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Japan Review Check: Monster Hunter 4

No, the image above isn't a mistake. Sure, next week marks the Japan release of Monster Hunter 4 for the 3DS, a franchise title that's all but sure to become the next blockbuster game over in Asia for weeks to come...but more importantly, this week marks the Japanese console release of Farming Simulator, perhaps the most unusual Western game to ever get the full review treatment in Weekly Famitsu magazine.

"It's more of a farm-equipment simulator than a 'farming' one per se," said Rolling Uchizawa, a freelance writer who was one of Farming Simulator's four reviewers in this week's issue. "In a way it's a shock that this hasn't been done before. The fun inherent in controlling these intricately-detailed real-life machines is sort of like what you get operating a robot; there's a real sense of excitement here. Still, there are a lot of buttons you have to use, so it's hard to get used to. Farming is overall a pretty low-key experience, but if you can enjoy that sort of diligent work..."

The game scored 32 out of 40 overall, and while Uchizawa only gave it 7 out of 10 points, Famitsu editor Reona Ebihara was far kinder, giving the bucolic rural life sim a 9. "The farming equipment is recreated down to the slightest details, which is amazing," he wrote. "Letting the player handle everything from setting up the equipment to actual operation really gives you the feeling of being in full control. As a game it's very simple, but going through the motions of agricultural work amid the rustic landscape is pretty addictive!"

As for Monster Hunter 4? That scored 38 out of 40 (two 10's and two 9's). "Seeing your base change locations as you go about your hunting life adds more of a story element to the proceedings," Ebihara said. "There's a fair amount of new content, from the weapons to the exploration elements, and it feels great. In particular, I like how you can look up or down any way you like, without having viewpoints divided up by level. The StreetPass and online co-op expand the opportunities for play here a great deal, too."

Some Japanese forum commenters were surprised that MH4 didn't score higher a perfect 40 out of 40 is something expected out of nearly any big-name franchise release from a Japanese developer these days. The main complaint seems to be that the series is getting a little too same-y in its releases.

"The game's action elements and strategy have been beefed up," Uchizawa said, "thanks to battles letting you take advantage of the landscape, ride on foes, and so on. The controls and data you get are complex, but there are more new weapons and things to explore, making for a really deep game. A sense of done-it-all-before does run through the title, but as a communication tool it's a complete package that you can play for a long time."

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