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Monster Hunter 4 devs detail the new 3D hunting experience

The final PR blitz is on in Japan for Monster Hunter 4, out Sept. 13 in Japan and all but guaranteed to be a system-selling mega-hit over there. The new issue of Famitsu obliged by kicking off a multi-part interview with the three main developers behind the title, including producer Ryozo Tsujimoto, director Kaname Fujioka and main designer Yuya Tokuda, to find out exactly what they hope to do with the fourth main game in the sprawling action RPG series.

"There were three concepts we considered in making MH4," Fujioka said. "First, we had to reconsider the action aspect in order to pursue the fun of the gameplay. Next, we had to rethink Monster Hunter as a tool for communication. Finally, we needed to expand the world setting of the series. I've always been thinking about how we could make the the world of the MH series plant some real roots."

Monster Hunter 3 introduced underwater stages and other novelties, but with MH4, Fujioka and his team are aiming to provide a richer overall fighting experience, one that takes advantage of the 3D landscape. "We introduced underwater in order to expand on the sorts of situations you'd see with the action," Tsujimoto said. "With this game, though, we're thinking about how we can expand on the action itself, the types of action you see on the ground."

"For the development team," added Tokuda, "we felt we'd be hitting the wall if all we did was give you more monsters. So instead we're trying to give you more action, and I think that's a good thing."

"When working on the MH series," Fujioka noted, "there's one thing I always keep in mind. That thing is having the game look fun when someone else is playing it. We figured that, instead of flat landscapes, having valleys and different tiers of terrain and letting you look up and down upon them would add more variation to the action and seem a lot more fun. We knew it'd be difficult [to implement in MH], but if we could work that into the gameplay, we thought it'd be a major new weapon for MH4."

Along those lines, Monster Hunter 4 is the first in the series to let hunters attack in midair, as well as perform moves like latching on to larger foes. "The most important thing is that the controls feel good for the player," Fujioka said, "so with that in consideration, we're reworking the behavior of the hunters and the monsters. Having it feel good is really vital for us. You can jump down from higher points in this game, for example, but it's only natural that you'd want to attack in midair while you're at it, right? Having it feel good in a natural way like that is important to me. During development you often hear things like 'If there's no gameplay to it, then why's it in the spec?', but I think instinctual desires, like wanting to climb up walls or execute jumping attacks, are also important to pay attention to."

Of course, implementing something like this into a video game isn't a completely straightforward process. "It's the job of designers like me to get requests like that from the director into the gameplay," Tokuda said. "We had to consider what kind of payoff jump attacks would give. We thought about boosting the amount of damage jump attacks give you, but the concept of damage isn't something you can easily see here, so it's hard to see what payoff it could have. So we needed a way to bring the message across clearly, and that's why you can latch on to monsters now. That, and if the monsters have latch-on attacks, then why shouldn't players, too?"

"Introducing these latch-on attacks really changes the reaction people have to the game's new emphasis on a truly 3D landscape," Tsujimoto added. "All of a sudden they say things like 'I want to go up as high as I can from here! I want to go take a ride on as many monsters as I can!'"

It's an exciting concept for MH fans, no doubt, but one that some gamers may have difficulty getting used to at first. It's a concern that Tsujimoto understand, "but once you try it, you'll find that's not the case," he said. "In fact, it gives you more freedom to leverage your own abilities. If you're up high, then you can try to latch on to foes; if you're down low, then maybe attacking from that point will help you avoid tail attacks. Implementing this creates the sort of '3D hunting' we were aiming for, and I think we really hit the mark there."

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