After first learning that the Nintendo Switch is region-free, Monster Hunter was the series that popped into my mind. There’s always a huge localization gap between the Japanese and North American release of each title, if it even gets localized at all. I’ve put in countless hours on each entry since Monster Hunter Tri on released on Wii in 2010, so I figured I would be able to import Monster Hunter XX Nintendo Switch Ver. and play it reasonably well. What I found was one of the most addicting titles available on Switch.
Monster Hunter XX was originally released on Nintendo 3DS in Japan. It’s sort of a greatest hits compilation of Monster Hunter, building off what Capcom did with Monster Hunter Generations on 3DS.
Let’s get it out of the way early: Monster Hunter XX Switch is a port of the 3DS version. It’s a pretty straightforward port, too. This means that the game essentially looks like an upscaled 3DS game — blurry textures and low-detail backgrounds are really noticeable in docked and undocked mode. At least animations for monsters and player attacks are smooth and the frame rate is solid.
Still, it is pretty disappointing that Capcom chose to port a 3DS game instead of making a Monster Hunter title ground-up for Switch, or at least put more effort into making this game look better. I honestly think that Monster Hunter Tri Ultimate, a game that came out in the early days of the Wii U, looks better than Monster Hunter XX Switch.
The central gameplay loop in Monster Hunter is simple and a ton of fun: prep, hunt, craft, repeat. This is a game that’s all about taking down huge monsters and turning them into giant swords and awesome-looking armor. Each monster you fight provides unique armor and weapon sets that you can craft from materials farmed from their dead bodies. The more powerful sets come from the bigger monsters, and oftentimes it takes hours of grinding to get the materials required to make those sets.
The amount of grinding in Monster Hunter XX is likely to turn a lot of people away. It’s not the kind of grinding found in classic RPG’s, though; where turn-based grinding quickly turns into mindless button-mashing, grinding in Monster Hunter is always a high-intensity affair. That’s because the combat in Monster Hunter is some of the best third-person action out there.
There are a couple different hub villages where you can take quests. The story is an afterthought — which is a good thing, because all of the text is in Japanese anyway. Quests are broken down into different ranks, starting at one star, and essentially act as difficulty barriers for the 129 monsters in the game. Monsters you can hunt in rank one are a lot weaker than the monsters you’ll find at rank three. The same thing goes for environments: you’ll start off hunting in simple jungles or plains, and then move to tundras and volcanoes that require you to consume items that combat the negative status effects given by those harsh environments.
There are 14 different weapon types in Monster Hunter XX:
Each weapon type offers a different way to hunt — and, of course, each one has a bunch of unique variations and stats based on the monsters that their materials came from.
I mostly used the Sword and Shield in Monster Hunter Tri for Wii. It’s a good weapon type for quick slashes and dodges. Combat consists of a lot of dodging — every monster in the game has its own unique patterns and attacks that it uses. The AI is really great; the monsters in Monster Hunter XX feel like living creatures reacting realistically to people hunting them with giant weapons. The monsters even show fatigue in their mannerisms; there aren’t enemy health bars, so when a monster is running low on health they’ll start to lumber about, trip, and pause to catch their breath.
My favorite weapon to use in Monster Hunter XX is the Longsword, mostly because every single one in the game looks awesome. The Longsword lets you get off relatively swift attacks while also charging up a “spirit gauge” for special attacks. The best part about the spirit gauge isn’t even the powerful attacks you can unleash with it — it’s that with each stage you reach, your sword will glow with a different color.
Monster Hunter XX also allows you to choose between several different hunter styles that go beyond the type of weapon you use. One lets you conjure random items in battle, like potions or rations, and another lets you perfectly evade attacks if a button is pressed at the right moment. The best hunter art, though, is called the aerial style. It allows you to perform all sorts of jumps and flips as you attack monsters. This is extremely helpful for two reasons: it increases your ability to evade attacks, and you can mount monsters and stab them repeatedly. It also looks damn cool.
Monster Hunter XX is the first game in the series where I spent a significant amount of time doing quests offline; however, the core of the hunting experience is online where you can join up to three other hunters in online lobbies and hunt monsters together. The online quests work the same way as offline ones do: monsters are divided up into different ranks, and you have to hunt your way through each rank. The only difference playing online is that the difficulty curve is much higher since you have three other hunters with you.
I’ve never experienced any lag or disconnects regardless of whether I’m playing with my Switch connected via ethernet or through WiFi. It is going to take some trial and error getting into online matches, though, since all of the menus are in Japanese.
This game is going to be really hard to navigate if you don’t speak Japanese and if you’ve never played a Monster Hunter title before. The Google Translate app for Android works decently, but there will still be a lot of trial and error to get the hang of the menus. And even then, there’s still a significant portion of Monster Hunter XX that will be inaccessible. I have no idea how to properly equip and level up my Palico, a cat-like companion for offline hunts, so I don’t even bother.
For anyone that’s looking to import, this guide on Kiranico is incredibly helpful to sort out what materials are needed to each armor piece and weapon, and where to find those materials.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: The reviewer purchased a copy of the game for this review.