The Other Monster Hunters

The divide between Western and Japanese gamer culture is sometimes bizarre. I’m talking a lot about Monster Hunter here and it’s incredible success in Japan. The game is still received pretty mediocre in the West. One of the fascinating effects the game being so dominant in Japan is that it’s game design slowly trickles down into other products.

So there are already at least two games out which try to mimic the Monster Hunter formula. We played both of them on the podcast. One is called Lord of Arcana and a demo was recently released in the west. It actually came out just yesterday in the US and will be released next month in Europe.

This is basically Square Enix attempting to get some piece of the Monster Hunter action. They copied the 4-player co-op, item collecting, mission-based structure, segmented level structure and other details. The combat feels more RPG-ish, more round-based. I would personally see similarities to Crysis Core. But Lord of Arcana is slightly more action-oriented. There is no command menu, all commands are mapped onto buttons.

But sadly, the game didn’t convince us on our podcast. Some parts of it look very nice and polished. Others are horribly dull and boring. The levels feel like they had no time as it’s impossible to distinguish the different places from each other. Same thing with the items you collect. Everything is represented by a generic gem. It’s a far cry from the engaging item management of Monster Hunter. Generally, it feels like the game developers either ran out of time or simply didn’t understood the appeal Monster Hunter too well.

Another game that will come out in March in the west is God Eater. We played the demo just recently and it left a better impression.

It’s basically Monster Hunter combined with a Hipster/Emo/Goth version of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Again, the game copies all the Monster Hunter core mechanics. But it actually copies them well. There are some significant changes to how the combat works and there is even a more user-friendly camera control. The different setting works well to differentiate the game from Monster Hunter. Actually, the game even emphasizes the setting as the story seems to play a much more central role. We were struggling with it on our podcast due to language issues but unlike Lord of Arcana, I might be tempted to pick this one up when the translated version comes out.

It will be interesting to see how the spin-offs will fare in the west. Is the reason for Monster Hunter’s lackluster reception something deep, gameplay-specific or is it something superficial like marketing?

But we might not need to wait to figure this out as there are already two answers. The game Demon’s Souls was received very positively in the west. While it’s relationship with Monster Hunter is far less obvious, I would claim it is a game that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Monster Hunter. The second example is Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops. Again, critically acclaimed and while not a Monster Hunter clone, the resemblance is hard to deny. I mean, they even have a Monster Hunter monster as a bonus mission in there!

The fact that those two games work so well may be a hint that Capcom screwed up something with how they introduced Monster Hunter to the west initially. And so with that in mind, I’m eager to see how God Eater and Monster Hunter Portable 3rd will actually do…

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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