Monster Hunter Frontier

Monster Hunter Frontier

Monster Hunter Frontier was the only MMO I ever liked and has recently shut down. I have decided to perform its last rites and write about what made it special!

Monster Hunter Frontier is set after the events of Monster Hunter Dos as you are invited to join Mezeporta Square, a special fighting ground for combat against monsters so strong that regular hunters could not face them. This time, it’s on you to avert all incoming threats greater than all the others the rest of the series has to offer. But who cares about any of that, we’re not here for the plot when it comes to Monster Hunter. That has never represented any game of the franchise at all. So, what is Monster Hunter Frontier then?

Monster Hunter Frontier is, or rather was an MMO spinoff of the Monster Hunter franchise that had been around since 2007. Based on Monster Hunter Dos, it has kept evolving until the end of this year, when it was shut down on Dec. 18th. The game was not playable in English, ran on a monthly subscription basis and, due to a region block, required use of a VPN to be playable. With that said, setting up a VPN was cheap and easy like you wouldn’t believe it so if you got filtered out by that, congratulations on not being in on the fun for no reason whatsoever. Luckily, I am here for you to fill out the gaps on what you have missed out on!

Also, just for clarification’s sake, Monster Hunter Frontier is not Monster Hunter Online, a Chinese Monster Hunter MMO that was also shut down this year. Evidently, outside of Iceborne’s release, this has not been a good year for Monster Hunter.

Monster Hunter Frontier Dhisufiroa

Monster Hunter Frontier was developed by Capcom Online Games, the bright minds behind not only this shutdown game but the also closed Dragon’s Dogma Online and deep down, put on infinite hiatus. They have the patent on all the online games that I crave to play except I can’t play any of them. As far as I’m informed, Capcom Online Games no longer exists anyway.

So now that I clearly suffer from withdrawal symptoms that not only I can never fix but also can’t even hope to substitute with anything else, I figured I might as well write something on the game as it can’t be experienced for anyone else anymore and barely anyone in the West has so in the first place anyway. Worse even, there are so many nonsensical claims and misconceptions by people who have never played the game out there, someone just had to properly put Monster Hunter Frontier to the archives.

With that said, I had been playing Monster Hunter Frontier ever since its tenth anniversary, although most of the time, I had put it on a break. But I did have several months under my belt and can still very vividly remember joining the spectacle of Mezeporta’s plazza for the first time, with Elzelion introduced and a giant 10th anniversary cake displayed. Already good old times for a relatively new player such as myself I suppose.

Monster Hunter Frontier Elzelion

But first of all, let’s get some misconceptions out of the way that are still floating around for some dubious reason.

Will Monster Hunter Frontier come to the US/West?

No, the game is dead. It would have never come out either way as Monster Hunter only made it big with World and by that point, Monster Hunter Frontier had already been 10 years old, a nightmare to localize due to its sheer masses of content therefore and neither its gacha feature nor its monthly subscription system would have made for a good Western impression either. Internet half-knowledge and straight out fake information spread by people who have never even played the game did the rest of the damage.

Can I play Monster Hunter Frontier offline?

No, you can’t. Feel free to buy any cartridges, it won’t work. The server has been shut down and all content is therefore inevitably lost.

What is Monster Hunter Frontier G or Monster Hunter Frontier Z?

These were just title versions of its biggest updates. They are all different versions of the same game. G eventually turned to GG, GG to Z, Z to ZZ and ZZ to… dust.

With these things now clarified, let me first say I am not much of an MMO guy, most of the ones I have played feature terrible combat and uninspired questing systems railroading me from point A to B. But Monster Hunter? Monster Hunter IS about the series of quests and its excellent gameplay therein. It is the one franchise I can think of that would profit from nothing more than an MMO. And it did. Certainly more than World does with its faux-pretension of being an MMO through a few events and dripfeeding content that would have most likely otherwise been included on the disc from the get-go. But I digress.

So, was Monster Hunter Frontier good? I feel like both as an MMO and a Monster Hunter game, things that go hand in hand, it was utterly amazing. Monster Hunter Frontier has made so many interesting alterations to its franchise while still sticking to the good old Monster Hunter experience, it’s remarkable. You won’t find any ledges here. Never did this game budge to underwater combat. No mantles or slinger shot and grappling hooks. Just you and the monsters, with no significant gimmicks attached. It’s a bit bizarre to me that Monster Hunter Frontier is perceived as the weird, wacky sidekick black sheep Monster Hunter title that just doesn’t fit in when it was the only modern Monster Hunter that still stuck to the core experience of the first two generations. Oh, and it also had BEST GIRL Cattleya.

Monster Hunter Frontier Cattleya

Anyway, back to the point. Frontier’s combat was as straightforward as it got but its lack of gimmicks is not to say that the gameplay wasn’t drastically altered from what you might expect from a classic Monster Hunter title, oh no. Anyone who can look up clips on YouTube from the game’s more recent combat can tell easily.

As such, Frontier feels a lot like old Monster Hunter evolved into something entirely different. You wouldn’t see a monster like Elzelion in the mainline parts of the franchise, that is for sure. For this reason, I don’t see Frontier as the wacky side spinoff thing, I see it as another path of evolution for the franchise right after Dos, a purely combat focused game with no gimmicks attached yet bright colors, explosions, big numbers and flashes in their stead. I wonder what someone out of a bizarro universe who has only played the first two gens and Frontier and never heard of what came with Tri and World would have to say about the mainline route. Both World and Frontier feel like very logical evolutions of the original concept of Monster Hunter to me, taking different routes and ending up at very contrasting ends. As such, I think both have their legitimacy as much as the other.

Monster Hunter Frontier’s gameplay differs insofar from the franchise standard as that it was a fast-paced experience yet the combat still had retained all of the franchise’s trademark weight and impact feedback to it as Frontier exclusively put a bigger emphasis on speed, proper timing and reading monsters’ movesets to the point of knowing their every tricks in and out so it didn’t ever turn into a mindless hack ‘n slash. Pattern memorization combined with precise timing played a far more important role in Monster Hunter Frontier than in the mainline series. I would compare it to Sekiro or rhythm games in a way or two I suppose. Just nowhere near as hard as Monster Hunter Frontier made sure to give the hunter the appropriate tools to handle the latest addition of monsters as well. Monster Hunter Frontier no doubt had the slickest gameplay of the franchise, speeding up the process while still nailing the Monster Hunter fundamentals to perfection. It combined the weighty feeling of weapon impacts with fast paced action and was the only one to do so in the franchise.

But the appeal of Frontier’s combat is not just the action, flashiness and speed of it. Monster Hunter Frontier rewarded you for playing well. Well-timed dodging, accurate parrying, these things not only saved your life and gave you chances to attack in between the monsters’ relentless attacks but there also were skills that rewarded you appropriately with powerups in response. A well-timed parry with my Switch Axe gave me back a portion of my life for instance. The skill Lion’s Speed exemplified all of this the best for moving your damage up to tiers you could break through proper playing but you would lose that bonus upon getting hit. Tanking hits as World allows it was never an option. Frontier was a dance not so much a brawl in a way or two. The Switch Axe F demonstrated this high risk high reward system for playing well like hardly anything else: Whereas the mainline rendition is a weapon that switches from Axe mode to the stronger Sword Mode by recharging it through a button press, its Monster Hunter Frontier pendant would only fill its Sword Mode bar through properly timed parries and there was no way around that. And if you mistimed, you got hit badly. That meant the key to unlocking powerful gameplay was knowing your shit.

Additionally, the stronger focus on monsters’ AoE attacks in regard for later entries did the game some good insofar as that they spiced things up. One or two (or three) of them on Zenith monsters work wonders with making the content more challenging and timing-oriented and served well in attacking all players at the same time contrary to giving one hunter trouble yet the other three time to rest or attack an already quite occupied monster. This way, all players were always forced equally to be on their guard.

I’ve seen people complain that Frontier is not Monster Hunter for not being realistic enough or too anime (somehow a bad thing). Bah, humbug! Frontier is for people who understand that gameplay comes first and lore comes in dead-end last place as it should be the case. Back in school, what we all – or most of us – realized was that “school” and “life” were at opposite ends. A life is the fun thing (ideally), school isn’t. And those who hate life inevitably either return to school as teachers, flee into government or discuss the lore of the Monster Hunter franchise while hating anything that looks anime, colorful or fun. And see, the latter three are what Frontier boiled down to – a game that understood that a unicorn summoning lightning is silly so let’s go all the way. So instead of playing with pretentious douchebags, I ended up playing with people whose language I didn’t speak. After my 26 years of human communication, I can assure you that I’d call this progress by a wide margin. (On an unrelated sidenote, the claim that you got banned for speaking English in chat is utterly nonsensical and I’ve seen it repeated so many times – public chat was not even used for anything apart from advertising quests to begin with. Congratulations, you lose again, reddit.)

But it’s not just the amazingly unique and slick combat that sold Monster Hunter Frontier to me, it’s also the sheer masses of content and so much of it was exclusive to just this entry of the franchise. There is just so much goodness Frontier brought to the table it shared with nobody it’s sad we are missing out on all of this. It had tens of thousands of weapons and pieces of equipment in total. As well as two new – and highly innovative – weapon types, Tonfas and Magnet Spikes.

Monster Hunter Frontier Weapons and Armor

And the weapon and armor designs very much understood that they needed to be cool, silly, flashy and generally desirable. Because why wouldn’t they be? Fun things are fun and that is what Monster Hunter Frontier operated on! Weapon length as a feature of several weapon types was also quite the unique addition to the franchise. I have seen Swords and Shields so tiny they resembled kitchen knives and lances so long you could pierce the heavens with them. Sometimes vice versa too. That made for some really cool fashion choices!

And speaking of fashion – there is just no way any other game in the franchise can compete:
Monster Hunter Frontier was a game that let you turn into a duck.
A game that let you craft equipment that was a baby khezu eating your head.
A game that turned your cat companion into the yellow fluffy creature from PSO2.
A game that also featured Red Saber Clone From The Fate/Stay Spinoff Nonsense Series™. Wow!
And, ultimately, it was a game that let you have a Light Bowgun so massive it would overlap the player and turn them into a tank.

Monster Hunter Frontier Wacky

I think it’s silliness like this that very much put the spirit of Monster Hunter Frontier to the forefront. When Christmas was around, Mezeporta Square got redecorated for that and players received a Christmas tree… in the form of a lance! And there was a Halloween Switch Axe! A fishing rod SnS! A cucumber weapon! Not to mention all the regular weapons with their bizarre designs as well! And all of these things could also be displayed on mannequins inside your very own customizable gallery. In fact, its interior decorating, a quickly forgotten feature from more than 10 years ago, was clunky and unoptimized yet boasted with so many objects that not only had a direct relation to the world of Monster Hunter, be it through stuffed monster hats or felyne statues rather than just boring carpets and vases but were also genuinely creative. I finally got around to messing with it only on the second-to-last day of the game and had a blast with it as can be seen by the result:

Monster Hunter Frontier was also a game more communal than anything else I have played. Yes, there was a major language barrier preventing me from engaging with other players but as we kept fooling around in our fashionable armor sets that we could entirely separate for demonstration purposes from our actual quest sets, with up to 100 players at the square of Mezeporta, we made sure everyone knew we were having fun. Meanwhile, in World, we can’t even get a 4 player lobby going as meetups have been made obsolete by a questing system that luckily spares me the bothersome quest advertising and server switching of Frontier but ultimately also makes co-players replaceable as it doesn’t give them much of a presence. In a hunting coop game, I at least like to feel some connection with my fellow hunters and no game did that better than Monster Hunter Frontier.

And, quite frankly, it also feels really good to have a comfy hub to return to after your hunt serve as your resting and nonsense spot and Mezeporta is easily my favorite hub in the franchise.

Monster Hunter Frontier Mezeporta

Monster Hunter Frontier also gave me three completely different movesets for Teostra, each better than the former, presenting a bigger and more fun challenge. This is something that no other Monster Hunter can give you and speaks volumes of the truckload of content and that one’s creativity. Even the revamped monsters from the mainline titles aside, the exclusive Monster Hunter Frontier monsters were a varied bunch, not so much in terms of skeletons but ideas that were brought along. A magnet dragon! A mercury dragon! A tiger that uses bamboo trees for battle! A hefty water attack causing a rainbow to appear! A monster that used ice to freeze you in place only to blow you away with a fire blast thereafter! Select monsters could also devore you, straight up vaporize you or cause you to have a heart attack. I sincerely doubt mainline will ever give us anything as imaginative as these or as fun as Extreme Style Switch Axe F or Magnet Spikes.

And then there were also the best mascot animals of all time: Gooks! And yes, they are called that. Gooks are the waddling fluffy feathered friends of Monster Hunter Frontier. I don’t even like mascot animals in any kind of media and the dumbass cats can go away for all I care – but Gooks? Gooks are great. They evaporate charme no matter where they go. I still remember my Gook Sempai. Gone but not forgotten.

Monster Hunter Frontier Gook

And still, Frontier’s exclusive content continues well beyond that: Rastas were NPC co-players you could modify and the game also featured set NPCs with far superior equipment, the so-called Legendary Rastas, each with an own personality and weapon type. For its last day, Capcom Online Game even had staff members play as those and frequent the servers, without ever announcing which ones, causing for a lot of community action. Add to that your Poogie, your Gook and your Halk companion and Frontier had a merry bunch of NPC assistance.

Every weekend anew, you would also receive special tickets to partake at Mezeporta Festa, a separate minigame area with festival venues – depending on your performance, you’d score more or less points and you could check those in for Nearcasters, additional gesture moves or plush helmets of monsters among many other things. Add that to the weekly event quests handing out exclusive weapon, armor or transmog rewards and you got yourself a full plate to grind for every seven days anew.

Oh, and it also warrants mentioning that Monster Hunter Frontier’s OST is the best in series, placing it in the ever-so-respectable territory of “mediocre” contrary to “subpar”. Yeah, I really don’t have a high opinion for the scores in this franchise. The Inagami track was pretty ballin’ however.

Monster Hunter Frontier Mezeporta Festa
Something that also very much became a fundamental part of Monster Hunter Frontier and yet remained unique to only it was Road. Road was essentially a boss rush mode where you got to choose between two monsters at every stage and every tenth monster you got the opportunity to fight a modified White Fatalis. After the first ten fights or so, every second monster would be a Zenith monster, ramping up the difficulty enormously. Inbetween battles, you got to buy items like potions earned through a Road-exclusive currency highly dependent on which monster you killed. For each monster, you got a certain amount of points and these could be used to buy all sorts of items at the Road Shop upon return, players used that a lot to buy rare items like GHC (Hardcore carves of G-Rank monsters, a mode that ramped up the difficulty and added some moves to all G-Rank monsters) carves for decos for setbuilding purposes. Just the mere idea of a boss rush mode is an amazing one and I’m surprised Frontier has been the only Monster Hunter so far to incorporate the concept and actually make it useful.

With that said, it’s not that Monster Hunter Frontier is perfect. And, well, let’s actually start with the aforementioned boss rush mode. It’s one thing to make its rewards worthwhile to work against the otherwise horrendous grind of incredibly rare GHC carves but the tradeoff was a too big one as far as I’m concerned. This is still Monster Hunter, a game about hunting specific monsters for specific materials and letting you skip that with ease is not my idea of fixing a flaw. It substituted a big problem with a somewhat smaller one that no doubt had its upsides but felt counterproductive to what the franchise should entail. Not that I didn’t have good memories of Road but I feel like I’ve skipped most of regular G-Rank. Not something I feel like I should have to say about any Monster Hunter.

Monster Hunter Frontier Live Stream

This also largely represents a far bigger issue: The abundance of content simply not used anymore. As Monster Hunter Frontier was an MMO, the powercreep across 12 years obviously made older content outdated but also gave you no incentive to revisit it. Which is a shame because there is a lot of good to be found past the initial first four star quests. Monster Hunter Frontier’s sole focus from the Z update onwards was on its Zenith monsters and also Raviente as well as a few cycling events. It’s an understandable issue, sure, but not one they ever even attempted to solve. And speaking of cycling events – while that sounds good in theory, the hunting festival that was essentially about guilds joining one of two fronts to participate in point-gathering wars boiled down to grinding secret quests during a limited period of time and these quests would be over within half a minute realistically, making for an incredibly dull experience all around. Not to mention that only the winning team got to craft special decorations that were essential to set building so if luck was not on your side, it could take you months to finally craft your preferred set. That is fatally bad game design stemming from an idea that sounds good on paper but was abysmal in execution.

Of course, one could also argue that it’s up to you to fight all of these long forgotten monsters instead of making progress. And I occasionally did for the fun. But progress is the most fundamental part of the grind -> build equipment -> grind some more cycle of Monster Hunter. Yet there is no reason for you to craft most G rank armors and weapons. You would soon get Zenith stuff. It’d be counterproductive to do so. So wanting to get the most out of all the good content out there is detrimental to the actual gaming experience. Classic Monster Hunter has a curve that navigates you iteratively through the game for the better. This one lacks that component. Don’t get me wrong, there’s heaps upon heaps of content here, heck, the day the servers shut down I’m sure Monster Hunter as a franchise immediately lost half its content just like that – a lot of that content just felt so misallocated at times.

Monster Hunter Frontier Merchandise

There also was a lot of clunky garbage in terms of mechanics that made me wonder what they were going for. Say you see a request for a Zenith Rathalos hunt and want to join it. Now, since Rathalos has Fire Zenith attacks, this means that if your elemental Fire Resistance is below 55, every single time you make contact with its fire attacks, not only your HP but also your actual health bar will shrink until you’ve rolled a number of times to put out the flames. As this is too punishing, it’s in your best interest to increase your Fire Resistance to 55 or higher. This means you have to do Guild Cooking. Guild Cooking, per recipe, grants you varying status effects, including elemental resistances. So obviously, you need to enter the Guild Hall now to resort to cooking. That is already tedious enough on its own but you can’t enter your Guild Hall unless you are on a Land with less than 70 players for reasons beyond me. This means you now have to switch the Land, enduring the horrific load times that came with teleporting from plazza A to plazza B. In addition to more load times might I add for entering the Guild Hall wherein you must then select your four ingredients that you have to either look up or remember by heart (and if you are looking for Thunder Resistance, well, yeah, that’s behind a pay wall) to engage with a 10 seconds long minigame. You then have to load out of the Guild Hall and join the Land that had the quest advertised as you can only start quests from the very same quest board that had its quest advertised. This means further loading times. But hey, finally done, eh?

Monster Hunter Frontier Anniversary

Actually, wait, there’s more to it! Depending on your armor stats, you still might not have reached enough Fire Resistance. This can be migitated by selecting a weapon type-specific Hiden Skill at your inventory, allowing you to navigate between different effects, among them elemental resistance boosts. To reach the equipment box, however, your fastest way is to go to the smith interior, which requires another loading screen. Some fumbling later, you have to get back to the plazza, which, once again, requires a loading screen. Only now can you join the quest unless someone else has taken up your spot already in which case… tough luck I guess? I have wasted up to 30 minutes with this drivel once upon a time until I just stopped bothering in general. Spontaneous hunts are discouraged by a system so archaic and idiotic and unique to this game only that it makes me wonder who thought of this mess in the first place. We already love to complain about World’s loading time of 50 seconds into a quest on console but at least that’s for hardware reasons and not a conceptual clusterfuck beyond belief and you’re actually in the quest after 50 seconds instead of gambling that you might make it into the team within three minutes. Capcom Online Games, what the fuck.

Monster Hunter Frontier Magnet Spike
Speaking of issues, apart from the aforementioned lack of a reason to fight older monsters, I actually don’t think powercreep was an issue with Monster Hunter Frontier. Yeah, after 12 years of innovations within the same game and upping the ante as a form of progress, it was there but I think that is entirely legit for an MMO as a natural part of its evolution. I still have fond memories of when my guild card displayed an ATK value of 19.000 during battle. Surely my record. Monsters have big numbers, you have big numbers, welcome to a world where inflation is the norm – and totally okay with me for that matter! Conclusively, it wasn’t just the monsters that got stronger but also the hunters – and it showed. Sets could have up to 12 skill slots, more enabled through Skill Up Zenith Skills. There were dozens of powerful compound skills even. Needless to say, however, and this brings us to an actual downside, with the amount of decorations, weapons and armor out there as well as some exclusive availibity and all the conflicting skill point parameters, coming up with a good set to farm for was a masterclass of its own in terms of effort to the point where you had to use an unofficial third party tool to have yourself a set simulated but not without setting major restrictions first unless you wanted the simulation to eat up four years of your time. It… it truly was a mess. Once I had all figured out, I could have set suggestions simulated within five minutes but the process of getting there was a nightmare and I never want to do this again.
Monster Hunter Frontier MHSX Simulator

But despite these incomprehensibly idiotic flaws, I still kept returning to Monster Hunter Frontier. Why? Simple: It has the best content, the most content and the biggest exclusive content of the franchise. Where else can I get a hammer that’s basically a miniature moon on a stick? Where else can I equip a Light Bowgun that turns me into a tank? In mainline Monster Hunter? No. That’s good enough stuff. But it’s not a world of wonders. Wonders are what Monster Hunter Frontier was here for, encapsulated in its shoddy Gen 2 package. A package made with so much love and care and fascinating ideas, even if only held together by duct tape. I am most likely also the only person in the West who has played this game in all its 5 FPS during Zenith Gravios fights glory on the Vita for a month and that’s like Vietnam on stutters. Goes to show my dedication I guess!

Monster Hunter Frontier PS Vita

With more than 80 exclusive monsters and an entirely different combat experience, Monster Hunter Frontier was a game that gave me, someone who has been around ever since Monster Hunter Freedom, more new, refreshing content than I could have ever hoped for. It wasn’t just another Monster Hunter – it was THE other Monster Hunter. Just when I had thought I had seen it all, been there, done that, I stumbled upon an entirely new world and it was glorious.

Admittedly, I haven’t played too much of it but regardless, Monster Hunter Frontier was my favorite Monster Hunter game and one of my favorite games, period. I will miss Mezeporta and its many hunts and hunters. Occasionally, I think that not knowing about the game would have made things easier for me as this is a very bittersweet note to end on but at the end of the day, I’m still very glad I did. I was very privileged to play such a good game and make many experiences that others didn’t.

Monster Hunter Frontier Shutdown

I was there on its last day until its final moments alongside players I’ve never met before and will never meet again but for some reason, I felt strangely connected with all of them and who else can say that of themselves? I gave Frontier my well-earned time and money and it gave me its care and many unforgettable memories in return. I consider that an equivalent exchange.

Sleep well, Monster Hunter Frontier, and may the Duck Power be with you.

Final Verdict: Very Good.

1 thought on “Monster Hunter Frontier

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s