreciate from a distance what games are trying to accomplish and try to remember the heyday of Mega Man 9 victories (and maybe the twenty-or-so hours I’m going to put into Monster Hunter Freedom Unite).

  1. I’ve noticed that that sort of game can sometimes take a few “attempts” to fully enjoy. If there’s a steep learning curve, knowing roughly what you’ll be doing and building your character accordingly makes a huge difference. I’m surprised about that “we don’t want you here” message, though. One of the things that bugs me about a lot of “hardcore” games is that they seem to have embraced the fact that people are going to look them up online: I’d much rather figure things out for myself, and resent having to either google a crafting recipe or try junk at random.


    • Yeah it kind of sucks sinking fifty hours into a game and realizing that I should have sunk more skill points into speed or some crap like that. I ran across a simliar problem when I tried to get into Vagrant Story. It was just so impossible to play without looking up a walkthrough and even then it was so complicated that I eventually just gave up from frustration. It was the first game in a long time that I actually busted out a pen and paper for to keep track of things.


      • If it’s a roguelike or something–where each playthrough is more or less randomised, the game’s not too long, and mis-levelling your character is effectively the same thing as a standard Game Over–I think that kind of complexity can work. You work out a good strategy over several attempts. If it’s one of these 100 hour epics and you spend half your time with your head in a guide, I just don’t see the appeal.


        • I totally agree. At least with games like Spelunky or Binding of Isaac there’s no massive letdown when your twenty-minute game ends badly because you didn’t get the right items. After dedicating hours to a character, though, the game better not just be broken due to me experimenting with my build.


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