So I love Monster Hunter. A game series could not focus more totally upon monsters. Every (good) mission you undertake focuses on finding a new monster and learning its powers, patterns, and weaknesses to effectively fight it. DLC and updates are eagerly anticipated for the return of popular beasts or addition of strange new ones. I love to scout and find new, strange monsters in beautiful environments. And most importantly, I love its monsters!
Well, some of them. The thing is that like most series, Monster Hunter’s beasts range from incredibly interesting and fun to tremendously dull and standard. For every stylized stranger, there are five standard dragons. I don’t blame the series for this. It is how you draw in a general audience. There are certain expectations that must be met.
However, it makes it difficult to do an overview. There’s way too many for me to pick my overall favorites, but too many samey ones to take on an entire game’s roster at once. So I am going to take this series one game at a time, focusing only on my favorites in each. Some of these articles will be a lot longer than others, but every game has something that I love in it!
The Diablos is a good starter for Monster Hunter’s “flying wyverns”, one of the main categories. One of the cool things about Monster Hunter is that it has a sort of taxonomy, not just a categorization system like many monster games based on enemy type, but one actually resembling to some extent an evolutionary taxonomy. In other words, the Monster Hunter world is a natural one, where its strange, absurd creatures appear to have evolved via natural processes, rather than being created by magic or a deity. It’s a really interesting flavor to this world.
Anyway, the Diablos itself is pretty cool. I love how oversized those horns are. It immediately tells you what the dangerous part of the animal is. I also like the secondary horns coming from the sides of the jaws, which are likely meant to resemble similar structures on the cheeks of ceratopsid dinosaurs, which Diablos is clearly based on. They are herbivores, but they are some of the most aggressive animals in the whole series, which is actually accurate to many real-life herbivores! I like the tooth-like beak that it has, clearly for chopping through plant matter (even if it looks quite effective for meat).
I like Diablos’ close relative Monoblos even more. It looks much more like a stylized ceratopsid, in particular a Styracosaurus. I love the rocky texture of its arm’s scales, matched by its spiral horn. It’s a really cool balance between matching its original influence and standing out as its own design.
Cephadrome and its smaller relative Cephalos draw upon a different prehistoric animal, the amphibious Diplocaulus, which had a similar head with odd fins on the side. It creates a striking creature, with an awesome blend of fish and reptile features. It’s one of my favorite kinds of creatures too, the kind that swims around in the sand like normal animals do the ocean! God I wish we had large animals that did that. The only animals that can are really small.
Velocidrome and the smaller Velociprey is another great example of how Monster Hunter likes to take dinosaurs and then build upon them in unusual ways. As a “bird wyvern”, Velocidrome (very loosely) resembles a mid-sized theropod dinosaur, as most of that category does. I really like its colors, especially the bright yellow upper jaw, but obviously the most interesting feature is its hands. The Velocidrome has 6 claws, but no fingers. That’s so weird! It’s a totally alien way of making a hand, and it’s really cool. Gets across very well that its most dangerous feature is its massive middle claw.
The second of the “raptor” type wyverns of Monster Hunter is Gendrome, with an extremely striking silhouette. I love those head fins and long, thin fangs, really emphasizing a snakelike quality to something that is otherwise very much not a snake. Unfortunately, the lesser ornamentation leaves the smaller Genprey without much to set them apart.
Iodrome is my personal favorite for the sheer personality in that goofy drooping mouth and blunt head. This thing looks like it would drool a lot. I love the colors on the crest. Their vibrance really gets across that this is a venomous creature. However, I almost like the Ioprey, the smaller version, more. I love their hammer-shaped skulls and how they flow smoothly into their nubby smaller crests.
Mosswine is one of the few modern animals represented in Monster Hunter, sprinkled with a lot of neat fantastical features to keep it interesting. I really like that massive domed skull, a lot like the dome-headed dinosaurs. Of course the moss is the main detail. It’s pretty unusual to have an animal integrated with plants in this setting, making Mosswine one of the most out-there creatures in the first game.
The Kirin is an “Elder Dragon”, a special category of Monster Hunter creatures. Unlike the other classes, that try to form a loose taxonomy, elder dragons can look like anything, only held together by their exceptional power and danger to any ecosystem they enter. You can see how the kirin doesn’t really match any actual group of animals. It is shaped like a horse, but covered by a coating of scales, with its fur looking awfully feathery. My favorite detail is how the hooves appear to be formed of several short, thick claws each, making for a very strange reptilian horse.
Plesioth is another member of the “piscene wyvern” category, and a more distinct hybrid than the Cephadrome. It straight up has fish scales and fins, an unusual feature in an animal that is presumably naturally evolved like most of the animals here clearly were. Still, it’s a fun design, a great mix of fish and dragon.
Potentially my favorite design in the first game, Basarios has a ton of personality! I love the moss growing on its rocky skin and the shape of its back. The shape of the face is also amazing. It looks ancient and sorrowful, adding a lot of personality to what could be a rather boring rock monster. Basarios is actually a juvenile form of another animal, but its stubby body makes it a lot more fun to me.
Yian Kut-Ku is another fun, stylized dragon and the one we’re ending on because I find it the most iconic for the first game. The body isn’t particularly interesting, but gets across well that this is a relatively small, agile animal. The head is where we get a little more of that Monster Hunter charm. That beaky underbite makes the Yian Kut-Ku possibly the most cartoonish-looking of the animals in the first game, especially paired with those big ears. If it were up to me, Yian Kut-Ku would have been the “mascot” monster of the first game, rather than the significantly more standard Rathalos. It’s the best combination of cute, cool, and unique, and really shows off what Monster Hunter is all about.
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