Monster Hunter 4 is the latest and greatest in Capcom’s endlessly popular series of wildlife-bothering games, bringing even more areas to explore and new monsters to turn into breastplates and boots. Thankfully hunters come prepared for these new challenges with two new weapon types and the all-new ability to mount larger enemies and deal them massive damage.

Once you’ve created your chosen hunter and their Felyne companion it’s time to grit your teeth and make your way through the often-dreaded tutorial section. The pleasant surprise is that Monster Hunter 4 refuses to give you dreary busywork and instead has the sand ship you’re on under attack from an enormous new elder dragon: Daren Moran. One hat rescue later and you’ve learnt everything from camera controls to cannon firing in the most painless way possible and are all fired up and ready to start doing some real monster hunting the instant the impressive CG sequence ends.

As with all other Monster Hunter games, the town acts as a hub and is where you’ll create or buy new equipment, eat food cooked by Felyne chefs and take on new quests. Balbare is the first place you visit after the Daren Moran attack on your sand ship, and is the place where you'll find your feet as a hunter. The initial quests are pretty run of the mill — just a few simple hunting and gathering tasks to ease you into the action and to help you become more familiar with the new Ruins Plain area before you’re required to attack anything really dangerous.

Impatient or experienced hunters will be happy to learn that it doesn't take very long at all to tackle bigger prey once the new players have been set off on their way. The new Insect Staff and Charge Axe weapon types bringing new tactics even to well-hunted foes like the good old Yian Kut-Ku. Hunters who like to tackle bigger adversaries can find even tougher challenges through download quests, and even this early on in the game's lifespan there are already pages of special event and challenge battles against groups of some of the toughest dragons and wyverns in the entire series.

Monster Hunter 4 is yet another hit in an already flawless series and balances the old and the new well. Newcomers will find a game that takes care to explain the basics in a practical way with brief snippets of advice coming as the situation arises rather than info-dumped all at once before the quest starts and forgotten soon after. Experienced fans have some very interesting new weaponry to play with in unfamiliar territory and will no doubt enjoy making use of the new mount mechanic on both old and new enemies. This is a deep game that isn't afraid to test long-time fans to their limits but at the same time takes care to not alienate those less skilled or less knowledgeable with the series, either. Rewarding and enjoyable whether you've got thirty minutes or three hours to spare, Monster Hunter 4 is without doubt a crown jewel in the 3DS’ library.

We'll be revisiting Monster Hunter 4 a lot this year, feeding you information about the game right up to its (still unannounced) western release. Keep your eyes peeled.