Gamers in the U.S. may be counting the minutes until Grant Theft Auto 5's release, but in Japan, they're waiting around for a different date — Sept. 14, the day Capcom's Monster Hunter 4 hits stores. Famitsu magazine is ready to oblige this demand, of course, and this week's issue wraps up the pre-launch coverage by printing an interview with the main studio heads discussing the two new weapons that made it into the sequel: the Neopteron Handler and Charge Axe.
"We were planning to have only one new weapon in the game, the Neopteron Handler," director Kaname Fujioka said, "but somewhere along the line it wound up becoming two. We wanted to have some more unique weapons, so we incorporated features like jumping and letting you use the hunting insects to power it up. In the end it became a technical weapon in nature, and with that in mind, we kind of wanted something more straightforward and instinctual to pair with that. I figured that would be better as a game."
The Handler is a strange weapon indeed, allowing you to control an insect that can suck the extract out of monsters, granting you temporary extra powers. "We just wanted something extremely unique," Fujioka explained. "We made the Charge Axe to serve as a set with the Slash Axe, but with the Neopteron Handler, we weren't restricted by anything like that. The idea of using insects to battle was something kicking around since the early days of the MH series. The world's full of creatures, after all, so a weapon that took advantage of them seemed to fit well with the setting in our minds."
Which makes sense, but how did that idea evolve into wielding bugs like this? "We had the idea of just sending some insect out to attack," Fujioka replied, "but I thought that was a bit lacking in novelty. In the end, we had the idea of sucking the extract out of monsters in order to power up the hunter, but there were all kinds of other ideas on the way to that choice. At one point you were controlling swarms of bugs. It was like 'Can we really do this in the game?'"
"There was also the fact that, since this game emphasizes 3D terrain in its stages, we thought we needed a weapon that let you jump at will," added chief designer Yuya Tokuda. "So we combined the two ideas and built a new weapon out of them. It was definitely a fair amount of work, since we needed to assign extract settings to every section of every monster in the game."
The Charge Axe, meanwhile, is actually a sword-shield combo that you can fuse together at will to form a large axe weapon. It wasn't always meant to be the natural complement of MH's Slash Axe, though. "Certainly, the MH series have featured a lot of weapon pairs that have roughly the same range while offering a different control feel," Fujioka said. "So I figured making a complement for the Slash Axe made sense, but I didn't feel it had to be an axe, either. If something else was good, that was fine with me."
So how did the sword-shield combo come about? "One idea we originally had was to combine two swords into one big one," replied Fujoka. "That went away because we felt there wasn't much point if the new weapon didn't feel any different after the combo. That led to the idea of dividing the weapon between sword and axe modes. The Slash Axe has grown to the point where you can just keep it in one mode and that's good enough, so the Charge Axe gives us a chance to offer a weapon with modes that are much more different from each other."
"The Charge Axe and Neopteron Handler are both things you've never seen in MH before," commented MH4 producer Ryozo Tsujimoto. "The Handler, in particular, is a completely new weapon concept that doesn't resemble anything else in the game. You've got just a little longer to wait before the game's release, but I hope you won't mind taking these weapons out and doing a little hunting."