While we don't yet know whether Capcom and Nintendo are continuing the relationship of 'main' series entries being exclusive to the big N's hardware with the inevitable Monster Hunter 5 (other systems do have alternatives and spin-offs), fans of the series have something to be thrilled about with confirmation of Monster Hunter XX coming to the Nintendo Switch. On 3DS this has been a Japan-only release, an expansion / follow-on to Monster Hunter X (Cross) (a game released as Monster Hunter Generations in the West). Though it's currently unclear, I think it's a reasonable bet that this will make the transition to the West, albeit with a Generations-based name or similar branding. The Switch is hot right now, and Capcom will surely want to embrace the opportunity to target the system's growing global audience. Time will tell, in any case.
It's no secret that I'm a big Monster Hunter fan; I've reviewed every entry in the series since Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and played a heck of a lot of Monster Hunter 3 (Tri) on Wii before that. It's been an interesting period for the series since that initial Wii release, as it's evolved far more than some may realise. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was a notable change in how the mechanics of hunting worked, giving players more freedom in their approach, and Monster Hunter Generations also brought further significant evolution (and an all-new Palico set of quests) even as it incorporated environments and monsters from the PSP days as a nostalgia kick. As a series it's improved its controls, combat mechanics, UI and quest structures in significant ways in the 'Nintendo era', and that's helped the IP to make some sales breakthroughs in the West - it's always a smash hit in Japan, regardless.
In recent years, of course, our fix has come on the 3DS, with the New 3DS iterations providing the best option - courtesy of slightly better performance and use of the C-Stick for camera control. That portable format has suited the Japanese market down to the ground, thanks to the ability to play anywhere and jump into local multiplayer (online is also included in recent entries); such is the phenomenon in Japan that when a new entry arrives the sight of groups sitting around in public playing in co-op is not uncommon. 4 Ultimate and Generations in particular are fantastic 3DS titles, packed full of content and offering full-fat and engrossing experiences. Despite how marvellous they are, I like many others have often pined for home console versions, with memories drifting to the Wii U version of 3 Ultimate.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on Wii U was typical Capcom in some respects; the GamePad touch buttons and map weren't even scaled properly because the game had been ported from 3DS, and the graphics looked nice but lacked the sort of 'remaster' treatment that would have made them really pop. Nevertheless it was HD Monster Hunter on my TV, and I loved it. Online multiplayer also benefitted from voice chat, one of the few games that actually used that Wii U GamePad microphone. On top of that you could download the relevant app and transfer your save data from the 3DS version to the Wii U iteration, and vice-versa; sure, it took a few minutes, but that minor inconvenience for taking it on the go before switching back for home console play was wonderful.
Sadly, as we all know, the Wii U struggled. Capcom like many other third-parties bailed out - I suspect that these companies didn't just bail because of struggling sales, but because it was evident that the system was unlikely to make a comeback. Much to Nintendo's benefit Capcom did continue to back the company's hardware, however, and we got those excellent follow-ups on 3DS.
When I think of what Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate offered on Wii U / 3DS, and all of the improvements the series has undergone since, I get hugely excited about the franchise coming to Switch. Whether it's this Switch version of Monster Hunter XX or a future game, I really want that experience as a fan. Heck, I'll set up a Japanese Nintendo Account and get it on the eShop if I have to.
The Switch delivers, in the most intuitive possible way, the reality of home and portable Monster Hunter that 3 Ultimate offered. Instead of messing about with an app, of course, we can all play on the TV and then just take the Switch out of the dock and, just like that, it's portable (HD at 720p) Monster Hunter gaming. If Capcom does a solid job scaling up its impressive engine (which looks nice even on the ageing technology and screens of the 3DS), XX could also be a looker.
It makes a great deal of commercial sense, too. Though Nintendo is still very much promoting the 3DS (and the upcoming New 2DS XL) it's undoubtedly the case that it's keen to promote its portability in Japan, particularly. The 'play anywhere' aspect of the system is a focus globally, too, but in Japan specifically the handheld form of Switch will hold a particular appeal for Monster Hunter fans. In releasing a 'Switch Edition' of an existing game, Capcom is also buying time before a potential 'main' entry while the Switch audience grows.
Nintendo, undoubtedly, needs to secure main series exclusivity for Monster Hunter into the Switch generation. The IP played a big part in improving the fortunes of 3DS in the early days; in the Winter of 2011 the Japanese version of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (called Monster Hunter 3 G) played a significant role alongside the handheld's price cut and other major releases. The series has a hugely devoted following in Japan, and it's no exaggeration to say that it can be a system seller in the country.
From my perspective, I'm excited to combine the strides and evolution of the franchise in recent entries with improved, HD-standard visuals. As I've said in the past, there's just something about Monster Hunter games that makes them special. From the awesome weapons, the fabulous fashion in armour, and of course the epic struggles with elaborate beasts, it's a game that makes addicts of its converts. It can be tough for some to get into, but once its claws sink in there's no going back. It's an indispensable part of my personal gaming habit.
So far there are signs that Capcom believes in Switch - right down to the company's pre-release feedback on its specifications being heeded - so here's hoping the series has a long history on the platform. If it does, then we know one thing for sure - there'll be awesome gaming ahead for all of us, and big hardware sales in Japan.