Nargacuga... I can't help but feel bad for it when it gets nerfed two times in a row. The poor guy just can't catch a break.
One of the more popular flagships, I'm no different in this case and I've always liked Nargacuga. A classic "mix of different animals in a wyvern package", Narga takes inspiration from panthers, birds, bats and probably more and combines it all in a sleek, seamless design that manages to be simple and natural even by Monster Hunter standards. A sly, silent predator, its ninja-esque mannerisms are sure to strike the fancy of the more weeby MH fans. Personally, I've always found interesting how it's basically a foil to Tigrex, the flagship that came before it. I wish there were more monster "duos" that explored this kind of design philosophy. In Iceborne, it's another returning monster that remains largely unchanged, and so it's basically just a visual upgrade. AKA the best kind of redesigns. Probably the first thing you notice is that Narga is finally black again, not that ugly shade of blue it's been since 3U. The color is not all that changed however. When you get a closer look to it, you quickly notice how natural its pelage looks. Its fur lays in layers over the monster's body, much like a real life animal's, and the transition to scales is also magnificently done. Its body has a slight gloss to it, even when not tempered. I guess, if anything, the tail with the extended spikes looks a little weird to me, but I suppose that's how it was always intended to look like. Narga's fur is probably the best looking in the entire game, and you can tell the designers put a lot of care onto making Nargacuga an absolute delight to look at. Unfortunately, all that focus on making Narga's base appearance great means they forgot or half assed other aspects of its design. I'm talking, of course, of its rage mode. Because yes, Nargacuga still keeps the eye trails, although they may as well not be there. Now they only appear when Narga does certain attacks, and they're shorter, and disappear more quickly than they used to. It's unsurprising if you don't notice them at all. The eye trails were Narga's thing, something that you associate with no other monster and made it unique and iconic. They aced Nargacuga's redesign, but without them, it feels incomplete.
However my main issue with Iceborne!Narga is unsurprisingly, its "updated" gameplay. It's really well animated, this is specially noticeable on its new turning animations, and it gets a couple of new attacks, which is always welcome. But that's all I can appreciate about it. The Monster Field Guide describes it as "moving with explosive bursts of speed", and you may even believe this you when you see it circling you in battle, but don't be fooled. Everything Narga does is slow as molasses. It's fights like these where you wonder what's the point of adding all these realistic stalking behaviors when all it takes is one push of a button to focus the camera on the monster. Sure, it might look natural, but all it does is net you free hits. Its moveset has been largely watered down, despite learning a few tricks. As much as it loses on speed, it also does on combos. Its movement patterns are akin to a low rank monster, and it gives you plenty of time to react and punish its moves. When it does its tail slam, for example, regardless of whether it does it once or twice it'll always gets its tail stuck on the ground for a good 5-6 seconds, giving you time to punish with your strongest attack, clutch claw (this monster melts if you use it by the way, yet another case of awful claw balancing), or do basically whatever you want. I could swear its second circular tail sweep straight up doesn't have a hitbox. The new move where it bites then turns to strike with its tail as it retreats looks like someone took Odogaron's version of that attack, then edited the animation to play at half speed. Basically, Nargacuga in Iceborne feels like an introduction to the monster, something you expect to get ungimped in higher ranks, except in this game it's the only version you fight.
The sound design isn't too bad this time around (
I guess because its roar was already a stock cougar sound, so there was no way to fuck it up ha, ha), most of its new growls do sound like it would come from a Nargacuga. The sound effects when swinging its tail or extending its spikes do sound a bit iffy however. Nargacuga's is also the first remixed theme you hear in Iceborne, and it's not really a bad one to start with. It sounds like it has identity issues at times, but it's one of the least bad ones. I think that describes Narga's Iceborne's sound design as a whole. "Not that bad" is an accomplishment by itself in this game. It's one of the least offensive at least.
Equipment-wise, it offers some interesting stuff. The armor has the coveted True Razor Sharp, making it great for certain weapon types. Its selection of regular skills isn't that bad, although don't think I'm not going to notice it stole Zinogre Z's signature Evasion+PP combo, Capcom. Even if you probably won't be using it throughout the entire game, it's not a bad idea to make its armor. The weapons however, they've seen better days. There's really no point to high affinity weapons when you'll be hitting 100% affinity naturally in most of your sets, with weapons with more raw. The fact that most of the designs got IRON'd makes them even less attractive to use. The HBG at least is worth looking at, being one of the two main competitors for best Pierce bowgun in the game alongside Crimson Kadachi Lion.
All in all, I feel like Narga deserved better. Sure it looks better than ever, but the Swift Wyvern isn't really what you'd expect it to be. It's like as if they were scared of making Narga threatening. This revamp doesn't do justice to it.