Hunter Island review: this game challenges Pokemon’s reign
Roughly 15 years ago, Pokemon popularized monster collecting and battling, and became the genre’s standard. Since its success, consoles have been flooded by watered-down versions hoping to ride on Pikachu’s coattails, but these imitations rarely strive for breakthroughs or innovation.
NTT Resonant, a Japanese game developer, has challenged the genre standard with its mid-November release of Hunter Island for iOS.
In terms of story, Hunter Island doesn’t offer anything we haven’t already seen. The game starts with you becoming a full fledge ‘Hunter,’ and with this honor you get to choose your starter Arkadion. You will then use your Arkadion to battle and capture other Arkadions. Sound familiar?
As you level up and capture more and more Arkadions, you will soon find yourself protecting small villages from bandits, fighting alongside a prince in a political coup, and even pursuing hooded figures using forbidden magic. Once again, not terribly original, but hang in there, we are getting to the good stuff.
Monster battles…that are fun?
I know it sounds crazy, but Hunter Island has perfected monster battling to the point where Pokemon had better take notice. Hunters are allowed to use up to three Arkadions at the same time which means one big thing for me: no Magikarp situations. Remember how awesome it was to get Gyarados, but how awful it was to constantly switch Magikarp in and out of battles? Well now, if you have an Akradion as worthless as a Magikarp, you can match it with two of your stronger Arkadions to make leveling up a whole lot easier. This may not be innovative, but I still love it.
Hunter Island makes full use of the touch screen in its battle system and this makes the fights far more entertaining. Instead of simply selecting which move you want to do by pressing a button, you simply slide your finger across the Arkadion you wish to attack. The attack you choose is determined by the direction you slide your finger. This is a far more enjoyable and involving battle system that I hope to see in more games.
Finally, what makes Hunter Island so darn good is its time unit ordering system. Instead of the typical PP seen in almost every RPG, attacks will cost each Arkadion ‘Time Units.’ These then determine when your Arkadion will be able to attack next. Think of it like this: your big attacks will cost you an absurd amount of TU, whereas your smaller ones will only cost you a few. Using your most powerful move will do lots of damage, but it will also send you to the very back of the line. You could however, use a lighter attack and be sent to the middle of the line.
This TU ordering system really adds to the strategy and makes you actually think about what you are going to do. This in combination with a far more engaging and entertaining battle system, monsters that level up and evolve faster, and an all-around more engrossing experience makes Hunter Island a win in my book.
But are the monsters cute?
Hunter Island has done an incredible job with their character and monster designs. The Arkadions look great and have a really polished look to them. There may not be any iconic characters like Pikachu to come out of this game, but there are many Arkadions that will still be memorable to any who play the game.
The biggest flaw, if you can call it that, is the lack of real animation. In battles, the Arkadions are simply still images that float above a landscape backdrop. This does not really take away from the experience, but it would have been nice to have a little bit of animation.
The Verdict? One of the best dollars I’ve ever spent
Hunter Island is phenomenal. It’s that simple. The game is huge, and will easily offer 50-60 hours of gameplay. Aside from the online battles being a bit mismatched, and lack of animation, I found it very difficult to come up with any real issues with the game. It was a blast to play, and is a tremendous value at $1. Granted there are in-app purchases, but you do not have to buy any of them to enjoy the game. If you are looking for an alternative to Pokemon, definitely check out Hunter Island.