Every Friday I make a post containing links to interesting articles I have found throughout the week. If you already follow me on Twitter, then you will have probably seen most of the following links. Don’t forget to like the Kotowari Facebook page as well. Enjoy!
Once or twice a year I take a trip into New York City. I make the pilgrimage rarely because it’s both exhausting and expensive. When a friend from out of town is staying with me and it’s my responsibility to entertain them… heading into the city becomes a must. That happens to be the case this week, as the intrepid co-editor of my Monster Hunter Beginner’s Guide and frequent hunting companion, Ryan, happens to be crashing on our couch.
We both love ramen so our first destination was Ippudo. In addition to ramen, Ippudo is also known for their hirata buns — fluffy steamed buns filled with sweet/savory pork, crispy cabbage, and creamy Japanese mayo. Holy shit, you guys. This was the single most amazing thing I’ve eaten in recent memory.
And it was even better with beer:
Onto the ramen. Good ramen is very difficult to find outside of Los Angeles or New York, so getting a steaming bowl of the stuff was on the top of our list. Here’s what I got:
Ippudo is known for their tonkotsu ramen broth. Tonkotsu literally means “pig bone” and creating a batch of this milky broth requires cooking bones for tens of hours — until they break up into water. Throw in other delicious ingredients like ginger, green onions, lots and lots of garlic, and you have a rich, powerful broth so good that you’ll want to drink the whole bowl. Let’s get a little closer to that ramen, shall we?
The broth was silky and savory, the egg a delicate custard, the noodles thin but chewy, and of course, the chashu — or braised pork belly — slightly chewy, yet tender and marbled with fat.
This meal was well worth the journey. If you find yourself in Manhattan I’d highly recommend stopping at Ippudo for a bowl of ramen. The place fills up fast, but it’s worth the wait.
Yours truly was recently interviewed for an article all about Monster Hunter and its acceptance (or lack thereof) in the West. I’ve included scans below, and I encourage you to read it all — not just my genius insight and poetic prose:
I have to say it’s a very impressive writeup. Even if you know nothing about the game, this article will get you up to speed.
The publication (which is exclusive to Australia) is called Hyper Magazine, and they’ve apparently been printing for 17 years — wow! If you happen to be a gamer who lives down under definitely check them out.
The author, James Cottee, was a super nice guy. It’s clear he knows a thing or two about the series, but his ability to make sense of it all for outsiders is admirable.
In other Monster Hunter news I finally got my hands on some copies of the game, perhaps too many copies:
Leading up to the release I helped a number of reviewers become more comfortable with the game via Twitter. It was a good feeling to help the cause, but I’m glad to finally be playing myself.
Meet my character:
Her name is Arina, and thus far she’s been quite lucky with carves, charms, and drops. I even managed to carve an extremely rare drop from an early repel quest. Repel quests are unique in that you don’t get to finish off the target monster, just get its HP below a certain point. With that in mind I made sure to sever the beast’s tail — which gives at least one reward item. When I carved it, I got the rarest drop possible:
So yeah, I’ve been enjoying the game — even more so now that the data transfer utility has become available. If you hadn’t heard, this was a feature that was promised to be available at the game’s release. It allowed save data to be transferred between the Wii U version of the game and the 3DS version.
To the chagrin of many consumers who purchased both versions of the game at launch, this application wasn’t available until last night. A few friends of mine who started their game on the 3DS were unable to party with my hunting crew as their data was stuck on the handheld system — bummer!
Anyway, the universal order has been restored, and I’ve officially hunted on both versions. The 3DS version makes much better use of the second screen, which is nearly useless in the case of the Wii U. NPC dialog is infinitely easier to read as it’s nearly microscopic on the Wii U. I’ve even adapted to the 3DS’s joystick situation, which I thought would be more of an obstacle.
The game’s online interface, on the other hand, is as awkward as you’d expect from a Japanese developer. For instance, you need to go a few levels down before the option to warp to a friend appears. (Of course, right?) Otherwise the online gathering hall is entirely new and thus visually refreshing given the environments haven’t really changed at all since Monster Hunter Tri. That being said, they look amazing in HD.
So yes, my life is all about Monster Hunter at the moment, and I am OK with that. If you’d like to ever join me for a hunt, feel free to friend me on the Wii U, my username is kotowari. Welp, back to hunting!
I’ve tried in the past to get into first-person dungeon crawlers. Really tried. The genre is known for a decent level of challenge and an oftentimes worthwhile narrative. Yet most first-person dungeon crawlers lack the modern polish I need to go the distance. I’ve sunk some hours into games like Strange Journey, Persona, and Wizardry, yet none of them have so vigorously grabbed me like Etrian Odyssey IV has.
In the game you assume the role of a silent, invisible guild leader in the bustling outpost of Tharsis. You lead one of many guilds venturing into the uncharted surrounding dungeons, seeking the secrets of the legendary tree Yggdrasil. Right off the bat you’ll be prompted to make a team of units to support your explorations.
Your team’s synergy is important in Etrian Odyssey IV, so deciding how to allocate skill points requires some thought. Thankfully it’s easy to plot out a character’s growth using clearly defined skill trees — a welcomed first for the series. I was also relieved to find several optional ways to reset skill points and even combine jobs. This flexibility took away my anxiety about making a permanent mistake. Instead I had a blast experimenting with my party’s cohesion.
Dungeon exploration is entirely first person. Movement is restricted to a grid system where one step is equal to one square on the grid. It’s not the most thrilling way to experience a dungeon, not gonna lie. What keeps it interesting for me is the ability to map each dungeon using the 3DS’s touch screen. You can even setup automated paths that can be toggled on and off. I came to take pride in my mapping skills, penning flawless recreations that became an asset when questing.
Dungeons vary in size, yet all feature certain elements. Most frighteningly: FOEs, or boss monsters visibly moving in time with each step the player takes. Early on these enemies are simply unbeatable and avoiding them becomes a mini-game in itself. This only made coming back later and killing them that much more rewarding. And hunting down FOEs was a good source of powerful gear. Each felled enemy drops an item which, when sold, increases Tharsis’ weapon shop offerings. This system is dangerous. Getting greedy and attempting to take on a FOE before I was ready caused no small number of game overs. But that’s part of the fun. You can choose to gamble with the possibilities of both total demise and great rewards.
The thrill of outrunning FOEs can also be enjoyed by traveling in your airship, a vehicle used to traverse the game’s overworld where new mazes are discovered. FOEs on the world map are considerably larger than those in dungeons, so avoiding them was very important early on. Luckily these FOEs have one major weakness: food. (Hey, that’s my weakness too.) Food items gathered from the world map can be dropped or launched in the path of a FOE. If the FOE likes the snack you threw at them, they’ll stop to eat, allowing you to sneak past. This engaging system made the world map feel like an extension of dungeons, where the player has to tread carefully and use their head.
Battles are also first person, with 3D enemies (a first for the series) taking center stage. The player can select actions for their team of five (or less) in turn based combat. In addition to weapon skills, a number of passive abilities and support skills come into play, turning battles into a strategic orchestra. Knowing your enemy’s weakness is important, as it can end a battle quickly and earn rare drops. Let me give you an example. There’s this Chameleon boss in one of the last dungeons you’ll need to explore. If left to its own devices this Chameleon will turn invisible, raising its evasion significantly. By paralyzing this enemy, it wouldn’t be able to pull off this move, thus drawing out the battle. I’d also consistently get a rare drop — the Chameleon’s paralyzed tongue. Each dungeon becomes an exercise in matching an enemy with a weakness, and this level of awareness is nicely rewarded.
On your quest towards the legendary tree Yggdrasil you’ll discover lands and peoples unknown to even the inhabitants of Tharsis. You’ll also cross paths with several NPCs on their own journeys. Each step that brings you closer to Yggdrasil will further reveal their intentions. Some characters will join your cause, others will inevitably become obstacles. The different peoples and factions you encounter, often for the first time, make the world of Etrian Odyssey IV feel both immense and mysterious.
When it comes to Etrian Odyssey IV‘s presentation, my favorite element is the fully orchestrated soundtrack by acclaimed composer Yuzo Koshiro. These tracks, which have replaced the traditional FM synth sounds used in previous games, are incredibly catchy. I often found that after any lengthy dungeon crawl I’d be humming that dungeon’s theme to myself the rest of the day. The above song especially made an impact.
Etrian Odyssey IV made me feel like an explorer, treading unfamiliar territory where my survival hinged on map management, my party’s cohesion, and good decision making. Despite a healthy challenge (I didn’t try the new Beginner mode), the game never felt unfair. Finally a slew of modernizations streamlined gameplay and put everything in a more presentable package. Etrian Odyssey IV not only advances the series, but makes the first person dungeon crawler genre more accessible and enjoyable.
Roy Blakely started Kotowari.org in 2008 while studying abroad in Japan. There, in his lonely dorm room, the site provided a much-needed outlet for his love of games. The site grew quickly, along with his authority on niche Japanese titles. Today, in addition to posting on Kotowari, he hosts a podcast, writes guides, and dabbles in programming. What a cool guy, huh?
Game Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Recent Accomplishments Starting with clearing the offline quests to build up my farm and a stockpile of necessities. I've pretty much exclusively been using Heavy Bow Gun since pellet and normal shots are awesome early on. Here's hoping the 3DS data transfer app will be available soon...