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Monster Hunter – a tactile game that’s all about dodging with split-second reflexes, pinpointing subtle weak spots and pulling off complex combos with a lot of button presses – shouldn’t work on mobile. You just don’t have to; there’s a lot to type, minimize, and make understandable with swipes, taps, and clicks. Somehow, though, Monster Hunter Now manages it. It is nothing short of magic.

It trailers well, too.

Pokemon on (or on) your phone made sense: explore, collect them, enjoy speed encounters 10 seconds or less and team up with your friends to catch them all! Monster Hunter – although a very social game, at its core – feels much more console-y. But shrunk down and presented on iPhone or Android… it’s such a good fit, it’s just surprising that something like this hasn’t happened before.

The main loop – hunt, carve, improve, repeat – is intact, in bulk. Find a monster, kill it, insert its body parts into your device and return to the field. Break the horns or snap the tail and get better points, level up faster. Monster Hunter Now doesn’t mess with the formula that has sold 22 million games. Good.

But how you do it, how you make your hunter slide, roll, jump, cut and carve, that’s the impressive thing here. Like rolling and throwing your PokeBall, it’s all done with your index finger: swipe left or right to dodge, swipe up or down to advance or retreat, tap to attack, hold to charge or block . And you can manually tilt your mobile to aim your bow or beam weapon, if that’s your thing (but I really can’t stand motion controls). Simple! So simple, even the non-Monster Hunter players in my session were jumping around and interrupting monster attacks as if they’d been playing since Monster Hunter Tri by the time we had to return our phones.

For a mobile game, it’s certainly a looker.

I’ve been a loyal sword and shield user for years now, so blocking an advanced Kula-Ya-Ku, watching it spin, then unleashing a barrage of slashing and slashing attacks in response felt good . Not as good as pulling it off on, say, the Switch, but it’s still pretty exciting nonetheless. Joining an ally (you can bring up to four people into a fight and the game will automatically detect who’s around you – no hard menu wrestling here) opens up your options; are you going to swing around Pukei-Pukei’s tail and snap it off while the hammer user ties it to the noggin, or work on the front legs and hope for a claw break?

The choice is yours! You have 75 seconds to kill something – since the mainline Monster Hunter games often last around 30 minutes, you’d think that would be too short. Excessive surface level. But it’s not: condensing the whole thing into a rock-paper-scissors game of dodge-block-attack is intuitive and understandable, fun and compelling. You put one monster to bed and you’re itching for another.

If you’re on the go – you’re at the gym and you see a Rathalos but can’t fight it yet – you can paint it, effectively saving it for later so you can fight it back home. If there are other players in the house (perhaps you’ve got your partner into this), you can choose to battle it out together so you can go around town in your matching boxes. The nerds.

Get the Pukei with a long sword.

Like Pokemon Go, your hometown is turned into a featureless map with a few points of interest. But unlike Pokemon Go, this map is divided into biomes – and these are renewed from time to time. So if you live in the city, don’t worry; you are just as likely to get snow maps, desert maps or jungle maps as someone who lives in the country. These biomes have specific resources that you can collect, such as ore or mushrooms, and populated by animals that you must destroy.

Monsters seemed to respawn quite often, but who knows what that cadence will be in the final game. There are challenges that stack up to bigger battles against harder monsters that come with their own unique animations, and there are even Palicos that run around and grab resources for you. This is a Monster Hunter game, a proper Monster Hunter game.

And everything is taken from Monster Hunter World – animations, character models, weapons, the lot. So if you’re a serious, shy big gamer, you can justify playing a mobile game by telling yourself it’s Monster Hunter World 2.0 (at least until we get the real thing). There’s so much potential for expansion — more monsters, more weapons, more biomes — and the developers told me they’re already looking into doing things like Community Days or real-world celebrations similar to Pokemon Go. Watch this space.

The map is constantly changing and refreshing.

Niantic, while somewhat unpopular with the Pokemon Go player base at the moment, has proven time and time again that it has the magic touch when it comes to taking the intricacies and intimacy that make an IP special and making them work. on the small screen. Pokemon Go’s success could have been a fluke; a global phenomenon that filled that ‘right place, right time’ lightning bolt. But Monster Hunter Now proves it wasn’t, that Niantic is a developer with as much talent, creativity, and business acumen as any Capcom, Bethesda, or—and I mean this—even Nintendo.

This IP might not be that big, and the game might struggle to find an audience outside of Japan that Pokemon didn’t, but Monster Hunter Now has a loyal player in me, for sure. I went from thinking this was a weird little experiment to waiting for release and signing up for the beta within 10 minutes of getting it – the same thing I and millions of others did with Pokemon Go. Even if Monster Hunter isn’t your thing, you should give this one a go – you just might have a new favorite game to play on your phone.