It's impossible not to compare Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate to most the recent entry in the series, Monster Hunter World. The comparison doesn't do the new Nintendo Switch release any favors. Ultimate technically isn't a new game for the series. Generations Ultimate is half-remake and half-port of the Nintendo 3DS' Monster Hunter Generations from back in 2015.
Ultimate does add a few new bells and whistles, the most important being a new rank of monster, G Rank. Ultimate is largely the same game as the 3DS version though. It's a very jarring experience to move from the polished and beautiful environments of Monster Hunter World to the janky obtuseness of Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. Ultimate is a three year-old game (from a rightfully abandoned era) made for a system that is far less powerful and impressive than its current home and tt shows in all the worst ways.
The structure and basic gameplay loop of Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is evident from the name alone. Upon starting a new game players are tasked with building their own hunter. This hunter is then thrown out into Monster Hunter's world and tasked with killing (or "studying") as many beasts as possible and using their hides to create better weapons and armor. There is a vague connecting story to Ultimate but it's really all about the hunt.
The reason that the Monster Hunter series has continued to endure is because that central gameplay loop is so strong and rewarding. Even with all of Ultimate's shortcomings, the game gets the monster fights right. Ultimate truly lives up to its descriptor when it comes to the number of beasts too. There are about 93 monsters to hunt down and it takes about 60 hours to fight through the main campaign, but that can easily be doubled or tripled for the dedicated hunter.
The amount of content in Ultimate is impressive and bound to appeal to longtime fans. However, the central issue for Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is that it's a game built only to appeal that hardcore sect. There are some tutorial missions at the beginning of Ultimate but not nearly enough to fully inform newcomers or keep them engaged. Ultimate runs down the very basics of combat, usually through lengthy readable descriptions, but does nothing to explain the nuances of the mechanics - nuances that are essential to success. There is some joy in the discovery and the learning process of encountering a new monster in the wild, their attack patterns and when to strike them is always gratifying. Those moments of joy are buried under hours of tedium in most cases.
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is 20% thrilling hunts and 80% mind-numbing grinding and while this won't come as too much of a surprise to the Monster Hunter faithful, casual or mildly interested fans will likely find this unacceptable. Ultimate requires hours upon hours of exploring landscapes to search for hundreds of resources. It's a full time job and not a particularly enthralling hobby either because Ultimate is a visually ugly game.
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate can't help that it started life on the 3DS and it shows. This is a very old looking game. There's been some effort to add HD polish and the graphics are better on Switch than 3DS but it's hardly a visual feast. Textures are flat and unappealing, character models are underwhelming, and even the monsters don't look that majestic. Ultimate is the rare Switch game that looks better in handheld mode because the lower resolution screen hides the imperfections. The Nintendo Switch doesn't have the hardware of the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 but Ultimate is downright depressing looking compared to Super Mario Odyssey whose T-Rex is substantially better looking than any of the beasts in Ultimate.
It is a little bit harsh to compare Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate to the best and brightest of the Nintendo Switch. Ultimate isn't, nor is it pretending to be, a brand-new game. In a lot of ways Ultimate is treated like an expansion to the Nintendo 3DS game and players are even the option to transfer their data from the original Generations over to Ultimate. Ultimate is the only Monster Hunter experience for Nintendo Switch owners and it has the misfortune to be released in the same year as Monster Hunter World.
Monster Hunter World was built from the ground up to bring in new Monster Hunter fans and the franchise formula received tons of quality-of-life improvements that made it much more fun to play. Grinding was still present but the process wasn't as time consuming or off-putting as it is in Ultimate. World didn't hold players' hands through the process but it was welcoming and clear. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate simply isn't.
The same criticisms can be applied to exploration. Where Monster Hunter World was set in a mostly open-world setting with a hub world used to access new environments in a relatively seamless fashion, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate employs a structure with multiple hub worlds where hunting grounds aren't easily traversable. Maps are broken up into bite-sized chunks and each section is separated by a loading screen.
For many fans Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate being an old game with a slight facelift isn't going to matter. Hardcore fans of Monster Hunter know exactly what they're getting out of Ultimate and have long grown used to the series' quirks and frustrations. So, if you enjoyed previous Monster Hunter entries before Monster Hunter World, there's no reason to not play Ultimate.
New hunters need not apply. There are much better games on the Nintendo Switch to occupy Monster Hunter newbies. There are certainly some rewards to be found in Ultimate's high demands but they're not substantial enough and it's smarter bet to invest the full retail price of this one in a Xbox One, PlayStation, or PC to play Monster Hunter World.
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is available now on Nintendo Switch for $59.99. Screen Rant was provided a copy for review.