This is a series of features that'll focus on games that we keep playing again and again, either over an unhealthy number of hours or those that keep getting return visits long after they first graced our systems.
It's not uncommon, if you're fortunate enough to review a major retail game, to be 'done' with it once that review is live. It depends on the game's length, genre and more besides, but typically the amount of time required to put a title through its paces brings completion and / or burnout, as even the most enjoyable games are finished with - in some cases - before they're on shelves.
As I've said, it's a privilege to review a game and share opinion on that experience with the Nintendo Life community, but it can also mean that while gamers the world over get hyped up and excited about a game the reviewer can miss out on the communal buzz - they may have already had that buzz a few weeks beforehand. It can also mean, particularly with online games, that the inclination may not be there to throw a lot of hours into play after it's launched, either due to over-familiarity or the need to get on with the next review.
A recent example that's defied the odds with me, though, is Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Though I invested over 40 hours in it for review and saw off a hefty chunk of the single player campaign, I didn't 'beat' it all the way. I'm now getting towards doubling that playtime and still haven't beaten it, which highlights just why the rule of finishing a game 100% for a review isn't always feasible. Capcom's release is ridiculous in how much content it offers, but I'm not jaded or tired - I just want more and more.
While it was my job in our review to highlight areas of weakness in addition to strengths, and to eventually award a 9/10 - which seemed right to me - on a personal level this is quickly establishing itself as my favourite 3DS game, bar none. The portable has a lot of gems that I adore, but when I consider which games I love the most in years to come, this one may just be on top. Despite its flaws and overly rigid division between single player and Gathering Hall quest progress, I can't get enough of it.
Much of the reasoning for this is in its quintessential Monster Hunter-ness, which Capcom has refined to a healthy shine over a decade of series development. I'm no franchise veteran, as such, but I've played every 'main' entry since it moved to Nintendo with Monster Hunter Tri on Wii, and this latest release is undoubtedly an improvement and the 'best' so far - not perfect enough for a 10 when wearing my reviewing hat, but wonderful to me as a gamer.
It's a sentiment I know is shared by other Nintendo Life writers and alumni as well, with comments from our little group prompting this article. Nintendo 64 expert and annoyingly good Monster Hunter player, Martin Watts, said this today - "It's amazing just how addictive the game is - it's one big grind on the surface, but each hunt is different and utterly satisfying". That's a pretty neat summary - I may be killing the same monsters each time, yet every hunt feels unique.
Sometimes it's the setting, or the thrill of online hunts with three others, or occasionally the fact that a monster will just have its own twists on its breed's behaviours. You can fight one monster that's a doddle, moving sluggishly and keeling over relatively easily, yet you can fight another of the same breed and difficulty level and it's bigger, badder and far more destructive. I've strode into some challenges with an over-confidence, before an early battering makes me sit up, wide-eyed and 100% focused at the surprise challenge on offer.
It's essentially two games in one, anyway, with the single player campaign's High Rank quests pushing my abilities, while online progress is a little less focused; I have just as much fun helping out friends on lower online HR levels as I do tackling the main story's latter stages. Then there's free DLC, with the Link outfit and weapon being reason enough to focus time on levelling up online. There's that impeccable balancing from the developers, too, in which my 80 hours of grinding and equipment upgrades makes me a powerful force in low-level quests, yet I still feel a little under-equipped and up against it in High Level challenges, aspiring to the next level of equipment and weapons.
The grinding feels worth it, too, driving me on to tackle ever-more-difficult quests. Online play is an awesome way to quickly accumulate enough parts for full armour sets - as you often repeat quests to help others - and I sometimes just love gawking at the equipment Capcom's come up with. The armour is pretty camp and fashionable, while weapons have unnecessary but awesome artistic flourishes - if you're going to take down a huge monster, you should do so in a stylish outfit.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is a hardcore, demanding game, yet on the flipside is silly and ridiculous. From the daft moves and animations, vaulting around with an Insect Glaive, to the hilarity of watching someone play deadly buckaroo after mounting a beast, it's fun, infuriating and flippant.
It's weird, and I can't get enough of it.
Have you been bitten by the Monster Hunter bug, or do you think Tom's mad and needs professional help for his addiction? Let us know.