oresama.jpg Capcom's action RPG Monster Hunter series just happens to be one of those games whose white hot popularity in Japan cools considerably when it travels over the Pacific.

Even for Monster Hunter though, a curious trend has been emerging, that of the huge PSP hit Monster Hunter Portable/Freedom outdoing the nonetheless huge popularity of the PS2 sequel Monster Hunter 2. Why is this? Japanese website Nikkei BP believes it has the answer (JP link) in the phenomenon of how the game is especially popular among junior high school students, where it is called 'Monhun'.

For those who aren't familiar with 'Monhun'--with just the one title being released in the US so far--its a Phantasy Star Online type of action RPG that focuses specifically around a feel of hunting to all of its battles, and a great deal of its popularity stems from the things you can customize your avatar with your hunting spoils.

If you haven't already noticed the similarities with Pokemon, then Nikkei BP does it for you. A game that revolves around fighting monsters that gets a popular shortened nickname and finds its greatest audience on a portable? Nikkei believes the reason for this are twofold: 1) It's easier to play with friends face to face on the portable than it is to get everything ready for online play on the PS2, and 2) The grotesque expressions in Monhan appeal to the junior high school age.

Why this second? Nikkei uses the comparison of sports as mitigating ancient hunting instincts, and points to how Monhun specifically tends to assign collaborative roles to its players that are similar to soccer roles. Indeed, here they mention how instead of growing friendly with the monsters you fight, you slaughter them mercilessly, citing the opening mission where the player is tasked with murdering harmless herbivore monsters who won't fight back. In this way, junior high school students can believe they have graduated from Pokemon to something more sophisticated, which is helped by the fact that the PSP is such an advanced piece of hardware compared to the Gameboy Advance.

Did Capcom cynically plan it that way all along? Who knows, but no other Japanese company has come close to matching their PSP performance, and it appears as if Monhun will be a phenomenon for quite a while yet.