Pretty much every video game will have some form of mascot it will use for promotional reasons, even if it ends up just being the main character. Games like Pokemon had plenty of choices for a mascot and chose Pikachu, while games in the Halo series have settled on Master Chief as their mascot. The same can be said for Capcom's Monster Hunter franchise, which has released multiple entries across multiple consoles since its beginnings on the PS2. While the hunters and monsters might change, the Palico cat-creatures have become a staple in Monster Hunter.
Every single Monster Hunter game has the Palico in some shape or form, pretty much making it a mascot for the series. The Palico is to Monster Hunter what the Chocobo is to Final Fantasy. These fuzzy companions often help the player, and have a variety of personalities and background lore. Palicoes have even been used in plenty of promotional cross-overs between other Capcom and non-Capcom games, and have appeared on different merchandise from shirts to statues to toilet paper holders.
In the world of Monster Hunter, the name "Palico" is actually just a job title referring to any of the cat companions that accompany hunters in their battles. These cat companions belong to the umbrella species called Lynians, and are typically the Felyne subspecies. Felynes used to be wild, living in small tribes, but eventually integrated into human communities as servants, cooks, crafters, and more.
Felynes are just one of the groups of Lynians that interact with human society in some way. The Melynx are similar to Felynes, but generally have black fur and a tendency for kleptomania, taking what they steal back to their homes. Grimalkynes, first introduced in Monster Hunter: World, are not integrated into society like their cousins, often living in the wild in tribes. The Uruki, similar to Grimalkynes, have not integrated with humans, but tend to live peacefully. The Shakalaka are small creatures that live in the wild and are hostile to others, and they wear special masks that serve as status symbols in their tribes.
Thankfully, Felynes and Melynx are not treated as second-class citizens in Monster Hunter society. They can fill all sorts of roles within a village from housekeeper to Palico, and one Felyne even obtained the rank of Guild Knight in the Hunter's Guild. While Lynians have a wide breadth of lore in the Monster Hunter games, it is when certain Felynes and Melynx serve as Palicoes that gets focused on the most.
In 2004, Monster Hunter was one of the games Capcom created to take advantage of the PlayStation's processing capabilities, and the game had realistic graphics. Palicoes, and Felynes, have shown up in every Monster Hunter game since the original release. These cat creatures even showed up in the 2020 Monster Hunter movie starring Milla Jovovich. While the main Monster Hunter games give Palicoes a realistic design, some spin-off games have these cat creatures with chibi designs. Palicoes accompany players on hunts, acting as AI backup in fights. Sometimes they can provide support to the player, or give an offensive edge against monsters.
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