Saturday, 27 April 2019

The Hunter (Playstation)

The Hunter, also known as Battle Hunter and Battle Sugoroku: Hunter, is a strange one. It's yet another one of those late-life, low-budget Playstation titles, though it's also one of the few that actually got a worldwide release. As a result, there's actually a bunch of reviews for it on GameFAQs from around that time, and what's interesting about those reviews is that they all either loved or hated the game, with nothing in the middle. In fact, I first played it a few years ago and didn't think much of it, but picking it back up again recently, I've had a fair bit of fun with it.

You start the game by making a character, picking your sprite and colour scheme from a total of 64 combinations, and assigning your initial stats to HP, speed, attack and defense. Then you get a job from the broker and go into the dungeon. The dungeons are randomly generated, and the jobs are usually just finding a specific item and getting to the exit. There'll also be three CPU-controlled players trying to do the same. The biggest problem with this game is that pretty much everything is random, and your success relies a lot on luck. Movement speed and combat are determined by a combination of dice rolls and playing cards from your hand (you start with five cards, and you draw one every turn, and all players draw cards from a common deck. The cards do things like add to specific rolls for movement, attack, and defence, or lay traps on the space you're moving off of). The placement of item boxes is also random, and you don't know what's in a box until you go and get it.

For most missions, though, it doesn't matter if you win or lose: all it affects is how much money you get as a reward, and all money seems to do is let you level up, or restore your max HP (which is halved if you ever get reduced to zero in battle). Still, this is a game that should be both boring and frustrating in equal measure, but I think it manages to get pretty far on charm alone. Even though there's only eight character sprites with eight possible colour palettes, there's still a lot of personality in their animations, and they really add a lot, considering the dungeon itself is represented by nothing more than an isometric grid of grey squares.

There's actually a lot of personality in this simple little game generally. It's all in the little things. Like how there's a hundred items in the game, and most of them don't do anything besides letting you sell them, but the fact that they all have names just adds a little flavour to the world. Like all the books you find seem to be university-level textbooks on specific subjects, and so on. It's also pretty addictive, as games with a lot of random generation often are. I think a big problem is that it was released on a home console. On a handheld, where you could more quickly dip in and out of it, or idly play while watching TV, I think it'd have a lot more value.

Luckily, we don't live in 2001, it's 2019, and there's a bunch of mobile phones and chinese handhelds that can emulate the Playstation, plus the game has a release on PSN, so you can even legally download it to your Vita. I haven't tried any of these solutions yet, but the next time I get some US PSN credit, I will be. Because of the love-or-hate reactions this game gets, though, I can only really recommend paying money for it if you've tried it a couple of times via emulation first, just to see if it clicks with you. But for the record, I do think it's a fun and charming game.

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