The third generation of Monster Hunter was a time of interesting changes. Not only did it make the leap to a Nintendo console at first, but it saw the addition of fighting in a whole new environment. Underwater fights came as a huge surprise and added a lot of ways to deal with returning and new monsters that were water based. Instead of waiting for them to jump out of the water to combat, hunters could chase them down in their own terrain. It wasn’t quite the perfect introduction, however, and despite underwater combat appearing in a total of two games, it had a mixed reaction. Capcom knew this and has not included it in underwater in subsequent titles, but now is the perfect time to return to it in the latest generation.
Underwater combat was fairly criticized for of its issues, such as sluggish movement with weapons and often being difficult to see in certain areas, but still offered a good amount of variation. Capcom originally wanted to incorporate underwater to allow players to truly fight from every available angle, which later translated into the fourth generation’s multi-tiered landscapes. What underwater really did was give a new dynamic to many monsters, such as the Plesioth, and made new ones like the shocking Lagiacrus much more threatening in their natural environment. In the third generation, fighting these water-based monsters on land is what turned them into punching bags, their most vulnerable state in which their attacks weren’t always as threatening. This is true of their future appearances as well as while they still made decent monsters to fight they were never quite as challenging compared to their underwater state. In truth, nothing quite compares to seeing the Lagiacrus glowing red eyes through the water as its distance on a hunter quickly closes.
The potential for an outstanding water map improved with the emphasis on each area being completely open to explore. Aside from including smaller water areas within other maps, there could be an ocean-styled map that is half water based, or perhaps even a little larger on the water side, with layers of depth into the deep blue. The closest third gen got to this was was the Tainted Sea, which was more than half water, but only for one fight against the elder dragon Dire Miralis. The fifth generation could include underwater caves to be explored and perhaps even stone structures that burst out from the water for monsters to use or be climbed by hunters. Even the environment underwater could be more beautiful than before, with an emphasis on the endemic life and bright coral perhaps even reflecting the mostly dry Coral Highlands in World.
The biggest change to underwater would of course need to be actual combat itself. While some faster weapons such as the long sword and switch axe did fine underwater, typically slower ones like great sword and hammer would suffer a bit by being made even slower against water. The shorter weapons were often difficult to use simply because positioning underwater could be confusing and hard to judge distance. Most monsters were made with this in mind, having them simply float in one spot for brief moments to give time for attacks, but the flow of regular combat wasn’t quite there. Exact realism was tossed out the window when bowgun could be used effectively against monsters, so there’s a lot of room for logical improvements. Considering the new mobility in World, it could easily translate to more fluid movements while hunters were underwater. If near a wall hunters could even find something to sling towards in order to move a bit faster. The weapon slow down received an extremely mixed reception, but it could still work well if mobility was increased and if a new armor ability was added to make underwater attacks match their normal speed as a trade off.
There’s still a good amount of hope for the return of underwater combat in the future. There are a couple of monsters that have only been available to fight underwater and some that just don’t work as well without it. Capcom loves revisiting old ideas from their long-running series and improving upon them, and it’s entirely possible this newest generation has given them some inspiration on how they can truly improve and impress with underwater for hunters. Monster Hunter has become a more versatile series than ever and there is plenty of time for the series to revisit the idea of truly hunting in every monster’s terrain once more.