Whilst at the MCM Expo in London under the Gamehounds banner, I spoke to Leo Tan: UK PR Manager for Capcom about Monster Hunter on the PSP. With me were my Digital Cowboys co-host Tony Atkins and from Superhappyfuntimeshow – Chris O Regan.
GH: Leo. We’re very much Monster Hunter outsiders. We’ve heard about it on various podcasts and we’ve read about it, but we’re trying to get to the heart of what the game’s about. What do you think is the appeal is for the core fanbase?
CAPCOM: That’s a tough one. It’s such a huge game. There’s so much to do in it. It’s got an MMO style meta-game that spans for hundreds and hundreds of hours, only there’s no subscription. To get the most out of it you need to meet up with other people and play. If you have just one other person to play with it becomes this incredible, life-changing experience. If I had to summerise it, I’d say “Hit big monsters with big weapons.”
SHFTS: I’ll confess, I’ve been playing this since it first came out on the PS2 and I really like it on the PSP. The problem is getting people together.
CAPCOM: Funny you should say that. (He hands us a flyer) We’re opening a dedicated space in central London from the first of July to the first of September. It’s three stories, two minutes walk from Tottenham Court tube station, where you will be able to just come in, meet other Monster Hunter players and just play.
SHFTS: Agreed that multiplayer is very important but it’s also a solid single player game. Bit of a dungeon crawling loot-gatherer.
CAPCOM: I would kind of describe it like Phantasy Star Online. It’s a few maps and they change subtly along with the monsters and it’s a case of finding monsters and killing them, then getting better weapons to kill bigger ones. Good for Diablo players who like loot tables. But unlike PSO the combat isn’t just pressing X, X, X. I like Phantasy Star and the loot table stuff is brilliant but Monster Hunter is so technical, and this is maybe one of it’s problems, that there’s a lot of learning to do at the beginning. But it doesn’t get repetitive because there’s always new weapons and new skills to learn, armour to build and an insane amount of customisation. So even if you and I both played Long sword class we might develop our characters quite differently, specialising in healing or evading. The dynamic is always changing. It’s complex but worth the effort.
SHFTS: Is it online or local play?
CAPCOM: It’s local play. There are ways you can play online but we don’t support them.
GH: Moving swiftly on. It’s massive in Japan though, isn’t it?
CAPCOM: Three million units shipped over there last year. More than Wii Fit. It’s the biggest game out there and it’s on an older platform (PS2).
GH: If this was TGS, we’d have a massive line to get through to reach this game, what problems have you guys come up against trying to bring this to Europe and America?
CAPCOM: I think there’s a chicken and egg situation where you want to get players in, but for that you need players. Also there’s a general environmental difference; the weather’s not as good here (England. Tell me about it.) it’s not as safe on the streets, not as easy to meet up. It’s tough to get over the fact that it’s on PSP here. Not enough people use their handhelds in the UK. There are almost as many PSP’s out there as Xbox 360’s (3.2 million to 3.4) Too many units are just sitting at home in a drawer. People have this attitude like because it’s a portable console you must be travelling when you play it. I’ve spoken to people who say “Yeah I’ve got it and I like it, but I don’t travel very much.” And I think, nor do I, but I still play my PSP at home and at work. If you’ve got an amazing set up at home, brilliant, but a good game is a good game.
Many thanks to Leo for the interview. We should have a discussion about fighting sticks sometime, because he loves him some Street Fighter. And NOW I want a PSP! If only Sony would release an updated model… hmm.