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Why must Monster Hunter 4 be visually ugly?
by Marco Magnani on 04/11/13 05:18:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Browsing through some video game communities on the Internet, I've often read about people expressing such Hamletic doubts. Why is Capcom not developing a Monster Hunter entry for the powerful HD platforms? Why waste a series with such a huge potential on handhelds? At a first glance, these might seem silly, if not shallow, questions. In fact, they hide a dissatisfaction which is difficult to get rid of and, in my opinion, harmful for the industry as a whole. I took Monster Hunter as a primary example, but the same goes for IP like Dragon Quest and Pokémon.

The average Western video gamer wants everything, and very quickly. He (or she) is not used to waiting anymore, while accepting anti-customer practices that elsewhere would have shaken the industry; just think about entire portions of gameplay sold as DLC, or games that people are unable to play because servers crashed.

In the meanwhile, this type of video gamer has been amazed by those beautiful HD graphics. He asks himself, then, why a series as Monster Hunter still has to take the next big step, so to show gorgeous new assets, and perfect textures. He's wondering why, but he's not acknowledging the value the game brings with itself; he doesn't know all the elements that made the IP so popular among Japanese (for example, local co-op, a bit like Pokémon in the '90s).

I'm going against the grain: Monster Hunter must be as it is now. Monster Hunter is really becoming the emblem of those video gamers that are genuinely interested in the gameplay, more than any other visual frill. This (quite numerous) fringe of people is properly weighting the technical aspects of games, and at the same time dedicates time and passion to  this hobby --  they're not the same as gamers playing Farmville. Monster Hunter clearly shows that a not-so-beautiful game can attract millions of video gamers.

The plain truth is that Monster Hunter is visually poor because it has yet to be released on a powerful hardware (at least for what concerns mothership entries). Its history is closely related to the popularity gained in Japan, where Monster Hunter means handheld platform. Nintendo was smart enough to secure the IP on its devices, with a fourth new chapter slated for Summer on 3DS.

Previosuly, Monster Hunter was released on PS2, where it was almost ignored by Western video gamers. On PSP and Wii, instead, it built a quite dedicated following. Hence, Monster Hunter fans know well what the game has to offer: content and strategic action, not just graphics. Whoever is complaining about the visual aspect of Monster Hunter is underestimating the game itself, at first. Then, he is sending a distorted signal to software houses (by voting with his money) and to those who are reading his comments: in order to be enjoyed, a game must be inevitably beautiful.

Actually, Monster Hunter is not ugly. It's probably one of the best looking games on 3DS, as it was on PSP and Wii. It comes from technological limits, but also from creativity and a precise idea of how to develop gameplay. Many people don't understand that software houses cannot always offer the top of the top, under every aspect.

A brand new Monster Hunter for a powerful hardware might be partially, or totally, different: it would require much more effort, and a higher risk in terms of financial resources; then, it is not granted that Western games would care (Dragon's Dogma sold quite poorly outside Japan).

The reasoning can be extended to Dragon Quest, and to its presence on Nintendo handheld platforms. Square Enix's beloved jRPG has never been the top notch in terms of graphics, except with Dragon Quest VIII on PS2. The series is still the icon of the traditional Japanese role-playing game, and it will be as such, HD graphics or not. Being on DS, or 3DS, is not a negative thing; on the contrary, portability might be considered as an added value. On the same line, there is Pokémon; Game Freak has always been reluctant in substantially updating the graphics, and it's approaching full 3D only with the sixth generation. Pokémon has millions of fans because of the deep combat and breeding system, obviously not because every monster has its own individually animated fur.

Technological progress must go on, of course. However, handheld platforms always existed, and in fact co-existed with more powerful home devices and PC. In the '90s, we had Pokémon on Game Boy, Final Fantasy on PlayStation, The Legend of Zelda on Nintendo 64 and The Elder Scrolls on PC; they all shared the same era, and all of them can be considered masterpieces, even considering different technological baselines.

Some people must realize that there exist video gamers that care more about content, and they are not scared by a poor (or less beautiful) visual aspect. Luckily, Monster Hunter, Pokémon, Dragon Quest and many others are there, to remind us that we want to play sometimes, and not only just watch a movie.


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Comments


Tom Battey
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When I was younger, I would constantly wonder why Nintendo didn't make a fully 3D Pokémon game. It seemed like such an obvious decision. Surely a 3D Pokémon would be amazing and sell a trillion copies?

Years later, playing the recent, barely-graphically-different Pokémon games, I understand why. The games are so broad and content-rich that to develop a game with the same complexity in full 3D, and HD no less, would require more money and man-hours than even Nintendo could muster.

It's the same reason we'll never actually get an HD remake of FFVII, and the same reason Capcom seem wary of releasing a fully HD Monster Hunter. To scale these games up to AAA-level visuals would necessitate a drop in complexity, otherwise the game would drown under the weight of its own budget. One cannot have one's HD cake and eat it.

And I, for one, would much rather play a visually low-fi, deviously complex game, than a fully HD shallow one.

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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Visually, the problem I had trying to play Monster Hunter on the Wii was that they were using rich textures with a lot of high-frequency content on a system with a poor resolution. Literally hurt my eyes (and I use literally in the literal sense). So I guess I disagree its one of the best looking game on the wii.

They can go with a simplistic visual style, or a cartoonish one if they want, but it should be clear and appealing. If I have trouble telling whats on the screen it *is* an issue.

Tom Battey
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You're not wrong - textures that looked fine and crisp on a PSP translated badly on and SD console upscaling to an HDTV. Everything became a blurry, muddy sort of mess. While it didn't literally hurt my eyes, it certainly wasn't nice to look at.

The problem was completely alleviated if you played on an emulator - or, more practically, play MH3U on Wii U, which has no such problems displaying textures on an HDTV!

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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Which brings us to the other reason they should make a Monster Hunter on PS3/PS4/Xbox360; people who might enjoy the gameplay won't buy a WiiU just for one game.

Tom Battey
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I agree; however, there's a stigma attached to the existing HD consoles (and likely more so with the next gen ones) that people won't accept anything short of cutting-edge graphics on them. It's a stigma which Nintendo, by repeatedly declaring themselves apart from the graphics arms-race, has mostly avoided.

I'd love it if Capcom would port MH3U to PS3/360, or even better, release MH4 on them, but it won't happen, because too many people would complain that the models/textures are too primitive for a full-price release. The alternative would be to develop a Monster Hunter game with fully HD assets, which would require vast expenditure on Capcom's part for little payoff - there's not even a proven market for an HD console-based MH game.

As unfortunate as it is, MH3U on Wii U is probably the best and only way to play MH in HD; and with MH4 appearing to be 3DS-only, it doesn't look like this will ever change.

Melanie Struthers
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It's difficult to say how many people felt MH on the Wii was unplayable, blurry, dizzying, etc... because while some people report this, many others have no problem playing the game for leisure or competition. So I think that the article's main point is also relevant to the Wii version.

Overall, the MH game is designed for the Japanese handheld market with western localization as an afterthought (for now). MH3G has been out on the 3DS in Japan for a year or more. It's interesting that even though MH3U just released for the west on 3DS and Wii U, some western gamers are already hoping for, desiring a MH4 localization in the near future.

The idea that the game could be multiplatform across consoles is interesting because the game is originally developed for as an exclusive for the 3DS. I'm not sure if they are even allowed to or if it makes financial sense given that the game is not as welcoming to beginners as most other games on the 360/PS3 platforms.

I feel like all of these points run together in this idea of graphical standards muddying what it means to be a "good game" or otherwise appreciating a "good game." It might also be part of a group of automatic/snap judgments associated with aspects of game presentation like art style, etc...

Brad Borne
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@Mathieu: I really hate hearing trash like this. Who buys a system for just one game? It's just such a dumb, loaded statement.

Especially since the PS4's user base is entirely theoretical at this point.

A W
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Good point Mathieu MarquisBolduc. You convince Capcom to bring over MH to systemes you want to play it on, and I'll convince Bungie to bring Destiny to the Wii U because I'm not going to play it on any other consoles.

Joe Zachery
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I'm sorry this article tries to use the HD Console excuse instead of having the balls to say it it really means. I want Monster Hunter on a system other than a Nintendo console. The graphics have been the same since the PS2 game. The PSP games looked just the same, and even the PC/360 Frontier game. Still uses the same PS2 type graphic engine. The fact of the matter is despite the huge install base of the PS2 in the West. The niche audience the PSP mustered in the west in general. Monster Hunter 3 Tri is the most successful Monster Hunter in the west. No westerner has cared enough until the Wii version to finally spend their money on the game. Also Monster Hunter is a Japanese franchise. That means they will decided where and when the game gets it's needed over haul. Since they would rather have it on a handheld due to it's local multiplayer experience. Capcom is the king of recycling content to save money, and then make money. Now you want to build a game from the ground up for a audience that doesn't exist. When the real constant audience is ready, and willing to buy it by the millions regardless. So I'm sorry this is the hard truth either enjoy the game in it's current state. Or give up on playing it, and try one of those free PC knock offs. Microsoft is not a viable console for the Japanese market, and Sony can't seem to sell their own consoles. With out the help of this one franchise in their homeland. So for now that franchise is on a Nintendo handheld as long as the Japanese, Capcom, and Nintendo says so.

Imagine if a Japanese gamer wrote about how Call of Duty should be changed to suit them. People be rolling on the floor laughing!

Steven Christian
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You could easily upscale the game for PS3/PS4/PC etc at little to no extra cost.

I frequently play my old PS2 games via emulator on PC with fully upscaled resolutions, AA, etc.

Since most PS2 games rely on polygons that can be scaled to any resolution, they look surprisingly good at 1080p or more, with obviously 0% extra work from the developers.

Seems like a no brainer.

A W
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Joe just got his point proven right below his post.

Melanie Struthers
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"You could easily upscale the game for PS3/PS4/PC etc at little to no extra cost."

What you're describing already exists in the form of MH3U for the Wii U. Plus it has useful added features unavailable/not-possible on PS3/PS4/PC. MH3G and MH4 were built for a handheld. People have gone out and bought a Wii U for this game, I don't see the problem.

Melanie Struthers
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I think the bigger "shock" to some is how/why a developer could invest many precious resources on a handheld project. Some people have already decided that a handheld game experience can't be as enjoyable as a console one.

Tom Battey
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And I imagine the tremendous profit each handheld iteration of Monster Hunter makes in Japan alone more than justifies the decision. The West might not understand it - though we still buy enough Pokemon games that we ought to - but that investment clearly pays off.

Ujn Hunter
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I just wish they'd make MH4 on a portable system that could play it properly... i.e. the PSP Vita. Not only would it play better, but it would look better too. I've been playing Freedom Unite on my PSP Vita and loving it with the dual analog nubs... no more claw... no craptastic add-on accessory to shoehorn in the dual analog functionality into a system that was poorly designed in the first place.

Ah well... I'm loving playing my MH3U on my Wii U and can only hope that Capcom & Nintendo want to make more money and they port MH4 to the Wii U as well. If you want a pretty Monster Hunter game, import the HD Remaster of Monster Hunter Portable 3rd on the PS3. It looks amazing and you can even play it in 3D. I've been transferring my Save file back and forth between my PS3 & PSP with that game just like the current MH3U can do with the Wii U & 3DS.

Also find it funny how everyone is saying Monster Hunter on the Xbox 360 would be a joke because Japanese gamers don't like Microsoft and Capcom wouldn't waste resources to port to the Xbox 360 and that it would look ugly etc... when the Japanese Xbox 360 has like 12 iterations of a Monster Hunter game already in Monster Hunter Frontier Online.

Marco Magnani
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MHP3rd HD Ver doesn't look amazing at all, it's a way lower effort than MH3U on Wii U in terms of graphics.

Ujn Hunter
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@Marco Magnani - Well everyone has their own opinions. I think MHP3rd HD Ver looks great, especially in 3D.


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