10 years ago today Capcom released the first Monster Hunter game. It launched in Japan for the PlayStation 2 as part of a new initiative from Capcom's Production Studio 1 designed to test the waters of online console gaming. It was a triumvirate that included cel-shaded racing game Auto Modellista, the multiplayer-focused Resident Evil: Outbreak and, of course, Monster Hunter. Capcom hoped at least one would sell a million copies, what the company considered then to be the mark of a hit title. One did.
Whenever there's a new Monster Hunter to show off, the Tokyo Game Show belongs to Capcom. The floor is theirs, to do with as they please. A stuffed Felyne and immaculately dressed-up girls greet the patient players who've made it to the front of the hours-long queues that snake around the play space – a specially constructed, elaborate mini-village made out of paper and wood. The triumphant brass of the theme music booms out across the halls, drawing yet more attendees. Battles are broadcast on a huge screen, tantalising those still at the back of the endless queues with epic four-player face-offs against fantastical beasts. Don't let the tiny system fool you – this is the biggest game of the show.
The first thing that you notice about Monster Hunter Tri isn't the high-standard graphics or new-and-improved tweaked battle controls, oh no - it's the fact that everybody appears to be wandering around in assless chaps and thongs. The game's opening sequence depicts a typically idyllic Monster Hunter village, all carefree music and dancing, behatted cats and strong men carrying enormous fish and pails of water and farming equipment around on their muscular backs, but all of them are showing off a bit of cheek. Your character, once created, starts off in a crop top and hotpants. Like its predecessors, and refreshingly for a series of such lineage, the game better known as Tri doesn't take itself remotely seriously. It has a surreal sense of humour and an eye for visual comedy, evident in everything from outlandish armour sets to the absurd barbecuing mini-game.
There are few games as hotly anticipated in Japan as Monster Hunter 3. On the PSP alone, Monster Hunter games have sold more than five million copies in the region. Everybody on the jam-packed trains is playing it, and bringing out a PSP instantly prompts strangers to invite you into matches (why else would you own one, after all?). Monster Hunter 3's stand on the TGS floor dwarfed those of most publishers, and was consistently jam-packed with eager members of the public willing to wait three to four hours for ten minutes in its company. It is a national obsession.