Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Xbox One Reveal, A New Podcast, and Defiance!  


Links: So, like, the Xbox One happened.

At this point, I'm sure that anyone who cares has already seen plenty of coverage on Microsoft's new machine, although there are many, many questions that will remain unanswered until E3.

It's always watching...
In any event, I was on-site for the big reveal, and if you’d like to see my particular take on things, I covered it for Wired. You can click to read my interview with MS veep Phil Harrison, and you can also click to read a general narrative about what it was like to be there on the big day.

In other linky news, the new @Gamecritics Podcast is now available for your listening pleasure. Hosted by our thoroughly British man-about-town Sinan Kubba (@Shoinan), the usual crew discusses the most overrated and most underrated games of the generation. You may recall that I was asking Twitter for input on this subject several weeks ago, but the original recording got delayed for various reasons. If you were one of the people who chipped in some votes, here are the results you've been waiting for.


Games: Although I didn't originally intend to cover it, I ended up with the task of reviewing Defiance on 360 - a third-person shooter MMO with links to the new program currently airing on SyFy.  I hadn't heard anything good about it and I'm not someone who plays MMOs, but that's the way things go sometimes.

As preparation for the review, the wife and I sat down to watch the first couple of episodes of the show for background, and we were pleasantly surprised. Although I don't think anyone would say that it's stunningly original, the writing was good and so was the premise: eight alien races take a one-way trip to Earth in search of sanctuary, and their arrival causes planetary upheaval. Thirty years after these events, the world is a very different place and the show is about people trying to get along and make a place for themselves. It's very reminiscent of a frontier Western, except the bad guys have laser guns and the good guys are scaly.

The SyFy cast
With that positive experience under my belt, I moved onto the game, and I was surprised to find that it was actually... a great time.

To make a long story short, Defiance (the game) is a third-person open-worlder that has a standard single player campaign and a whole lot of supporting content. On top of this comes the MMO layer - players can come and go as they please, joining you to help out if they are so inclined, or simply driving on by if they have another goal in mind.

Nothing organized, everybody just shows up!
It's all very freewheeling and loose, with a big focus on fun and action. Players are free to swap between any weapons they like, there are tons of enemies to shoot, and it's pretty fantastic to be going about your business and then suddenly find yourself with three or four friendlies pop up as backup after they saw that you needed some help. As soon as things settle down, everyone goes their separate ways and there's no fighting over loot or messing around trying to coordinate the next quest.

The game also offers continuous events called ‘Arkfalls’, which tie into the show. Basically, there are tons of spaceships drifting dead in orbit, and when one of them crashes, there are resources and items to be had. The game signals when something is up for grabs, and every player in the area rushes towards it to defeat the swarms of bad guys protecting the goods, working together towards a common goal. It's a blast to have fifteen or twenty players coming together in ad-hoc fashion to beat back a swarm of bugs -- the fighting is frenetic and the screen is filled with activity.

Run enemies over in vehicles! Shoot 'em! Whatevs!
I've heard some people say that they've had problems with the game, but it’s apparently been patched several times since release on April 2 of this year, and I haven't had any issues apart from the occasional minor hiccup. I'm guessing that the development team has been working overtime stabilizing things and polishing things up, and I've got no complaints from a technical perspective.

Defiance is currently free-to-play via Steam during the holiday weekend, and the 360/PS3 versions are on sale. There are definitely some rough edges to the experience and I'm not crazy about a few of the MMO aspects, but the core experience is super solid and it's been nothing but fun to play once I got the game properly installed and figured out what was what. Recommended!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The NextBox, Review Links, 3DS'ing and Sanctum 2  


News: Tomorrow is Microsoft's big ‘NextBox’ reveal, and I will be in attendance, covering it for Wired online. What will it actually be called? Will it always be online? Will they still care about Kinect?

Expect to see all of these questions answered and more, quite soon... As for me, I just want to see some really killer games. Fingers crossed!


Links: It's been a while since I updated, so there are a fair number of recent features I should take the time to mention.

> The latest podcast went up. The topic was the recent Tomb Raider reboot, and we were honored to have @OverlordRor and @Mahkia as guests. (Also, we've already recorded the next episode, so that one should be up quite soon - the topic is on the most overrated/underrated games of the past generation, and discussion got fairly heated...)

> Interview commando @CFloydTweets spoke to Ted Price of Insomniac about their upcoming game, Fuse.

> I recently reviewed DarkStalkers Resurrection on PSN, and it's pretty awesome.

> New-to-GC writer @TayoDK took on the brutally tough indie La-Mulana.

> @ApricotSushi was unhappy with the latest Hakuoki.

> Snappy dressin' parkour dude @CoreyMotley takes a 2nd on Crysis 3.

> @xMattieBrice played the latest Corpse Party and wasn't very impressed.


Games: I haven't had a ton of time to play games lately, but I have squeezed in a few things…

First up, I just completed The Starship Damrey on 3DS. It's basically a point-in-click spooky atmosphere game set in space. It avoids most of the rubbish puzzles that this genre seems to thrive on, and it's fairly short - expect a playtime of around three hours or so, depending on if and when you get stuck. 

The Starship Damrey
The entire game hinges on its story so I won't spoil it here, but I thought it ended well and I was satisfied overall. Look for that review coming soon.

Also on the 3DS, I finally got around to Aero Porter by Yoot Saito. Much like his other works, it's thoroughly insane, yet it never stops being engaging and interesting in spite of the rough edges. This title puts you in the role of a person who’s in charge of making sure that passenger bags get on the correct plane at an airport. 

Aero Porter
It's a hell of a lot harder than it sounds because the bags spin around circular carousels, and shunting something to its correct destination will inevitably send something else to the wrong one. I have a few issues with some of the game elements being hard to read visually, but it's been tough to put it down.

Finally, I’m still working my way through Sanctum 2 on XBLA. The easiest way to describe it is that it's a First-Person Shooter that takes place in a series of Tower Defense maps. Although neither of these genres are ones that I enjoy in general, putting the two of them together produces something that's definitely greater than the sum of its parts. 

Sanctum 2
I like the strategy of placing towers and blocks to guide the path of incoming monsters, and I love the ability to personally start kicking ass if my towers aren't getting the job done. I've always hated the feelings of passivity and helplessness when plans go wrong in standard TD games, so this one is definitely what the doctor ordered. Production values are a little rough and it's definitely easier to get through with friends (up to four can play together) than it is solo, but still really enjoying it either way.

And finally-finally, a quick Monster Hunter update. I completed the campaign a while ago and have been making my way through G-Rank. I solo’d long enough to make a couple of suits of armor, and once that was done, I decided to start limiting my play two nights and weekends with other people. 

Dark Miralis
After two hundred hours (most of that in the 1P campaign) it was definitely time to start focusing on some review games for a while. I've still got my eye on Mark of a Hero, Alatreon and Dark Miralis, but I'll have to patiently work towards them, rather than trying to plow ahead at full speed.


Capcom, a leading worldwide developer and publisher of video games, today confirmed that 
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies will be available to purchase digitally on Nintendo 3DS™ across Europe and North America in Fall 2013.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies, previously announced for the West as Ace Attorney™ 5, sees the return of courtroom hero Phoenix Wright. Set eight years since his last appearance in the courts, the first case inPhoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies sees the action start in a destroyed court room. It’s down to Phoenix Wright and his team at the Wright Anything Agency to discover the cause of the destruction. Players will have to battle it out in court against Gaspen Payne, the younger brother of Winston Payne from previous Ace Attorney™ titles, as they defend the accused.


Seattle Retro Gaming Expo just keeps getting bigger! Not only is SRGE at the
Seattle Center this year, but we will also be featuring panels from collectors, journalists, and industry
experts in the gaming world. Panels will be scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday during the show.
SRGE is excited to announce our 2013 panels:

● ChipTunes with Arcade Armageddon
○ Our show partners talk about chiptune music and how it’s produced. http://w w w
● Playstation Collecting 101 with Gabe Hayward
○ Gabe is an avid playstation collector and has even gone so far as to collect different serial number PS1's to
have every variant hardw are revision. Come see w hat hidden gems exists for the Playstation 1 and 2!
● Video Game Collecting on a Budget with John Hancock
○ John Hancock is a long-time video game collector, enthusiast, and historian - by w hich w e mean he has
entirely too many games that he never stops talking about. He has been a visible face for the retro gaming
crow d for some years, mainly because he is usually hovering, vulture-like, over the rarest thing on a given
vendors booth. We're reasonably sure he has some kind of psychic game radar.
● Survival Horror with Ryan Payton
○ Ryan Payton is founder of Seattle-based Camouflaj, the studio behind the first major kickstarter success
story for videogames, RÉPUBLIQUE. He began his career in Tokyo as a producer on Konami's METAL GEAR
SOLID 4, and w as then recruited by Microsoft to return home to Seattle and direct HALO 4. After three years
at Microsoft, Ryan surprised the industry by announcing his departure to establish his ow n independent
game studio, Camouflaj.
● Breaking into the Game Industry
○ Dan Callan, Ray Almaden and Paul Ehreth discuss their experience in the game industry. They w ill share tips
on how best to start a career in this grow ing industry and take questions from attendees.
● Retronauts Live!
○ Bob Mackey, Jeremy Parish and Ray Barnolt host a live podcast at SRGE! This w ill be their first stop after
raising over $55,000 on Kickstarter to fund the much loved Retronauts Podcast.
● Retrogame Roadshow with Chris Kohler
○ Chris Kohler is a video game journalist and editor w ho has w ritten for several publications in the past decade,
including Wired, Animerica, Official Nintendo Magazine and He is also a published author of tw o
books. His first book, Pow er-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life, w as published
by Brady Games in 2004. His second book, Retro Gaming Hacks, w as published by O'Reilly Media in 2005.
Kohler is currently a resident of San Francisco, California, w here he w orks for Wired, running the gaming
blog Game|Life and the podcast Good Job, Brain!


CCP Games, the leading independent developer of massively multiplayer games, today launched 
DUST 514, the world's first free-to-play, multiplayer first-person shooter on a console. The battle for dominance of the EVE Universe escalates to new heights today as DUST mercenaries forge their paths to fame and fortune in a PlayStation ®3 exclusive. 

Launch is only the beginning of the journey for DUST 514 players. As with CCP’s first game, EVE Online®,DUST 514 is an ever-evolving game as a service, built on the technical foundation and experience CCP has gathered over the past decade. New features, content, and upgrades are planned for years to come, beginning with an update in June and additional major releases throughout 2013. All updates to DUST 514 come at no cost, truly keeping the game free-to-play for all players.

DUST 514 is a new breed of first-person shooter, which in addition to tight gunplay features a path to unlimited dropsuit fittings and customization options, taking the player to new dimensions of character progression. The end result is a unique tactical advantage that will allow mercenaries to push DUST 514 beyond the bounds set by the game’s creators, and arm them with the ability to impact their war on a galactic scale.

DUST 514 is also fully integrated with the notorious sci-fi setting of EVE Online, a massive game universe that recently surpassed a half-million subscribers worldwide and which has been growing and expanding for a decade.Together, DUST 514 and EVE Online offer a combined sandbox of unprecedented intergalactic scale, with the outcome of ground battles impacting the persistent universe of EVE and shifting the tide of war for legions of participants. Mercenaries can gain advantage by coordinating with starship pilots in EVE Online, calling in devastating orbital strikes against opposing squads.


Tired of dithering between action and strategic thinking? Deep Silver now combines both aspects in one game: Ride to Hell: Route 666 lets players experience the whole lifestyle of biker gangs, but those who want to dominate the infamous Route 66 need to act smart. In this new trailer, different classes of gang members and enemies are explained as well as how to arrange formations and how to finish off opposing bikers in close combat. Set up your team, choose your weapons and hit the road! Ride to Hell: Route 666 is scheduled for release on the PlayStation® Store and on Xbox Live® as an arcade game for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft this summer.

Ride to Hell: Route 666 is set within the Ride to Hell universe, a world of bare-knuckle violence, and rip-roaring motorcycles. Later this year the setting will be extended by two further titles featuring the unique and incomparable biker lifestyle; Ride to Hell: Retribution and Ride to Hell: Beatdown.

Ride to Hell: Retribution tells the story of a lone rider, Jake Conway, a man with either a gun in his hand or a girl on his lap (and on more than one occasion both!). He’s on a merciless path of revenge against a brutal biker gang called The Devil’s Hand, armed to the teeth with an arsenal of deadly weapons to enact his vengeance on foot and on bike. The only law Jake answers to is his own.  Hit hard, ride fast and leave 'em in the dust starting June 2013 for Xbox 360, Windows® PC, and PlayStation®3.

The Ride to Hell universe will be rounded out with Ride to Hell: Beatdown, a rock’n’roll brawler set to light up the mobile space, on the go! More details on this title will follow soon.

Ride to Hell: Retribution is developed by Eutechnyx, Ride to Hell: Route 666 by Black Forest Games.

For more information about the Ride to Hell universe, please visit



Van Helsing Hunter’s Lair


Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. announced 
METAL GEAR SOLID: THE LEGACY COLLECTION will be available in North America and South America on July 9, 2013.

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the METAL GEAR SOLID franchise, this PlayStation®3 exclusive package will include METAL GEAR SOLID, METAL GEAR SOLID 2: HD Edition, METAL GEAR SOLID 3: HD Edition (which includes the original MSX versions of METAL GEAR and METAL GEAR 2), METAL GEAR SOLID: Peace Walker HD Edition, METAL GEAR SOLID: VR MISSIONS, METAL GEAR SOLID 4: Trophy Edition and two Ashley Wood digital graphic novels which will be released for the first time in North America.  In addition, the collection will include an all-new 100 page art book highlighting marketing art from across the globe, spanning the profound 25 year history of the esteemed franchise.

METAL GEAR SOLID: THE LEGACY COLLECTION will be available on July 9 for $49.99 for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system.

For more information, please visit:


Friday, May 10, 2013

Black Rock Shooter, Hellraid, and No Mo' Comix  


I haven't completed my own testimonial for Monster Hunter yet and I've got a few other things that need attending to first, so in the meantime, let's get back to the normal format… I'm sure @Nightdreamer will be happy, at least. 


Games: So, my Soul Sacrifice (Vita) review went up, and it’s been… well, let’s just say, less than popular with the fans. Frankly, I thought it was mind-numbingly boring despite some great concepts, but I appear to be in the minority on this one. Your mileage may vary.

Moving on, I’ve heard absolutely no one talking about Black Rock Shooter: The Game, but it was just released by NIS America and it's currently available on the PSN store for $20. (designed for PSP, but compatible with Vita.) I just completed it yesterday, and I have to say, I had an absolute blast with it. It's a very small, focused game that feels perfect for playing on the go, and there are a lot of very smart design decisions on display. 

Putting the anime story aside for the moment (which actually wasn't all that bad) the big hook that sold me was the combat system - the main character is anchored to the foreground while enemies populate the background. Before they attack, they flash, giving the player a chance to either block or dodge to the other side of the screen. In return, the player can use a standard weapon or one of many specials that can be assigned based on preference.

It's a little tough to describe, but once you get the hang of how the game operates during combat, it feels just wonderful to play... I found myself often in a groove and my fingers would pleasantly autopilot during each fight in a semi-flow state. I love, love, love this combat system.

The rest of the game is quite nice. The art direction is good, the streamlined nature of the core structure was smart, and there’s a good amount of replay since missions are quite short and there are different layers of objectives to complete for those who want to get their money's worth.

My full review is coming soon, but this tiny little project is definitely one of my favorite games of the year so far. Big thumbs up.

In other games news... well, I guess I don't have much to report. It's been a busy week, and apart from catching a few quests in Monster Hunter while I'm out and about, I haven't had a lot of time to play anything. Hopefully that's going to change next week... I'll be looking into Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, doing some quick hits on a couple of iOS titles, and I'm hoping to spend some time with Metro: Last Light as well.

Heads up - haven’t played Papo & Yo because you don’t have a PS3? No problem, it just hit Steam a little while ago. Here’s my review of this noteworthy, autobiographical experiment, and if you Steam stuff, then you should go play it yourself, posthaste. 

For all the beautiful, intelligent Sherlock Holmes (by Frogwares) fans, check this video… If you’ve played the older titles, you will be STUNNED by the upgrade. Crimes & Punishments is looking goooood.

Oh, one last thing on the topic of games: I just got wind of Techland’s new title, Hellraid

If they were putting their “A” team on this and their “B” team (or, uh, some interns) on Dead Island: Riptide, that would explain why it came out so poorly… Riptide aside, Hellraid is looking promising. I’ve got no info apart from what’s in this trailer, but I’m verrrry intrigued…


Events: The Independent Games Festival is coming to Seattle on June 8 from 10 AM to 5 PM, and it's a totally free event. There will be a number of big-name speakers giving talks, and lots of indie stuff to check out. If you're interested, you can register (again, for free) at this website.


Comics: I haven't talked about comics for while, probably because I haven't read any for a while... I had a semi-unfortunate situation happen at my local shop so I stopped buying for a bit, and I have to be totally honest -- after skipping my regular reads for a month or two, I found that I really didn't miss them all that much.

I think part of it is that there’s just a lot of mediocre comics out there, and another part is that comics these days (mediocre or otherwise) are pretty damned expensive.

I can remember going to the comic shop when I was a kid and picking up some books for fifty or seventy-five cents each. The average book I was reading these days is a lot closer to three or four dollars apiece, and when it only takes me five minutes (or less) to go through a single issue, that's not a very good ratio of dollars-to-entertainment.

Long story short, it’s too much money for not enough bang. I’ll still pick up some collections and read in bulk when there’s a good story to be had, but I think I’m done with the monthlies for now.


The unveiling of the North American game cover for Dragon's Crown puts the vibrant, watercolor-esque art style of renowned game artist and Vanillaware president George Kamitani on full display. Brave adventurers who pre-order the 2D multiplayer hack-and-slash beat 'em up will also receive the Dragon's Crown Artworks: a limited edition soft-cover art book. 

The Artworks will be 64 pages of full-color illustrations from Dragon's Crown. This includes intricate drawings of the characters in the game, lush environment backgrounds, and descriptions from the artist himself. Also included in the art book will be commissioned illustrations of the Dragon's Crown universe from three prominent Japanese video game artists: Akira Yasuda (Akiman), Kinu Nishimura, and Gouda Cheese (BENGUS).  

Dragon's Crown will be exclusive to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita systems for $49.99 and $39.99 respectively and is available for pre-orders now from major retailers. The game is not yet rated. More details about the game will be revealed in the future, with updates on the officialDragon's Crown website at:


Cryptozoic Entertainment, developer and publisher of board and card games, has launched a Kickstarter to seek final polish funding for their upcoming project, titled HEX: Shards of Fate. Cryptozoic describes HEX: Shards of Fate as the world’s first Massively Multiplayer Online Trading Card Game. The Kickstarter project is now live at, and includes an amazing tiered system of rewards for project backers.

A completely unique gaming experience, HEX: Shards of Fate was created from the ground up as a digital trading card game, free from the restrictions that come from being shackled to physical trading cards. HEX: Shards of Fate combines the amazing community and storytelling aspects of a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) with the compelling collectable and strategic game play of a trading card game (TCG) to create an entirely new gaming experience. Players will make their way through the dynamic MMO world featuring champions, dungeons, raids, and epic gear. Cards can be found while battling within the world or purchased in 15 card Booster Packs. 

The magic of HEX: Shards of Fate comes from the digital nature of the game. Not only are player’s in-game avatars able to level up across a range of stats, but the cards themselves have unique attributes as well. Each card has a “double back” which reveals digital challenges and achievements for that card. Cards also have socketed slots for adding gems that fundamentally change how the card plays, allowing players to modify and individualize their collection to suit their play style, with billions of potential results.

Kickstarter supporters of HEX: Shards of Fate will be provided with a variety of unique collectable rewards including Beta invites for early access to the game. Depending on their pledge level, backers can receive exclusive cards only available through the Kickstarter campaign, customizable sleeves, starter sets, booster packs, in-game bonuses such as increased loot drops and special equipment, exclusive access to tournaments and much more. At the highest level, “Producer Tier” backers will receive executive producer credit, a vanity card and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create their own personalized trading card.

Cryptozoic’s goal is to have the beta begin in late summer 2013, including Player versus Player (PvP) gameplay, tournaments and the first set of collectable Booster Packs, along with single player arena battles and character modifications.  In late fall, Cryptozoic will unleash HEX: Shards of Fate in its entirety, including dozens of Player versus Environment (PvE) dungeons with epic bosses, hundreds of Booster Pack cards and extensive customization elements for characters.
To learn more information about HEX: Shards of Fate and Cryptozoic’s vision, please visit the KIckstarter page at


SGC, the Dallas-based gaming convention, is set to make its illustrious return to gaming culture June 21st - 23rd. THAT'S LESS THAN 50 DAYS AWAY!!!

Check out our Guest List! – including notable industry personalities like Adam Sessler, Jim Sterling, Lisa Foiles, The Angry Video Game Nerd, and more!!!

Have you seen our Vendor List?! – covering everything from apparel to good ol’ fashion games, we will host over 60 booths in a 20,000 square foot vending space.

What’s the Schedule looking like? – we have a ton of exciting panels, musical acts, and gaming tournaments scheduled for SGC!

We look forward to seeing you in June!


And in a new twist for the PR section, here are some trailers, presented without comment:

Saints Row IV – The PAX East Demo (multi)

Resident Evil: Revelations – The WiiU special features


Monday, May 6, 2013

The Monster Hunter Testimonials, Day Four!  


Although it's been slightly delayed (darn you, real life!) I'm quite happy to present the final round of Monster Hunter testimonials! Well, the last round from people who aren't me, anyway. I'm going to close out the series with my own words on the game, but I'm still cooking those up.

For now, please enjoy these final entries from my friends and readers!


I've never understood grinding.

That's not to say I haven't done it in games. I’ve certainly fought the same few monsters over and over again, waiting for levels to pop or rare items to drop, but it's never something I've sought out or particularly enjoyed - there's a reason I haven't played an FF game since 7.

I'm the type of person who, when forced to grind in JRPGs, always looks for a workaround - like using rubber bands and carefully placed weights to trigger an endless series of fights I can automatically win and then just letting the game sit for a few hours.

Really, I'd do anything to keep from having to watch some spiky-haired person kill the same monster over and over again. This antipathy has bled over into games with loot drops - even if a game is fun, I could never quite grasp the attraction of sifting through a dozen swords/guns and trying to determine which of them was slightly better-suited to my play style. I'd essentially cut myself off from entire genres of games.

Then I discovered Monster Hunter Freedom Unite.

I was completely spun by the revelation that scouring a map for a few pieces of ore could be a thrill. I would never have occurred to me that I could love fighting the same monster four times in a row just to grab a few more of its fangs. What turned me around? The core gameplay mechanics.

It's impossible to say too many good things about Monster Hunter's combat mechanics and enemy AI. The developers have created monsters that - due to their vast changes in size and appearance - each feel unique, despite the fact that they frequently draw from a common moveset.

Fighting any large monster in Monster Hunter is a challenge, but a rewarding one - not just because of the visceral thrill of defeating an imposing foe, but because the game does a great job of laying out the stakes: take this thing down and next time it'll be a little easier, because you'll have put together armour and weapons every bit as tough as the creature you sliced the parts off of.

That's why grinding for parts not only works in Monster Hunter, but actually enriches the experience.

The fights are always good, but the loot/crafting mechanic adds another level of depth - the player chooses which monster they want to fight, and it's always with a concrete goal in mind. There's no intangible 'experience points' being earned, just a chunk torn off the sea serpent that was just slaughtered.

Fighting monsters never feels like an obligation to move the characters forward so that they can further the plot - it's an end in and of itself, giving every fight the kind of gravity that most games only manage in a few action setpieces, and every beast conquered feels like an unmatched accomplishment.

When Monster Hunter tells me that I'm going to need six Dragon Claws to build a new sword, intellectually I know that it's no different than any JRPG telling me to go and find a hundred thousand experience points, but the developers have so inexorably tied the absolutely best parts of their game to what would, in any other title, be total drudgery, that I'm unable to object to the demand.

100K XP is a wall that content is hiding behind. Six Dragon Claws? That's a challenge to be met.

…Not to mention a perfectly good excuse to play some more Monster Hunter.

-- by Dan Weissenberger, @GC_Danny


I originally came into Monster Hunter way back on PS2, with the very first game.

Even back then it just felt different. There was no magic, no spells, no flying boots... instead it was a game about you vs. the monster.

A number of months later I imported MH2 on PS2, and my love for the game really cemented. It was a pain to play and translate on the fly, but eventually I was hunting with the craziest of them. Since then, I've played every MH they've brought over to America. 

In all the years I've been playing, in all the versions, the core joys stay the same. Monster Hunter is a game about seeing a monster, learning how it thinks, and eventually making a hat out of it.

The monster will not give up that hat easily, so instead of just buying the best sword or axe, you have to become better. Your character doesn't level up, so it's on you to gain skill. Each new area, each new monster is a new skill set to learn.

There's little in gaming quite as epic as the first time a new monster rears its head -- the first time you see Rathalos roar or see Fatalis fly down from the sky, you know you are in for a serious battle. Then again, you might run into the Kirin and underestimate just how deadly that bloody horse is.

Monster hunter isn't perfect. The controls could use some work, it's a slow starter (a problem with many crafting centered games), and occasionally the random number generator hates you when you try to loot. But, I've yet to find a game that lets me hunt giant monsters with giant swords, huge hammers, high explosives, and sonic grenades. I can't wait to see what they do with Monster Hunter 4

-- by James Barry, Editor at, and diehard Monster Hunter fan.


I’m dropped into the middle of the frigid tundra, alone, with one goal: slay a Barioth. 

If you’ve never seen one before, they look like a sabre-tooth tiger crossbred with a bat -- and, compared to him?  Well, I’m a housecat.  

I chug down a hot drink as my breath dissipates into the night air, and I’ve prepared for this hunt well.  My heavy bowgun can chamber exhaust shots to slow my target down, fire shots to take advantage of its elemental weakness, and poison shots to whittle down its relatively low HP.  But good preparation is only half the battle...

After locating the Barioth, I surprise it with a paintball.  In response, it roars with a pitch that instantly paralyzes my body.  


I immediately begin unloading fire shots on its front wings, hoping to break them and lower the beast’s speed.  We exchange blows, and soon the Barioth’s attack patterns come back to me.  My evading, blocking, and reloading all become part of a familiar, choreographed dance.

With one broken wing, the Barioth’s lunges throw it off balance.  

This small opening means I can squeeze off an extra shot each time I block or avoid one of its attacks.  He’s getting sloppy...  Perhaps realizing this, the beast hastily flees to another zone.  I chamber my exhaust shots, specially designed to rob monsters of their stamina.

Following the trail of the paintball I tagged him with for easy tracking, I locate the Barioth attempting to feed on a recently-killed herbivore.  If he finishes eating, his stamina will recover and I’ll be on the receiving end of his renewed icy wrath. I’ve got to stop him. 

I aim my shots between his eyes and fire.  Recoil rips through my body, but I have to shake him from his kill.  On the fourth shot the Barioth stumbles backwards, foaming at the mouth.  

No time to celebrate. I continue unloading shots as the beast struggles to catch its breath.  Drool runs down his amber tusks, now shattered by my assault.  

On my last round of exhaust shots, the Barioth loses consciousness, clumsily flopping to the ground.  I quickly load my Poison shots, and in no time the venom has taken hold.  When the beast regains consciousness, he immediately escapes.

Even though the effects of my paintball have worn off, I know where the Barioth is headed: his nest.  After the thrashing I gave him, the Barioth will attempt to sleep and recover his health.  

While I want to avoid letting him recover, I also know that a sleeping monster is vulnerable.  I’ll have two options: place explosives near the sleeping foe and detonate them for immense damage, or set a trap under him and capture him alive.  Unfortunately for this Barioth, I need pelts --  I’m going for the kill.

Upon locating the slumbering beast, I place two large barrels filled with gunpowder right next to his head and step away -- far away.  

My crosshairs center on the barrels.  

The tundra is deafeningly quiet now.  My numb finger wraps around the trigger and slowly squeezes. The resulting explosion is instantaneous, and deafening.  Flames leap into the sky and surge over the beast’s body.  My target has been eliminated, and I step forward proudly to carve my rewards.

When I get back to the hunter’s tavern, some friends have appeared.  They’re drinking, cheering, and talking shop.  “Up for a hunt?”, they ask.  

You bet I am.

-- by Roy Blakely, @kotowari, author of the Monster Hunter Beginner’s Guide


Still want more?

While I wasn't able to contact him with enough time for a new piece, Michael Abbott (@BrainyGamer) has written about the series several times and wanted to share. You can find some of those articles here and here.

I'll close things out next time with my own writeup, and this blog will go back to business as usual afterwards. Thanks very much to everyone who expressed such enthusiasm over hearing the stories of fellow hunters… and apologies to everyone who isn't a fan of the series, and has probably been bored to death over the last couple of weeks.  ^_^

... Or maybe you've been intrigued enough to try out one of the games for yourself? If so, I would love to hear from you about your first experience. Drop me a note and let me know!