I have been playing it since the first iteration of the game appeared on PS2 and, I feel I can contribute with a proper answer !
I second what you report from researching about both games (I own both) and I'll try to give you proper advice. But be aware as MHGen is absolutely not to be considered light. Especially if you never played it.
An important note about the series is that, despite being a series, you never feel like you are missing out in choosing a title over another one. Each game is a complete, outstanding experience on it's own, even the old ones!
What changes are:
- The settings (starting village appearance and some village minigames)
- Monsters roster and therefore equipment variety and variation.
- Hunter Arts are a new addition on MHGen, one of them allow you to keep a refined version of the old school game controls without special moves.
To give you an example I never played MH3 and MH3U and just played an import Jap version of MHPortable 3rd on PSP but never felt I was missing out. From there I just stepped into MH4U and all was fine.
There are three things you might want to consider:
- First consider if and how many of your real friends play either MH4U or MHGen.
- Second consider pricing (last time I checked MHGen was actually cheaper than MH4U on Amazon).
- Third consider how much time are you able to invest into a game like MH either playing solo or with firends.
IF your real life firends are all on one title or the other, just go and buy the one that allows you to play with them. If not buy MHGen.
On both titles you will often find friendly people to team up with online but the chat system is kinda bad and if you are playing from different time zones it will be hard to set up game sessions together. Of course on MH4U you might also have a bit of a hard time finding low rank people, most of them are already ahead and those who start a new character do not want to hang out they want to grind and move forward. That will make them efficient but it will cut a bit out of the experience as you will rush through ranks just to get to high rank and perhaps G-Rank one day. Or you will find high rank or G-rank players happy to help you go through the first part of the game faster ( I am one of those people) but you might get beaten enough to learn how to fight the monstruosities that come later in the game. In MH your equipment is what improves your character but if you play bad you get your ass handed to you anyway, it does not matter what armor you have. Most of the game is about observing monsters behaviour and learn how to anticipate them and strike effortlessly, If I nuke a monster with an ultimate bow for you, you might not learn much from facing it.
IF price is not a real concern just keep reading, otherwise buy the cheapest one.
IF you do not have a lot of time to play, it means your playsession cannot be longer than 1 or perhaps 2 hours buy MHGen. It is a tiny bit less grindy. It still feels as a MH title should but at least at first you feel you get rewarded faster for your efforts.
If you want a game you can still be playing in 50 years because you won't have finished it yet buy MH4U it is immense. I spent 400+ hours on it last year, I still have to finish the solo missions and barely started the G-Rank ones. Stopped playing mainly because MHGen came out and I moved to another continent, leaving my MH friends 11 timezones away. Add work to the equation and finding the time to play became impossible. Also I just cannot get back to playing solo after playing coop.
If you think 400+ hours are what you think a game should last buy MHGen. it will still give you a huomongous amount of content, with refined fighting systems and monsters behaviours. Plus all the new and crazy weird monsters that you won't get on MH4U.
Overall I suggest you to buy MHGen, but not because is better. No MH title is better if you ask me, every MH game is an experience on its own. Tied and tailored to the platform it is created for. you can actually buy MHGen, finish it and start MH3U without it feeling like a major step back.
MHGen is newer, cheaper, more refined. In addition to that I have it since last year but I barely made any progress therefore MHGen is the one I would like to play with you if ever feel like it .
here is my friend code for you and perhaps other fellow hunters roaming around this amazing forum: