Monster Hunter 2/Portable
Fans of the Capcom game Monster Hunter, released for the PS2 in Japan in 2004, are being rewarded with not only a sequel, but also a ported version of the first game for the PSP! Now, Monster Hunter suffered from a number of noticeable problems and was, perhaps unfairly, held up against Phantasy Star Online (2001), but the game was a breath of fresh air in a somewhat stale market crowded with World War II first-person shooters and massively-multiplayer online RPG clones. Not only were the controls innovative, but Monster Hunter made hunting fun (and I hate hunting!).
With this in mind, series producer Tsuyoshi Tanaka and series director Kaname Fujioka set about revamping the experience and offering more bang for the consumer's buck. News on Monster Hunter 2 and Monster Hunter Portable is scarce at this time, but the two honchos have revealed some new features that will be found in both games.
Monster Hunter Portable, scheduled for release sometime in 2005 (what's left of it), is a direct port of Monster Hunter with a bit of a bonus. While Monster Hunter was geared primarily towards online play, Monster Hunter Portable promises a more in-depth single-player experience. One of the new features added to spice up the offline play is an Ailu kitchen (Ailu are those little cat people found all over Monster Hunter), a new hotspot in the village you can visit for a meal. Monster Hunter Portable will make use of the PSP's Wi-Fi connection for four-player multiplayer, however.
As for how it will perform, the two developers have stated that the PSP's 16:9 screen is actually a benefit, allowing the player to see more of the environment. The controls are another issue, though. Monster Hunter made liberal use of both of the Dualshock Analog controller's joysticks. Since the PSP is only equipped with one, we might be seeing weapon attacks being shunted onto the regular buttons, taking away from Monster Hunter's uniqueness.
As for Monster Hunter 2 for the PS2, the developers have stated that the emphasis is on "living life as a hunter", and that the game will take advantage of what was accomplished in Monster Hunter. The only downside is that characters from Monster Hunter will not carry over to Monster Hunter 2, though there is apparently some other compensation for players of the first game.
One addition to the franchise is the use of time outside of missions. There will now be a regular day and night cycle, and things like NPC reactions and monster encounters will vary depending on the time of day. The developers have also stated that the game will somehow make use of seasons, though not in real time. Of course, Monster Hunter 2 will also feature new monsters, which in turn means new weapons and armor made from their parts!
Although Monster Hunter 2's focus will be on online play, as it was with Monster Hunter, the offline experience will be beefed up too. One last bit of information given was that the developers are working on a system that "lets the user feel the existence of all the other players on the server". This wasn't elaborated upon, but it's possible that the town will be a hub for all players to gather in.
No release date has been set for Monster Hunter 2 but the developers plan to release the game soon after Monster Hunter Portable, and it is known that saved data from Monster Hunter Portable will somehow be transferable to Monster Hunter 2.