It’s an impressive success story: Having started as a niche action game for the PlayStation 2 back in 2004, Monster Hunter has since then clawed its way up to the peak of the Japanese video game industry. Millions of fans regularly meet in the online lobbies to team up and hunt monsters together. In Europe and America, while getting more popular with each installment, Monster Hunter hasn’t reached that huge prominence yet – but according to Ryozo Tsujimoto and Shintaro Kojima from Capcom, Monster Hunter Generations will be the next step in further making the series’ audience grow.

Monster Hunter Generations - Opening Cinematic Trailer4 weitere Videos

We had the chance to not only get to play the brand new installment in the long-running series, but also to talk to Ryozo Tsujimoto, Executive Producer of the Monster Hunter Series, and Shintaro Kojima, Producer of Monster Hunter Generations, for a 45-minute interview.

gamona: Monster Hunter Generations easily has the most diverse combat of any Monster Hunter game so far – you’ve even implemented four completely unique combat styles! Where has the idea come from to expand combat? What is the goal you wanted to achieve?

Tsujimoto: The series has been around for more than ten years now and we felt we’re passing this ten year mark with an opportunity to do something a little bit special with the next game and have some kind of festival feeling and celebration. Looking back at ten years of the game, so many players out there use so many different styles of playing the game. You know, even in the same weapon choice someone might be very precise with their moves while someone else might just go in there and go crazy with attacks. So the idea was basically, people already kind of do these separate styles in their own gameplay, why don't we just make it official and let them specialize their gameplay hunting style within the game as an option? That’ll bring a lot of depth to the strategy of the game. So by choosing one of these hunting styles and then choosing which hunter arts and special moves to set with your character as well, it lets you create your own unique hunter, find your own style, and it brings a whole new level to the strategy of the game.

gamona: So it’s about player choice and customization?

Tsujimoto: Yeah, that’s true, but at the same time I don’t want to leave newcomers behind. It isn’t just that we’ve made the game a lot deeper and that makes it even more intimidating for newcomers. I really hope and expect we’ll get a lot of first time players with Generations that didn’t play 4 Ultimate or the previous games. And to that end, the different styles and the different hunter arts you can set offer different opportunities for veterans compared to newcomers. If you’re a newcomer you might just find one special move and hunter art that really works for you, so you can just rely on that to get you through. There’s also things like the prowler mode that has been added where you play as a feline for the first time and it’s got different approaches like a more simplified set of commands that lets you for example use an unlimited amount of a certain item, that kind of thing. So, we really designed it not just to be a festival that rewards veterans, but also something that gives newcomers a fresh chance to come and see what the fuzz is all about.

gamona: Monster Hunter started off as a console game on PlayStation 2, switched over to the PlayStation Portable, went to Wii and Wii U with Monster Hunter Tri and 3 Ultimate and now it’s back on handhelds again. Where does it really feel “at home”? Is it more a game for the big screen or rather something to play “on the go”?

Tsujimoto: I don’t think you can say either or both because each title is really designed for the platform it’s released on. When it comes to portable ones, they are more optimized towards shorter play sessions or being able to play on the go, and then the ones that have come out on consoles before, they have been a great way to just get into the game for hours at a time on your TV screen. So even though they are all called Monster Hunter, it isn’t just like the same game coming out on different platforms. Each one is focused on the experience at hand for the console it’s on. So, I wouldn’t say that either of those is the real Monster Hunter, each one is what it is. So each one is its own experience.

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gamona: You and the whole team had great results with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Monster Hunter 4 on the Nintendo 3DS, despite the seemingly weak hardware. With new Nintendo consoles and handhelds on the horizon – without going into detail –, where would you like the series to go when many of those technical limitations are gone?

Kojima: Well, even on a specific console, I think we’ve been able to put our experience with each title to really good use. If you look at the difference between Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Monster Hunter Generations, that progression on the same 3DS console we’ve been able to learn from past experience to build in the game, to literally just use memory on the system more efficiently and push it to its limits and get more out of it, so within a single console I think we’ve really been able to improve the game as each title has come along.

Tsujimoto: As for the future - who knows what it holds? You have to work with something you know about and you need to know what you’re working on in order to get a game to be able to get together, and at the moment we’re working with the 3DS and we know it inside out and we’re confident that we were able to push it as far as we can with the current Monster Hunter Generations release. You know, the future is the future, who can say.

gamona: One reason Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate stuck with players for a long time has been the incredible quality and amount of free DLC you put out for months until last November. Will Monster Hunter Generations receive free DLC after release as well?

Kojima: Yes, we saw really great response to the DLCs that Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate had. Players were really happy they had great free additional quests and .. cat costumes and things come out on a regular basis, so we’ve really announced for Generations the Fire Emblem and Okami crossover collaboration DLC is coming and we have more coming in the future so stay tuned.

Tsujimoto: With regards to DLC, there is quite a lot of it already coming to Japan since the Japanese version launched. Unfortunately, due to licensing and rights related reasons, some of the DLC that has been released in Japan is not probably able to come to the western Monster Hunter Generations, but we thought it’ll be a shame just to have the western version have less content for those reasons, so the Fire Emblem and Okami DLC that Kojima-san just mentioned is actually Western exclusive. We’ve created it just for the western version, it hasn’t come out in Japan. We have even more Western exclusive DLC come coming down the pipeline which is something we wanted to do to fill the gap with the ones that we couldn’t bring you for reasons outside of our control. So, look forward to announcements in the coming months.

gamona: Speaking of Fire Emblem: You’ve already announced quite a number of costume and content crossovers with popular series like Fire Emblem, Mega Man and Star Fox. All of them do have one or more amiibo. Wouldn’t it be a perfect fit to somehow implement amiibo support?

Tsujimoto: Only if we can implement it in a way that actually improves the game. We don’t want to just throw something in and then tick a box that says “amiibo support”. It has to actually improve the game. If an idea or concept for that came up internally, then of course we’d consider it, but it isn’t just a feature checklist to us. We want to actually make something that benefits Monster Hunter.

gamona: You have just announced a demo for Monster Hunter Generations that will be released ahead of its official launch date. What is your attitude towards creating a demo? Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii had a demo, but it was pretty complicated and might have put some people off. Since then your attitude seemed to have changed a bit – recent demos have been more accessible. What do you have in mind when you craft a demo? What’s the first thing you think about?

Tsujimoto: We’ve learned certainly that you can’t just bring the Japanese demo to the West because the player base is a bit different and there’s a lot more first-timers for each title in the West and in Europe. When you talk about the game being complex and the demo being complex back in the day ... there’s no denying it’s a complex game, I mean that’s what the great thing about it is. It’s got this depth, and it’s got a lot of content and a lot of options and there’s always a certain amount of time from starting the game for the first time until you really find your feet with it and you’re able to get the gist with the system and become good at it. Going down that road is part of the fun of the game and getting better at it feels really great, and players dealing with that journey, that is actually part of the fun of Monster Hunter.

But of course when it comes to a demo you can’t just do the same thing. You have to get them there a little bit faster. We have learned from feedback we’ve heard from fans and the community, and as you said I think we’ve shown that as the demos have evolved. It doesn’t just have to represent what you’re gonna get if you buy the game, it also has to get you maybe a feeling of a bit of a shortcut on the road to mastering the game, to show you: “This is how much fun it will be when you get this good”, without having to already be that good. We have put together the demo in a way that there are certain kinds of support features in that aren’t necessarily in the main game, just to give you that “booster”, so that you feel better, quicker and you’ll appreciate that this is the fun the game has in store.

gamona: For the first time, a new Monster Hunter game has four flagship monsters at the same time. We can all imagine how difficult it is to come up with these unique creatures. What is it that makes a monster truly “flagship” – what properties do you have in mind?

Kojima: The main monster of a title is the one you’ll fight most often usually because the way you fight it develops over the course of a number of quests during the storyline. A main monster has to be very tough at first and you need to be overwhelmed by how strong it is, but it also needs to be obviously possible to beat, and you have this satisfaction you feel when you finally get how to hunt and to beat it. They have to look cool because they’re visually representing the title in all kinds of artwork and they often appear on the front of the package shot. In that sense, they are the hardest to design and they’re the hardest to balance and they take the most time to design and the most time to balance. We made four of them this time around, so it was very difficult.

The reason we gave ourselves that much work was because when you have one main monster, it has to represent everything at once, but when you have four main monsters, we were able to have them all be a little bit specialized. So one of them can be strongest one without being the biggest one at the same time in terms of design. So we can have a strong one and a huge one and a cool looking one and a “very technical gameplay designed, difficult to deal with” one, but they can all do that separately without having only one monster which is huge, strong, technical and cool in one thing, so that was a fun design challenge and I think it has allowed us to specialize each main monster in different ways and give them really unique looks and personalities.

gamona: After more than ten years of flagship monsters – have there ever been cases of monsters that were selected as flagships, but were then turned down in favor of others instead?

Kojima: Not in the sense that we maybe had a monster going to be the main and then in the last minute we switched it back to a normal monster and it still exists. The process of creating a main monster is so detailed that its design might have changed a lot during the process of creating it, but it still stays the main monster conceptually. What has happened though is that the design has changed so much that it looked different to how it started. So for example with Zinogre … its design at the initial stages, we weren’t sure whether we want to make a wolf or a fox, and we ended up going with the more wolf-like design. And then this time around, we were actually able to look into some of the initial concepts we had for Zinogre in its fox version, and those were developed into Mizutsune, which is kind of like a fox-snake-hybrid, it has a snake body but a foxy head. So there had been cases like that with designs for main monsters that didn’t made the cut. We were able to revisit them. The design for Mizutsune wasn’t sitting on paper as the original Zinogre design though, it’s more like elements of our original concepts have helped in forming later monster designs.

gamona: We already know that there won’t be G-Rank in Monster Hunter Generations. What’s there to keep players busy once they reached the end-game? Will there be surprises left?

Tsujimoto: As you say there’s no G-rank in Generations, but in terms of additional post-story content we do have additional variations of monsters, we’ve got the deviant versions of monsters and there’s also the hyper versions of monsters which only become available after you’ve played the story. So once you’ve got these monsters unlocked, you actually get a whole new challenge even within the same monster, and once you hunt those, you have the challenge of creating the deviant armor and weapons. That’s the way we’re bringing our end-game content this time around.

gamona: Monster Hunter is often compared to Dark Souls in terms of difficulty and the time and focus it requires to truly master it. Both have a particular appeal to them that really clicks with people – during a time when, ironically, games tend to get easier every year. Why do you think is that? Are they successful although games get easier or because of that?

Tsujimoto: I don’t really know about how to compare Monster Hunter to other games out there in the market, but Monster Hunter is an action game at heart and action games are all about reaction to what’s happening and how you process with what’s happening to your character and how you deal with it through your actions and you need to be able to know how to deal with each situation and you’re gonna make mistakes along the way when you don’t yet understand what to do. But the fun of that is in making mistakes and being able to understand why you fail, so you can then improve the next time around. And that cycle brings a great satisfaction in mastery, it’s like a sport, like it wouldn’t be fun if everyone who can just kick a football could do a curve and it would go perfectly into the net … the fun of being able to pull off that move is actually about the journey being made towards getting able to do that, you got better and better each time you tried it and you better understood what you needed to do to get that to happen and then you’re able to actually have that skill. It’s something you’ve learnt and there’s a great deal of satisfaction that comes from that. It’s obviously the toughest thing it is to balance that so that it’s neither too difficult where almost no one can get it right or so easy that everyone can do it and it’s not challenging and you don’t feel the satisfaction of having learnt it, so … that’s the balance we tried to achieve and obviously that has appealed to people because it’s clearly clicked with people that a game being fun isn’t just about anyone just running straight through to the end and anyone can see it, it’s more about the fact that you have to better yourself in order to be able to get through the game, but bettering yourself is the fun part. It’s not a punishment, it’s … you need to be able to fail and learn in order to feel satisfaction of having got better, so ... you know, it’s obviously something that appeals to a lot of people.

gamona: One last question: What is the last game you finished in your free time?

Kojima: Splatoon.

Tsujimoto: I’m personally really enjoying the Ace Attorney games..

gamona: Thank you very much for the interview!