Japanese Culture: A Monster Hunter’s Life, Pt. 1

Since I’m in-between projects, and I wanted an excuse to blog about this, I have started a new game of Monster Hunter 2 “Dos” . This game never reached American shores on the PS2, but portable (PSP) spin-offs have long been available. Nonetheless, the PS2 version has more graphical oomph (enhanced on my PS3 system somewhat) and has well, how to put this… considerably more difficulty, especially if you’re playing offline primarily or solely, such as I am here. The monsters have double the HP that their portable counterparts do (making portable versions easier to triumph in).

Another advantage would be the PS2 (or in this case, PS3) controller. It’s easier to use for this than the PSP’s controls. This can matter.

Anyway, one advantage I have over some people is extensive Japanese reading ability which makes my life a lot easier. I have played this game a fair bit before, though I was not a master, and even though I have an old save, I tend to forget little details which makes me replay some things if I resume them after a long period of time. So, off for my refresher course!

Putting the Gathering Into Hunter-Gatherer

So, armed with my practically newborn babe alter-ego JB, I am able to skip tutorial sections due to my previous experience. This gets me straight to the point: before one may hunt, one must gather.

Monster Hunter 2’s missions are organized as “quests.” Unlike the first game, Monster Hunter 2 allows success from “main quests” and up to a pair of sub-quests. Success in any allows a successful retirement from the field back to the village/ town that your efforts are helping to grow.

The most basic of all non-tutorial quests in the game is what is lovingly known as a shroom quest, that is, a mushroom gathering quest. Go forth, young hunter, and bring back… five Special Mushrooms. (Presumably, these are delicacies in the village, as they have no other practical purpose to your hunter.)

So, off I go on a tribal canoe in a primordial world, stopping on the shores of a solitary, jungle-dominated island at a crude wharf and base camp at the bottom of a tall cliff. This is known as the Jungle map.

Dances With Stegosaurii

So, the first order of business is to go to a gather spot. This being a video game, gathering must be done in particular places on maps. These are not spelled out for you, but in most cases, there are good visual clues (i.e. visible mushrooms on the jungle floor) to guide one to gather spots, often in the shade of rock facings.

In the first section that I am to visit beyond the base camp, I go east and somewhat north past a narrow gap between rocky places to enter Jungle 1, which is filled with thin trees, more rock facing along the east side, an impassable cliff off to the east leading back to water which I cannot pass to (or fall to my doom off of, to not make this game even less fair), and, well, a big herd of herbivorous dinosaurs minding their own business.

These herbivores very strongly resemble the stegosaurus (right). Their tails can indeed be used to whip at me to attack, but the creatures are usually preoccupied with going about their business: eating plants. Indeed, I can make out a couple of junior dinosaurs among the adults.

Now, this is a primitive world. Though these are not the monsters that are to be hunted for much of the game, these are sources of food, namely, raw meat. Indeed, one of my sub-quests is to obtain four units of raw meat. I’ll leave that for later.

My first order of business, after all, is to ignore the nearly harmless dinos (most are much more dangerous) to run over to the best “gather spots” and start digging around for mushrooms. And so, this is what I do.

Using The Bounty Of The Land

Now, special mushrooms are not the only kind available to be found. Indeed, the mushrooms I find are as follows:

  • Blue Mushroom
  • Blue Mushroom #2
  • Blue Mushroom #3
  • Blue Mushroom #4
  • “Found Nothing”

When you have “found nothing,” that gather spot is exhausted until the next trip. So, err… well, that wasn’t very good at getting me close to finishing my quest, was it? I need four special mushrooms. But, blue mushrooms have an important use.

You see, a rather large amount of the items obtained in this game are obtained as a result of combination. This is often either called synthesis or, if applied more broadly, crafting. Since I’ve played before, I know a couple of things about the combining in this game, but nothing is recorded in my in-game journals about it (yet).

アオキノコ (ao kinoko), that is, blue mushrooms, have a basic and important use: they are one of two components for creating basic healing medicines, or put in more fantasy terms, healing potions. Of course, this is a Good Thing and we want more. On the other hand, if you have enough potions, blue mushrooms are space wasters in inventory.

Anyway, let’s keep these for later and continue.

At the next mushroom gather spot, the other one in Jungle 1, I have found a 二トロタケ (nitro-take). Many Japanese mushrooms end with -take, you see. So, this is a made-up mushroom: a nitroshroom, as in, nitroglycerine, an explosive liquid used in creating dynamite. This is a mushroom that has er, non-peaceful purposes within the game, but is irrelevant to the current quest.

Before leaving the gather spot, I find another “nitroshroom” and two special mushrooms. (Yay! Closer to finishing my quest.) Having exhausted both spots, I proceed to Jungle 2, north, to search for more.

Native Wildlife

The creatures in this area (during this time, i.e. the middle of the day, and this season, the middle of “summer” so to speak) resemble primitive antelope, and as such, they tend to leap, leap around as individuals. However, these creatures can attack you if you get too close and arouse their instincts. After all, you’re just a puny human. So, while I can hunt them back easily enough, they’re a nuisance for now.

Unable to finish gathering enough special mushrooms, I go to Jungle 5, a plateau overlooking a cliff leading south back to… my base camp, should I choose to go there. No point yet, though.

This time, the wildlife is large wild hogs. I say hogs because they’re not nearly as dangerous as the huge boars that I will encounter later. Once again, I avoid them and get some mushrooms.

There! Finally, five special mushrooms!! Main quest will be complete if I cash it in. So, armed with my most basic of all weapons in the game, the Hunter’s Knife, a crude iron blade along with a matching shield, I proceed to do some hog hunting and, once the first beast is felled, I begin carving it. In this case, all it coughed up was a blue mushroom. Hungry critters.

But wait! My character is hungry too! Five real-life minutes into this, my stamina has gone down to 80%. This can be remedied by eating food, and I picked up some from the “free emergency supplies” at the base camp for newbies like me. There! A quick bite, and my stamina has been replenished back to 100%. Stamina is used for many things; today, it’s mainly for running from point A to point B.

So, not to waste time, I go back to Jungle 1 to find a more reliable source of raw meat: the stegosaurus herd. Here, using a quick-draw leap slash and a flurry of quick attacks, I take down one of the creatures. Startled by the felling of one of their comrades, several others make heavy, rapid tracks out of the area and beyond my reach while I start carving up my kill, gaining one raw meat just as…

Ouch! A giant wasp stabbed me while I wasn’t looking. These annoying insects are a plague upon hunters in this game and seem to exist only to annoy us. They break apart when killed (usually…) and don’t even leave any useful parts for the hunter.

Anyway, I finish carving and gain a Dino Bone (Small). This will be useful later, because in this game, we use parts of what we hunt to create weapons to do more hunting later. Now, these small, tough bones are of limited usefulness, but I’ll take what I can get.

A few stragglers did not heed the general evacuation call because they were too far from the rest, so I take down two and one manages to escape. I finish obtaining four raw meat slabs and can take that and leave the Jungle and get paid for my trouble but… let’s try one more thing.

Dino Meat Over A Spit

I exit Jungle 1, only to return soon after to find the herbivores having returned. With my mastery of my rather weak weapon, I gain two more raw meats and return to the base camp area.

One of the supplies donated to me from the base camp is a portable cooking set for cooking dino meat, like the meat I have just received. Thus, I set up the grill and enter a minigame that depends on timing. (Cooking is about timing, see.) If I stop the spit shortly after the music ends, it is a job well done, creating well done meat. If I am too soon, I will get medium rare meat, which can be eaten, but which isn’t 100% safe to. If I am too late, I get what I obtain in my first clumsy attempt, burnt meat, which is pretty useless.

My second attempt produces medium rare. Having only the four meats I need for my subquest left, I take my winnings to the delivery point (a big red chest at the base camp) and, with my main quest completed, I return back to the camp with a few basic reward items and a bit of stone age “money” for my trouble.

Whew!

Mind you, this is as simple as this game will ever get. Having said that, it’s also the most peaceful this game will ever get.

This is simply the calm before the storm when a player starts:

  • Obtaining bones and iron ore for better weapons.
  • Beginning to combat early, weak “boss monsters.”
  • Unlocking the most basic wyvern (dragon cousin) to fight.
  • Working one’s way up past giant gorillas.
  • Fighting dragons that breathe fire and can squish you like a bug.

And it all starts with a little mushroom gathering.

J Sensei

About J Sensei

Blogger, writer, linguist, former Japanese> English translator, rusty in French, experienced in Japanese, fluent English native. Writing for Technorati.com and various blogs. Skype: jeremiah.bourque (messages always welcome). E-mail: jeremiahbourque@gmail.com
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