Both Capcom and Sony have high hopes for Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, scheduled for release this June in Europe. So much so that SCEE head honcho David Reeves reckons the fantasy four-player loot fest will "spearhead the PSP resurgence of 2009". At Captivate 09 last week not only did we get a hands-on session with the game, impressions from which you can find here, but we also sat down with producer Minae Matsukawa to find out if Capcom shares Reeves' optimism.
VideoGamer.com: What are the biggest challenges you've faced bringing the game to the West? Will it be the same?
Minae Matsukawa: The game has so much data on it - it's a very big game - it took a long time to localise into five languages. But the main concept of the game is the same.
VideoGamer.com: Why is now the right time to bring Monster Hunter to the West? Is it simply down to localisation or is the market now ready for it?
MM: That would be a bit of both. The localisation was recently completed to perfection. Also Capcom has been measuring the opportunity to release the game in Europe, and now feels it is the right time.
VideoGamer.com: Monster Hunter has a small, hardcore following in the West, but in Japan everyone plays it. Will Freedom Unite be a game for everyone in the West?
MM: Early versions of Monster Hunter were indeed supported by hardcore fans even in Japan, but with Monster Hunter Freedom Unite we have implemented many different types of fun in-game to appeal to different types of audience, so we hope that in Europe it will be accepted by a wide-ranged audience.
VideoGamer.com: In Japan people play PSP together in public, whereas in the West, for the most part they play PSP alone. Do you think Monster Hunter will make Westerners play the PSP together in public or will it be a predominantly single-player game?
MM: As you say people playing PSP together in Japan is common, but in fact pre-Monster Hunter days it wasn't, so we believe we have transformed the culture in Japan. We actually hope to do the same in Europe. It's definitely a challenge, but we would really like people to gather and play the game because when you do it provides a different level of fun.
VideoGamer.com: What kind of options will you have when creating a character, and how do they operate differently on the battlefield?
MM: First of all you can pick the gender. Then you can pick from 20-odd hairstyles, 20-odd faces and 20-odd voices, just for the appearance of the character. On top of that there are 11 weapons to choose from. Each weapon grants you a class. It's not defined as a class, but let's say for instance, if you're using a bow then you're a ranged hunter, whereas if you're using a great sword then you're a melee hunter. So in that sense the combinations are very high. We're aware that many people put many hours into the game, so we've made sure that you can make a character that you want to keep. You can change the hairstyle as many times as you want but the rest will stay with you through the game.
VideoGamer.com: If Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is successful in the West, might that lead to Capcom releasing Monster Hunter 3 (tri-) in the West?
MM: I'm afraid I can't actually talk about Monster Hunter 3 (tri-) in this session. First of all we'd like to make Monster Hunter Freedom Unite a success in the West!
VideoGamer.com: The Ad Hoc Party mode, which allows PSP owners to play ad hoc enabled games online through PSN, is in beta in Japan, and is supported by Monster Hunter. Do you know if it will be released in the West, and, if so, whether Monster Hunter Freedom Unite will support it?
MM: Currently there is no plan. We haven't heard that it is being implemented in Europe. But hopefully if Monster Hunter Freedom Unite proves to be successful Sony might change its mind.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is due out for the PSP on June 26.