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Monster Hunter Generations guide: weapons

Monster Hunter Generations revolutionized the combat of the series with the introduction of both Hunter Styles and Hunter Arts. These two features allow you to tailor-fit any and all of the game's 14 weapons to your preferred playstyle.

Earlier, we compared Monster Hunter Generations' Weapon Arts to a mechanic in a fighting game, and that's not a bad way to consider the weapons in Monster Hunter Generations. Imagine that each is like a different character. Maybe one is slow but hits like a truck, while another is blazingly fast but deals less damage per hit. The same is true of the weapons in Monster Hunter. So naturally, not every weapon is for every player. Here, we'll break down the pros and cons and unique features of each weapon, so you can decide which might be for you.

If any of the weapons seem to jive with you, we encourage you to check out the accompanying tutorial by Gaijinhunter. It will teach you the complete moveset as well as the nuances between how the weapon functions in all four styles. He's covered nearly all the weapons, so if you find his videos helpful, subscribe for more in-depth coverage of all things Monster Hunter.

Great Sword

What's good about it

The iconic Great Sword is capable of dealing massive damage with a single swing. Its sheer size allows for a decent range of attack, and you can even use it as a shield.

Its drawbacks

With the weapon drawn, your walking speed is dramatically reduced, and the weapon combos and swings very slowly. Timing is critical with the Great Sword, and getting greedy with your charge attacks is a common pitfall.

How to play

Focus on keeping your weapon sheathed until you see an opportunity to run in and draw into an attack. Hold the attack button, X, to charge up for extra damage if a big window presents itself.

Pay attention to the flashes that appear on your character, as your goal is to release right at the moment of the third flash. After a charged attack, dodge roll away, sheath your weapon and repeat.

Note that you can (and should) release a charge earlier if an attack is coming your way. For larger windows, follow up by pressing X again, then holding back on the Slidepad and X. This will put you into a second, more powerful charge attack.

Focus on hit and run tactics like this, and you'll pile the damage on faster than you'd think.

Long Sword

What's good about it

A long, thin blade with good reach and mobility. Allows for fluid evasions to be interwoven between your attacks. Maintain your momentum by attacking to build up a gauge that allows you to perform a multi-hit combo. Complete the combo to buff your blade for increased damage.

Its drawbacks

Fail to maintain your tempo — or fall in combat — and the weapon buffs you've achieved will disappear, requiring you to earn them all over again.

How to play

Use your standard combo (X, X, A, X, X, A, etc.) to build the gauge located below your HP bar. If you anticipate an attack — or need to reposition — press X+A while holding the Slide Pad in the direction you want to move to evade while slashing.

When your gauge is full, press R repeatedly to unleash your combo attack. Score the last hit in the combo to increase your weapon's damage.You can tell when you've succeeded here because the aforementioned gauge will change colors. As time goes on, this buff will wear off unless you continue to build your gauge, and complete this combo.

Repeat this process to get even stronger. Once your blade is red, you've reached your maximum potential, but you'll need to continue to maintain your gauge by attacking and landing your combo to keep the buff effect going.

Sword and Shield

What's good about it

A shortsword coupled with a small shield that allows for quick and precise attacks as well as a bit of defense.

This is the only weapon that allows you to use items such as potions and Flashbombs without sheathing first. This unique characteristic means you can get really creative by combining your attacks with tricks or using support items to buff your party.

Its drawbacks

The short blade makes reaching the body parts of larger monsters difficult. And blocking attacks, while helpful for negating some damage, will knock you back pretty far. Relatively weak attacks mean you'll need to maintain a constant flurry of attacks.

How to play

Be sure to keep your blade slathered with any of the oils purchasable in town. These can help increase your damage output, such as Affinity Oil which increases your critical hit rate. They can also be situational, like Mind's Eye Oil which prevents your weapons from being deflected from even the tough-skinned enemies.

Get in the habit of opening with the upward slash by holding R and pressing X to go into one of the weapon's stronger combos. When you are going ape, focus your blows on known weak points to deal huge damage. If a weak spot is out or reach, focus your attacks on an enemy's legs to topple it.

That said, know when to stop attacking, too. It may feel good to go ape, but it's important to break out of the attack animations if you need to go on the defensive.

Weapons with elemental and status effects benefit greatly from the Sword and Shield's fast and frequent attacks. When in a party, throw some Flashbombs and deploy a trap or consume Lifepowder to add a dash of support to your playstyle.

Dual Blades

What's good about them

Two razor sharp blades that increase your damage, alter your moveset and boost your evasive capabilities as you build and maintain momentum. Dual Blades allow you to quickly close the gap between you and an enemy, lay on a fast combo and dance around enemies to keep the pressure on. They also allow you to go into a demonic trance, known as Demon Mode, where you deal more damage and your moveset and evasive abilities are enhanced. Keep dishing out the damage in this mode to achieve Archdemon Mode, which unlocks some of the benefits of Demon Mode even when it's not active.

Their drawbacks

When you activate Demon Mode, your stamina will continuously drain. Failing to properly manage your stamina can leave you standing still as a monster rushes at you pointy-end first. Should the gauge beneath your HP bar completely drain after activating Archdemon Mode, you'll lose its effects. You'll need to build this back up by attacking in Demon Mode until you fully fill the gauge. Also, like Sword and Shield, this weapon's reach leaves something to be desired.

How to play

Get into the habit of closing the gap by pressing X+A.

Once you're stuck to a monster, unleash a few blows to get a feel for how long you can stay there before you need to evade away. Like with Sword and Shield, knowing when to stop attacking can be very important.

When you see a large opening, activate Demon Mode (R) and use your X button combo. When a large opening presents itself while you're in Demon Mode, get in really close and press X+A for a powerful combo. If at any time the monster moves out of range, or your Stamina is less than 50 percent, press R again to disengage Demon Mode. You'll also disengage Demon Mode if you completely run out of Stamina, but that's something you should avoid.

Attacking like this with Demon Mode active will fill the gauge beneath your HP bar. Once it's full, you'll enter Archdemon Mode, which grants some of the benefits of Demon Mode even when it's not active. These benefits include a speedier dodge roll and more powerful combo attacks. Maintain your gauge, and thus Archdemon Mode by activating Demon Mode to land some attacks.

Hammer

What's good about it

A bulky weapon that allows you to charge up powerful attacks by holding R to unleash big blunt damage when an opening presents itself. This is especially important since, with the hammer drawn, you'll move at a decent speed, so it's easy to move in close to unleash the hurt.

No matter how tough an enemy's skin, they can never deflect a charged Hammer attack.

Repeated blows to an enemy's head can result in a KO, immobilizing it temporarily.

Its drawbacks

The Hammer is a bit lacking for range, meaning you'll need to get in close to your target.

Charging attacks will drain your Stamina, so carefully managing this is a must. Your evasion game will need to be on point, as that is your only option for mitigating damage.

Some very large monsters only bring their head within striking range for brief moments, so your attack timing is important.

How to play

With the weapon drawn, hold R to begin building a charge. There are three charge stages which you can identify by the flash that appears on your character. Each is more powerful than the last and, should you release, will execute different attacks.

Note that for the third charge stage, the attack is a bit easier to control if you execute it standing still rather than while moving. Don't be afraid to evade (which will cancel your charge) if you need to.

If you see an opening, unleash your attack, dodge roll away, and repeat. If a large opening appears, use your triple pound combo (X, X, X) on an enemy instead of a charge attack, as it's a bit stronger than even your level three charge attack. Pay attention to your enemy's head and know where it will be during certain animations. Position yourself so you're ready to punish!

Hunting Horn

What's good about it

Like the Hammer, the Hunting Horn deals KO damage for all of its attacks. Unlike the Hammer, this weapon has great reach, meaning it's much easier to hit the heads of larger enemies.

Oh, and you can play songs during your attacks to provide some amazing buffs to you and your party. (More on that below.) Playing the songs will have you continuing to swing the weapon around, meaning with proper positioning, you can keep dishing out the damage even while rocking out.

All the horns have different songs, so memorizing which attacks play which musical notes, and knowing what order to play them in can be tough at first. Your movement speed will be very low with the weapon drawn unless you apply a specific song buff that all horns have. Once you do play that song, you'll actually move faster with your weapon drawn than any other weapon in the game.

Its drawbacks

Unlike the hammer, which mostly features pound attacks, the swings of a Hunting Horn move in broad arcs. This may require less than intuitive positioning to capitalize on the weapon's impressive reach. That's it, really.

How to play it

Always begin any hunt by drawing your weapon and pressing X twice to load up two white notes in the bar beneath your HP. Next, press R to play the song you've queued up to activate your movement speed buff. Once it has been applied, press R again for an encore to activate a second buff. Reapply this effect as soon as it wears off!

This is also a good crash course about how playing songs work, but you may not want to focus on this just yet. Initially, we'd advise getting used to the range and direction of the various attacks (A, X, X+A) when combined with different direction inputs. Once you start to get a feel for them, experiment with increasing your accuracy against the skull of a monster you're familiar fighting.

The Tetsucabra is a good choice for an early monster with a head that is a nice, big target. Once your attacks begin to connect with some consistency, pay attention to which attacks load up which color music notes. Incorporate the combos that activate the most helpful songs on your horn into your repertoire.

Lance

What's good about it

The Lance can poke down low with X, or poke up high with A. EIther way, the weapon has some good reach, which makes it easy to target enemy weak points.

Better still, it includes an impressive shield that can absorb even powerful attacks. You can also sidestep between jabs to reposition or counter enemy attacks, allowing you to punish familiar foes.

Its drawbacks

You'll completely lose your dodge roll with the weapon drawn. Instead, your evade changes to a backhop or a sidestep when woven into a combo and combined with a direction input on the Slide Pad.

Using your shield will deplete your stamina, and if it gets too low when an attack comes your way, your guard will break and the attack will hit you square in the HP bar.

Finally, movement speed with the Lance is relatively slow, so closing the gap will require some effort.

How to play:

Your bread and butter combo is A, A, A. Unlike most combos, however, the third hit has a lengthy animation as your hunter regains their footing, so you'll want to avoid letting your combo reach this third hit. Do this by weaving sidesteps and counters in between at least every second A input. To counter, hold R and press A just before you anticipate an enemy attack.

Note that you'll still attack even if there is no enemy attack to counter, so there is some room for error here. Get used to jab-jabbing-sidestepping to reposition or jab-jab-countering when you can stick to your target.

Block when necessary, and be aware that if you advance while blocking, you will recover your Stamina.

While block-advancing, press X to close the gap. Follow it up with another X to bash your target with your shield. From here you can press X again and then A to go into your bread and butter combo.

Gunlance

What's good about it

Well jeez, it nearly has all of the benefits of the Lance: powerful shield, good reach and a mixed bag of combo-able moves. Oh, and you can fire explosive shells from the tip. Those explosives superheat the pointy part of you Gunlance, causing additional damage with your melee attacks.

Its drawbacks

Explosions are fun, but like anything else: moderation is key. If you overdo your shelling, you'll lose the buff that heating your weapon provides.

Another downside to being a pyromaniac: Your weapon's sharpness will decrease quickly, meaning you'll have a bit more downtime as you chew through your supply of Whetstones.

How to use it

The Gunlance is an incredibly fluid weapon, so you'll need to experiment a bit to get an understanding of how to string your attacks together.

Holding forward on the Slide Pad while pressing X will trigger a lunge attack that's great for closing the gap.

Like the Lance, you've got a go-to three-hit combo (X, X, X) where the third hit should be used sparingly, as it's a very powerful slam that leaves you pretty open. Follow up the the first two hits with A to fire a shell, and double-tap A to reload a single shell. Follow up the slam with A to fire all your shells at once in a powerful blast.

Note the gauge beneath your HP bar, which represents your weapon's temperature and the number of shells you have loaded. You can reload all your shells by guarding with R and then pressing A, or backhopping and then pressing A.

You can sidestep after nearly every attack, which is important for repositioning and resetting your combo.

Finally, while holding R, press X+A to execute an incredibly powerful explosion called Wyvernfire.

Switch Axe

What's good about it

The Switch Axe has an enjoyable case of multiple personality disorder, where it's not sure if it wants to be a massive sweeping axe with immense range or a razor sharp blade that no earthly material can deflect. Both sound pretty darn great to us, and being able to switch forms in the middle of your combos is even better.

Its drawbacks

The Switch Axe features a gauge located beneath your HP bar that depletes when you're using sword mode. You'll have to embrace both modes to make the most of it.

Also, your movement speed becomes very slow in sword mode, so you'll have to rely heavily on evading to keep all of your blood and organs in your body.

How to play it

With the weapon drawn in axe mode, press X while advancing for a lunge with impressive range. This will be a great opener you'll use frequently.

From there, you can continue into a three-hit X combo, or press R to transform into your sword mode while also slashing.

In sword mode, combo with X attacks for great vertical range or combo with A for attacks with great horizontal reach.

From the A combo, you can press R to transform right back into the axe. Fluidly switching between modes allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds without having to focus too much on maintaining your gauge. If you do happen to deplete your gauge, you can reload with R. This has a lengthy animation so, should avoid it if possible.

No matter what mode you're in, you can interweave sidesteps after attacks by pressing B and inputting the desired direction. This is very helpful for repositioning yourself while keeping the pressure on.

Charge Blade

What's good about it

The Charge Blade has an enjoyable case of multiple per … oh, we already used that one. Ahem.

So, like the Switch Axe, the Charge Blade has two forms: a medium-sized sword that generates energy as it attacks and a long axe that uses said energy in the form of explosive charges that release when they impact with unfortunate monsters.

As if that wasn't enough, the sword pairs with a shield that can use generated energy to become more effective at blocking.

Finally, some attacks have added guard frames. So, with impeccable timing, you can negate an enemy blow while still attacking. There's a little something for everyone in the Charge Blade's mixed bag of tricks.

Its drawbacks

The weapon is very sluggish in axe mode, meaning you'll have to be a little more cautious about your transformations than you might with the Switch Axe.

Failing to transfer generated energy from your sword to your shield can result in your attacks bouncing off your target.Other than that, the only possible drawback to the Charge Blade is its relative complexity compared to the other Blademaster weapons.

How to play it

You need to build up energy in sword mode before you can make the most of the axe, so make frequent use of your A, A, A combo.

You can sidestep after any strike with B. If you follow up a sidestep with A, you'll perform the last horizontal sweeping blow in that three-hit combo. You can also hold A for a powerful two-hit slash. Either technique is a great way to generate energy.

Once the phials under your HP bar are glowing red, hold R and press A to load the energy into your weapon. The phials will then appear filled, letting you know how many axe charges you can pull off. When face to face with a monster, hold R and press X to transform to axe mode while simultaneously attacking. Your X combo doesn't expel any energy, but note that swinging away with A will deplete your charged phials, so be sure your aim is true before you let fly!

The Charge Blade has a three hit combo (A, A, A) with each attack becoming more devastating than the last.

Alternatively, you can press X+A to just perform just the last hit in the combo. This will revert you back to sword mode, which you can do in any time by simply pressing R while in axe mode.

Insect Glaive

What's good about it

The insect part of the Insect Glaive allows you to use a parasitic insect that extracts essence from your enemies and activates a number of different buffs. The glaive part allows you to strike rapid blows and literally vault across the map to mount a monster or reposition yourself.

The drawbacks

Learning to aim your insect at your target or its body parts can be a little awkward at first. You'll also need to remember which monsters (or parts of monsters) you can extract certain essence from. These are required steps to make the most out of the buffs that it can provide.

How to use it

With the weapon drawn, get a feel for launching your insect with R+X and calling it back with R+A.

Initially, make it your goal to just hit your target at all. If you do, you'll notice the beetle icon beneath your HP bar fill with a color like red or white. Now you can recall it to transfer the extract into … well, your body, somehow. Don't ask questions!

You can combine two to three different essences to achieve incredibly helpful self buffs. Experiment with different color combinations and note which parts of a monster contain which essences. As a general rule, focus on having your insect extract red essence, which you can get from the noggins of large enemies. This will grant you a super helpful power boost.

Now that you're buffed, start swinging away with your X and A combos. Both send out an absurd flurry of quick mid-range blows. Should you need to reposition or vault over a charging monster, pres R+B for an incredibly fun jumping attack. You can intersperse this in your combos to give yourself an amazing combination of power, speed, range and versatility.

Light Bowgun & Heavy Bowgun

What's good about them

Generally speaking, Bowguns allow you to keep more distance between you and your target than Blademaster weapons to. They also sport a vast assortment of ammo types, some dealing damage in different ways, some inflicting debilitating statues and some buffing or healing your party members.

The drawbacks

Aside from the complexity of understanding all the ammo types, Gunner weapons also require Gunner-specific armor, which offers about half the defense as Blademaster sets. This is a pretty massive difference in how much punishment you can take.

You'll also need to worry about things like reloading ammo, compensating for recoil and deviation.

Bowguns are complex beasts to tame, but mastering them can give you amazing power and control on hunts. Note that with a Light Bowgun drawn, you'll move and evade faster than you would with a Heavy Bowgun. You can equip Heavy Bowguns with a Shield that buffers some damage.

How to use them

Be sure to pack your pouch with Ammo before heading out on any hunt with a Bowgun. You can tell which ammo you can't load from the shop or your item box, as it will have a big ol' red X over it.

Hold L and press X or A to tab through your ammo. Reload your desired ammo by pressing X, and observe the number of rounds in the gauge beneath your HP. Avoid attempting to fire an empty bowgun, as you'll be locked in an animation that leaves you totally defenseless.

From here, you can press A to simply shoot from the hip, hold R to aim with your D-pad or tap R to enter first-person aiming. Note that with any of these options, you can follow up with an evade, which is important when dealing with charging monsters. Get used to evading and repositioning yourself so your bowgun is pointed right at any potential target.

Pay attention to the screen. If it shakes slightly when your bullet connects, you're dealing maximum damage. If not, you may be either too close or too far from your target. Get a feel for which ammo works best at which range.

For field experience, it's good to start with smaller monsters as you get used to the controls before you attempt large monsters.

Bow

What's good about it

Similar to the Hammer, the bow allows you to charge up power while moving to unleash an attack when you see a good opportunity. With a bow drawn, you'll move quickly and be able to easily hone in on enemy weak points.

Better yet, you have range on our side, as well as a number of coatings you can apply to your arrows for added effects.

The drawbacks

Like the Bowguns mentioned above, you'll have to wear Gunner armor when equipped with a Bow. This means a drastic reduction in defense compared to melee weaponry.

When charging attacks, your Stamina will continually drain until you release it. Failing to manage your Stamina properly can result in being unable to dodge, which is especially dangerous as a Gunner.

How to use it

Be sure to pack your pouch with coatings before heading out on any hunt with a Bow.

You can tell which coatings you can't load from the shop or your item box, as it will have a big ol' red X over it. Hold L and press X or A to tab through your coatings. Apply the selected coating by pressing X+A.

The small bottles that appear beneath your HP bar represent how many arrows you can fire before the effects wear off. Hold R to begin charging your attack, and note your charge level represented by the flash that appears on your character.

Tap X to finely tune your aim. In this view mode, you'll see a cone that represents the aim of your arrow. Note, however, that arrows move in arcs and begin to descend at a certain point. You'll want your arrows to connect before they begin to descend too dramatically.

Pay attention to the screen. If it shakes slightly when your arrows connects, you're dealing maximum damage. If not, you may need to either get closer or further away.

Press B without inputting a direction on the Slide Pad to hop backward, useful for adjusting how far you are from your target.

Once you're fully charged, press A to release a powerful long range attack. Focus on staying on the move while charging attacks to release them directly at enemy weak points.

Well, that about does it for the 14 weapons in Monster Hunter Generations. It's a lot to take in. But hopefully the big takeaway from all this is that you discovered a weapon that clicks with you. Or heck, maybe more than one! Honestly, that is where Monster Hunter Generations shines: being able to approach any situation with such a broad assortment of weapons and styles.