Just after the last Nintendo Direct, Nintendo began to distribute demo codes for Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate in the fashion similar to the special demo for Super Smash Bros for 3DS last September. Monster Hunter as a series has a somewhat checkered history of demos, but the most recent gives new players a full look at the options available while presenting a new challenge to those who have hunted before.
The most important decision comes upon opening the demo, as the demo offers the choice of "Beginner" or "Experienced" mode. Beginner players receive additional tutorials, and a series of red arrows that point to where the boss monster can be found; however the most difficult monster (Gore Magala) cannot be fought in this mode and Beginners cannot team up with Experienced players in the multiplayer modes.
After selecting the type of player, the demo offers two/three monsters: The Great Jaggi for Easy difficulty, Tetsucabra for Medium, and the aforementioned Gore Magala for Hard.
In order: The big bad, the punching bag and the mid boss. (Images courtesy the Monster Hunter Wiki)
The final choice is the weapon that you wish to bring into the fight, with 14 different options to choose from. These options include small and large swords, lances, bowguns, and even something called the Insect Glaive that lets the user pole-vault and fire bugs.
Once in combat, the game controls on a default system - testing was performed on a 2DS - quickly show why the extra buttons on the New 3DS are a godsend. The D-pad or touchscreen are used for camera controls if the Circle Pad Pro is not in use, and the attacks map to combinations of A, X and R. Thankfully, other functions such as item use have on-screen prompts, and the weapons have an optional tutorial in case you forget how to fire the bugs.
The multiplayer worked well in a local environment, with only one drop noticeable. However, the online does require outside applications for co-ordination as a 14-digit room code is created and if a PIN isn't used, it can be frustrating to try and join a room and have it filled with randoms. There's no voice chat and limited text chat in the final game, but voice was added in a title update on the Wii U version of 3 Ultimate so there is precedent for the feature coming after the fact.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate releases in North America and Europe on February 13, and the demo did a really good job of getting me hyped to restart the hunt with both the local guild and online without wiring up a Wii U, though I do find myself hoping for adjustable control options I know won't come.
Disclaimer: The code was supplied by a personal friend