It's fair to say that a group of Switch gamers are rather annoyed at Capcom, even as the company has recently reversed course from minimal support to offering more backing for the popular system. Many are likely Monster Hunter fans that have been used to the series gracing Nintendo hardware and now face a harsh truth - it's jumped ship.
Just as the 'main series' of the IP hopped from Sony hardware to the Wii and then 3DS years ago (with one Wii U entry, too), it's now jumping back to the so-called 'current-gen' hardware of PS4, Xbox One, PC in early 2018. Monster Hunter: World is a notable departure for the series - yes, it has many of the same moves and ideas, but in adopting a more open world, drop in-out online co-op and a revamped visual style the strategy is obvious - hit the mainstream, especially in the West. It might work, too, as it ticks a lot of the boxes that make viral successes out of other games.
I haven't played it yet, but I've been reading some online reactions. Some have loved the early beta on PS4, stating it's made them day one buyers. Some other people I know, that have enjoyed the series for a number of years, have some concerns - namely that the pursuit of accessibility has stripped the game of the zaniness and charm that's helped define the IP up to now. I expect it to sell rather well, especially on PS4, as it's had an impressive marketing campaign; the beta was a brilliant decision, as people love playing something for free and can be sold on what is - outside of Japan - a relatively niche brand.
I think Western sales will be solid then, especially as it'll be on widely adopted home console hardware, though I have no idea whether it'll hit Capcom's internal sales targets. Japan will be interesting though - the Japanese market goes crazy for the series, and all of the 3DS releases in particular sold impressive numbers. In Japan, though, it's often been most warmly received as a handheld franchise, perhaps partly driven by different gaming habits and culture in comparison to the UK, for example. That said, I feel Capcom saturated its own market too much in the 3DS era, releasing a new entry or glorified expansion almost every year.
This week I tried to play the most recent of these - Monster Hunter XX on Switch. It's part of the current gripe some have with Capcom - it's only been released in Japan, so not only is Switch missing out on the shiny new re-imagining of the series, but fans in the West have been passed over for what is a glorified HD port of an expansion to a 3DS game. To clarify, the original 'Double Cross' on 3DS was an expanded iteration on what's known in the West as Monster Hunter Generations; that was the trend on 3DS, the 'main' entries got localised - Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (which was treated as 'new' because it was a fresh generation of hardware), Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Monster Hunter Generations. Hence my remark about over-saturation - in the West we've had three 'main' MH games on 3DS, and that wasn't even all of them.
Though it's recorded solid numbers on Switch and Capcom has at times talked them up, at launch XX struggled by the IP's standards in Japan because it was a) a port of a barely needed expansion and b) it arrived after the announcement of World. Some may argue that sales in Japan justify the lack of a Western release but, frankly, Capcom's own desperate attempts to monetise the series led to those results.
Why did I try to play XX on Switch instead of the current 'World' beta? That's easy, portability. I have returned to the family home for the festive week, packing my Switch but leaving the PS4 behind. We grabbed a copy of XX on Switch a little while ago, and with the World beta passing me by I thought it'd be fun - as an alternative - to see how far I can get playing XX in Japanese. One of my 2018 resolutions will be to start learning Japanese, as a matter of fact, but right now I know nothing; I figured that as I'd played every 3DS entry in the 'main series' I'd manage just fine.
Sure enough, the opening village and quest structure is indeed the same as Generations (port of an expansion, remember?), and I dutifully equipped the default Insect Glaive (my favourite weapon) and jumped into a quest. The problems were instant, of course - all of the introductory text and tips were in Japanese, and I was reliant on prior knowledge to get to the quest desk and start one. If I hadn't played Generations I'd have been completely lost.
Even in a simple early quest I was missing vital details - I could tell the main quest targets thanks to the little icon for the monster type, but I had no idea what was required for the sub-quests. Likewise I could easily identify my core quest items like potions thanks to familiarity with the logos, but when looting the environment I wasn't clear on what I was picking up.
The language barrier became impenetrable rather quickly, and from experience with the series I knew where I'd get stuck. Forging and buying equipment, eating meals with specific buffs and benefits, reading logs to identify an upcoming monster's element types - all off the table without diving into research online. Then there's my weapon of choice, the Insect Glaive. It has a multi-layered and relatively complex upgrade structure, something I couldn't recreate without booting up Generations on my 3DS and checking comparable menus; at that point I may as well just play Generations.
Looking online I found a small and hardy group of non-Japanese speakers playing XX on Switch, using a mix of online guides and apps to help. One tip was to take pictures of text boxes and run them through Google Translate; it probably works, but it's a stretch to find time to tackle a deliciously complicated game like MH, never mind having to also take pictures and fiddle around with Google.
My experiment didn't last long, then. For my money the best way to enjoy Monster Hunter games (those on 3DS, in any case) is to let them get their claws into you, to get truly immersed in the detail - you need to do that to equip yourself for the tough endgame, in any case. It's not possible to do that when playing in another language, and so in most cases I'd suggest an import or Japanese eShop download of XX simply isn't worthwhile.
More's the pity, in any case. I've become accustomed to the series being best enjoyed on a portable, and I hope that World maintains some of the silliness and quirkiness that I enjoy so much. It's a shame from a Nintendo perspective, in general - as a series MH has felt at home on the big N's hardware, but priorities have changed. I understand Capcom's approach in desiring a sizeable Western breakthrough, which it'll also hope doesn't alienate Japanese fans. Frankly, I think it'll sell well regardless, though how well it fares in Japan will be interesting to see.
The Switch will survive the shun, too, though I'll definitely be a little sad when World arrives and doesn't feature on Nintendo's awesome little hybrid.