The lights are on
I’m a fresh-faced hunter, new, bottom of the pecking order: a noob. I sit in a room of four, drinking brews, staring in awe of the hunters before me.
These men – no, these gods – chat breathlessly about what creatures made of legend should be cut down. I remain an observer; hunting dragons and dinosaurs is new to me. I don’t quite understand how to post a mission. The inventory box awaiting my spoils of war is empty; only a crude sword made of bone is in my possession.
Commanded to battle a Rathian (I struggle to understand what the green creature is exactly, forming images of a foul, four-legged beast with a sharp snout and razor sharp teeth in my mind), I steel myself for the upcoming fight, hoping not to disappoint my online cohorts.
Carefully reading over every item's use, I choose what to take to the battleground.
“Bring antidotes. She likes to poison ya,” one of my superiors informs me.
“ty,” I type hastily on the PlayStation 2's virtual keyboard to thank him for the advice.
My teammates come to life as they excitedly line up at the exit of the room – one akin to a bar players would find in a quaint, run-of-the-mill RPG town – signaling the start of our hunt.
Some dance. Others wave us on to hurry. I just fumble trying to remember what I was doing.
“How many antidotes do I need? How do I even use them? I'm going to fail them,” I thought, half expecting them to leave without me.
They don’t. After readying up I’m whisked away to our hunting ground, introduced by the wail of a battle horn. From what I could gather from the bounty board, this dragon...our dragon, had caused a stir as of late. Well, if you can call murder a stir.
As our feet pad down a path through the grassy lowlands just outside our starting encampment, we stop to gather supplies – these will ensure our safety in the battle yet to come.
“Honey and potions make mega potions, honey and potions equal mega potions” I rattle through my head as I easily steal from the homes of buzzing bees. Combining them proves much harder; I keep failing, making junk.
As I fail to combine anything of note, dinosaurs from the stories I’d heard as a child graze in an ocean of green against a cerulean blue sky. It’s peaceful here.
And then I see it – no, first I hear it. Making a powerful whoosh noise, the beating wings appear as quickly as darkness engulfs a midwinter's night. When it comes closer I see something beautiful and deadly: the Rathian.
A man and woman sprint toward the beast, one grasping dual swords as the other hoists a large sword the size of his body from his back. Another hunter stands with his bow in hand, putting an arrow into position.
Knowingly, the Rathian unleashes a screech. It tears through my ears, threatening to deafen me – and then we all freeze, duck, cover our ears, cemented to the earth from the sound.
With our attacks canceled, the beast lays siege to us with a bruising swipe of her tail. As it thrashes against my leather armor – a sad piece of defensive equipment – I choke out gasps of air, my fingers tear into the ground in a desperate attempt to slow myself.
Once up I drink a potion to heal, and sprint imperiously by a fire blast, drawing my blade when I see the grassy hairs on the Rathian's back.
Slashing my sword isn’t unlike my first kiss: I fumble around with little finesse, going for broke with every chance, but failing to do much of note. My wild swings hinder our team, and I knock down my partners a handful of times while the beast shakes off my attacks. I need to find a rhythm to keep the combo going, but each strike is poor, causing me to stumble under the weight of my weapon, opening me up to deadly counters.
With the strength of a samurai, and the nimbleness of a ballet dancer, the hunter brandishing dual blades strikes the monster innocuously across its chest. I watch in awe as what seemed like a beautifully choreographed dance made the beast flinch.
It tumbles, its roars weary, full of pain. And then, just as it started, a horn signals the beast's death. I have survived my first hunt in Monster Hunter.
That may have been my first foray into Capcom's thrilling series – but it certainly wasn’t to be my last. Now I'm the hunter brandishing armor and weapons born from one's wildest imagination, able to destroy beasts at my whim. I'll never forget my first battle, and I'm not sure I'll ever retire – all because I took a chance on buying a game on clearance at my college campus book store.
Watch the video below to see a Rathian in action.