A little look at… MonHun Nikki: Pokapoka Airou Mura DX

I wasn’t planning on blogging about this one but seeing as I’ve been banging on about it on Twitter an awful lot it didn’t seem fair to not talk about a game that’s been eating up so much of my free time!

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What we have here is basically Animal Crossing + Patapon + Monster Hunter, and it’s a testament to the strength of Monster Hunter’s setting that it can receive such an extreme makeover and yet still remain totally recognisable and faithful to the Kut Ku-bothering main series.

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While there are still plenty of monsters to hunt the focus this time is on building a successful and happy airou-filled village, which in real terms means an awful lot of material farming, a bit of fetching-and-carrying, and winning the odd pugi race. It starts off a bit slow as your village is rather empty and you’re left on your own to do all the manual labour, but it really doesn’t take very long at all to bring some new cats in to help out, and then before you know it you’re building a guild, expanding your bug-catching area, and sending other airou off in their hot air balloon to grab some super-rare items for you.

As your options open up the more mundane tasks are automatically passed over to other villagers, meaning you can spend more time worrying about which outfit you’ll wear today or chasing after some of the more esoteric items than fishing or mining.

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Oh, I should probably mention a bit about the hunting too! Hunting takes place on a 2D plane that scrolls from left to right, and with the exception of scroll-locked boss areas you can only ever move forwards towards the goal line, not back. Quests will sound familiar to series veterans – kill five Ranpos, collect so many mushrooms – that sort of thing, although how it’s accomplished is very different from regular Monster Hunting as your team of up to twelve cats will give you three options to choose from depending on what’s around them: If an enemy’s nearby the choices may be “Attack” “Trim” (for body parts) or “Move forward” whereas a blue mushroom will instead throw up options such as “Eat” “Harvest” or even “Throw away”. If none of the current actions are what you’re after you can make them bring up another three with a toot on your hunting horn (R button), although as you’d expect herding cats isn’t the most straightforward of tasks.

This hands-off approach sounds more than a bit woolly but it actually works very well, and the organised chaos it brings to the game suits the setting well. You can also pull off some clever combinations while hunting – throwing nitroshrooms at enemies to injure them, spotting hidden Gigi before they ambush you, bringing along a chef-type Airou to cook food before eating – there’s a lot of unexpected but very welcome depth in there to keep you thinking.

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As hopefully most of you will be aware long before the 3DS “Deluxe” version I’m playing came out the game was released on the PSP in both standard and “G” editions but there’s not really much difference between them when it comes down to it – the 3DS version definitely has more stuff in it, but not so much so that the PSP version’s now redundant. There’s no real difference in the graphics either bar the 3DS version being 3D-enabled (which if you’re like me you’ll turn on for a second, go “Ooh!” then turn off because it makes your eyes feel funny). So the recommendation is this: Play whichever version you can get your paws on, because this game’s a lot of fun!