For our second “conversation,” here is IceBurner, an acquaintance of mine from the western half of the United States. IceBurner is a fan without peer of the Monster Hunter video game series, a smash hit in Japan and a growing influence on an entire generation of video games. Every new hit seems to have a “Battle Giant Monsters” gameplay element. This is not a complaint; it only goes to show the influence this series has on modern gaming culture and, if you will, digital art.
I tried to break the ice without breaking Ice himself. It can be difficult for someone to just plunge into this amazing video game world, after all.
Monster Hunter Interview with IceBurner: Part 1
Q. What attracted you to the Monster Hunter franchise to begin with?
Iceburner: On the most basic level, that it was another online 4-player team-coop action-RPG (or action game) in the same vein as Phantasy Star Online.
While that provided the initial interest, the whole hunter-gatherer gameplay dynamic, the deep action-based gameplay, and the very high attention to detail in all things captured and kept my interest.
[J Sensei: Phantasy Star Online was, as the name implies, an online action RPG that could be played as a 4-player team-coop (cooperative play) game. That universe was futuristic and high tech, taking the “photon weapon” idea (think Star Wars) and mixing it with not only melee weapons, but energy guns and “magic” (techniques) grounded in the Phantasy Star role-playing game series.]
Q. What is your favorite Monster Hunter weapon, and why?
Iceburner: If you mean weapon class, then that would be lance. I found it pretty easy to use in the first Monster Hunter game. Actually when that was the only game in the series, I wasn’t very good with the other weapon types except the short sword, and that was pretty weak.
Lance’s rapid thrusting attacks and large shield mean it has an excellent mix of offensive and defensive power. When used properly it lets you wade into battle in a way other weapons can’t match. The requisite running lance charge is very damaging and can also be used effectively to get out of the way.
The special lance made from a ‘rust stone”, called “Undertaker” (or Underlayer in the Japanese version), also has what I felt was the coolest design. It’s made of interlocking bands of metal which will telescope out when unsheathed. Its tip is broken off from some fantastic ancient battle, presumably against Fatalis, the first game’s ultimate monster. Despite this it’s still nearly the strongest lance in the game and one of the most powerful weapons overall.
With the second game, Monster Hunter 2 (dos), Lances suffered a pretty hard nerf due to their lack of an un-deflectable attack. I wasn’t able to use them as much, but I still loved them and actively pursued building my favorites. There was a non-broken version of the Undertaker, called “Skyscraper”, which I absolutely had to have. Gunlance really stole the show from lances here, but I still wanted to favor them, even though they were very difficult to use.
With the third major title, Monster Hunter 3 (Tri), lances are solidly back in the game. Attacks simply bouncing off the monster isn’t a huge problem as in MH2, and there are new moves to flesh out the weapon class. You can now broadly swat small-fry bothering you, make a rush forward while blocking (with optional shield bash that deals KO damage), and there’s also a block-counterattack which can be used to press the attack under circumstances where no other weapon can. Additionally, weapons in Tri can now animate during attacks, so when you charge with Skyscraper, it spins around, literally drilling into monsters.
Q. What is the monster you have most enjoyed bringing down?
Iceburner: This one is pretty difficult to answer. Each monster has its own personality and quirks, and thus own tempo in battle, and sense of reward for defeat. I think I will have to go over this as my favorites over time. In the original Monster Hunter, I still wasn’t very good at the game. I didn’t really have a favorite monster to battle.
After I had played through In Monster Hunter 2 (dos), I had improved greatly. My favorite battle wound up being hunting Kirin at the Ancient Tower. Kirin is a small, fast unicorn-like monster that can summon lightning. In MH2(dos), it could call different patterns of lightning without different “tells” for each, making it unpredictable. Its collision was also pretty broken to the point where it was pretty much wearing an invisible snow plow, but I still enjoyed fighting it due to the “feel” of the battle.
In Monster Hunter 3 (tri), my favorite battle is definitely Diablos, although the game has been improved such that every monster is really enjoyable, except maybe Rathalos (who still just plays a jerky game of keep-away). Diablos, on the other hand, is fast, powerful, very resilient, and presents limited openings. It has some new tricks such as being able to actually cause quakes with its burrowing moves, and an insane flying tackle that’s amazing just to watch and even more fun to narrowly evade each time. When Diablos grows weak, it still has its classic trick of berserking upon practically every hit landed. It’s always a very challenging fight, but I feel it’s difficult in the ways that it should be. The pace, the energy, the sense of danger, and even the music all comes together for a fun time.