Monster Hunter clones: Rights and wrongs

With Monster Hunter Portable 3rd alone selling well in excess of 4 million units (and remember, that game only came out in Japan!) it’s no wonder that both the PSP and general gaming has had a few pretenders trying to take its crown. Some do it better than others though, and in this post I’m going to look at two different approaches to the Monster Hunter problem – Tecmo Koei’s Toukiden and Konami’s Frontier Gate Boost+

(I want to take a moment to point out that the impressions below are based on playable demos, although I have done some research to see if the full games have any major differences.)

We’ll start with what I feel is the right way to go about imitating Monster Hunter – creating a balanced party of four people (AI or real friends) and going out to kill giant monsters. Toukiden’s major “twist” is in the Japanese mythology coat of paint it gives battles to create some striking settings and enemies. It’s a fair bit simpler than Monster Hunter as there’s fewer weapon types and enemies lack the clever behaviour patterns of Capcom’s classic but as fights are lively and the weapons and support abilities are distinct it’s an enjoyable experience and one I’m looking forward to playing properly.

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Then we have what I feel is the wrong way to go about things; Frontier Gate apes Monster Hunter so closely in parts it almost comes across as a bootleg game, from the cute pet that wanders around your home (a hedgehog) to the herb collecting quests the village guildmaster sends you to complete… and yes, you do have to take them back to your base camp to complete the quest. Battles are very different – enemies are encountered “live” on the field but the player is then whisked away to a more traditional turn based environment – but with everything else being so similar it’s almost as if they did that just to avoid being sued.

In its own vacuum I can’t really fault much about the game; it’s beautiful and the battle system’s not bad at all… but by the time this came out (March 2013) Monster Hunter’s already sold around 10 million copies of its various PSP games in Japan, so it’s hard to ignore the similarities or treat them as a mere coincidence.

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On paper Frontier Gate should be the winner here as in truth a lot of Toukiden’s differences are cosmetic… but Toukiden’s been a lot smarter about what it copies and why it does so. When I played through Toukiden’s demo I wanted to know what the next boss would be or how see how the different weapon types would work, whereas with Frontier Gate I found myself playing “Spot the Monster Hunter influence” - if it had only been a bit more original I could have been enjoying the battles or marvelling at the (very well done) locations instead.