Can Monster Hunter possibly rise any higher than its current position in gaming culture? Monster Hunter World is currently Capcom’s most successful game – sorry about that Resident Evil fans – but Monster Hunter’s rise hasn’t been so much meteoric as it has been stately; a true Great Sword blow that’s been painstakingly lined up and widely heralded over the last 17 years. If Monster Hunter World’s success was the cudgel of popularity, Monster Hunter Rise is the finely honed, swift finishing blow of fulfilment.
First things first though, you will not believe that Monster Hunter Rise is running on the Nintendo Switch. Its open-world landscapes can’t match World’s lush, vibrant environments in fidelity, but to all intents and purposes, it feels like a continuation of what World put in place. The new movement options make every obstacle surmountable, and you can climb to the highest point in a stage in a matter of moments. From there, and with the entire landscape panned out before you, there’s not a hint of slowdown or judder. Quite what they’ve done with the RE Engine to achieve this I can’t begin to fathom, but it still impresses long after you’d expect it to.
Monster Hunter Rise provides a stronger identity than its predecessor, and, personally speaking, it’s the first place that’s truly felt like home since Monster Hunter Tri’s Mog Village. Japanese cinema, art, and food all play into the game’s design while Kamura Village feels lived in; blossoming trees and Japanese-styled architecture lend it a beauty and charm that was lacking in World and the story that (as with any Monster Hunter game) is largely about protecting your home feels worthwhile and vital.
Part of that rests with the village’s population: Hamon the Blacksmith, Kagero the Merchant, Yomogi the Chef, and the rest. These are people that you feel like protecting, not just constructs whose conversation you’ll rapidly tap through. Guild Master Hojo is sat upon a baby Tetsucabra, and if that’s not the kind of person you’re immediately beholden to protecting then perhaps you’re in the wrong place.
Monster Hunter Rise wants to involve you emotionally. Besides your trusty Palico and their well-worn feline charms, you’re now also joined by a Palamute, a generously proportioned canine pal that you can ride like a horse. Besides that, you’ve got a pet Cohoot, a cheerful owl friend who’ll greet you after missions and perform various other little tasks here and there. After this year these three feel like therapy pets – even after a hunt goes bad how can you possibly be downtrodden with them at your side?
There’s layers upon layers to the systems at work in Monster Hunter Rise, and they make the original games feel positively prehistoric by comparison. Alongside Endemic Life that you can gather up as boosts or usable items, you’re wearing a Petalace charm. This absorbs Spiribird essence while you’re hunting, with different feathery friends providing different stat boosts. The Petalace itself also offers its own boosts, giving you a new piece of equipment to min-max to your heart’s content. As you’d expect there’s different ones that will match with your playstyle or weapon choice.
The monsters, who’ve always been at the centre of the experience, look fantastic, moving with believable weight and heft so as to make them feel real. Whether it’s the iconic Rathalos or cover-star Magnamalo, they’re the heart of Rise and the game focusses on your interactions with them more than ever before. It’s quite possible though that not everyone will appreciate the changes.
In essence, the hunting element of Monster Hunter is gone. After the first time you visit a new stage – where the map is covered by fog – you can see exactly where every monster is lurking. You’ll find your way there faster than ever thanks to your Palamute, and in one fell swoop Capcom has sidelined a key aspect of the series.
To be honest, I couldn’t be happier. The aimless wandering in search of your prey has always been the least interesting part of a hunt and the worst part of each game as a whole. World’s glowing steps and Scoutfly trails already undid much of this, and honestly, the whole process deserves to have been dropped. The smoothing out of the path to each creature has been an ongoing project since Monster Hunter Tri, and Rise is just another step along it.
Hot and cold drinks are also gone – two fewer meaningless thing to carry about with you – and mining and gathering points are now a single button press rather than a repeated tapping. None of the changes do anything but bring the monsters into focus sooner, and personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
Movement has seen some key changes, with the Wirebug a huge addition to a hunter’s arsenal. These little bugs let you latch onto them, swinging and leaping from them in a way that lets every hunter experience some of what it’s been like to use an Insect Glaive. As a Great Sword user it’s a revelation, letting you leap into combat from a huge distance, and each weapon gains a number of Switch Skills that utilise them for offence.
It’s a fantastic marrying of World’s Clutch Claw and Generations’ Hunter Arts. They’re more grounded than Arts – at least artistically – but fit into the middle ground that Rise inhabits; a place between World’s grittier world-building and the classic games’ lightness of tone. Overall, there’s a glorious balance between the two that long term fans will love.
Those Wirebugs also allow for another key change: Wyvern Riding. Mounting monsters – introduced back in Monster Hunter 4 – is gone, or at least it’s had a complete rethink. No longer are you looking for ledges and vantage points to leap onto a monster from, instead, you’re aiming to hit monsters with Switch Skill attacks until you’ve worn them down, which in turn opens up the opportunity for Wyvern Riding. Ultimately, you can now lasso your chosen creature and take them for a spin.
It’s an idea I wasn’t sold on at first. It initially feels indistinct and a little random, until you grasp the different methods to get into those states. Once you know what you’re doing, it’s a riot. Primarily it allows you to take control of Monster Hunter World’s Turf Wars – which do occasionally still happen – and then batter the hell out of one monster with another.
Suddenly the fact that you can see all the creatures on the map makes sense, as you ride a Goss Harag all the way across a stage in order to ram it into a Tigrex. Control can be a little clunky here, but again, once you’ve grasped how it all functions it’s a seamless, brutal, and, most importantly, fun addition to the formula.
That extends into the Rampage. This new mode fits into Rise’s central narrative, as Kamura village isunder impending attack from a stampeding horde of monsters. It is, in essence, a tower defence horde mode, with players tasked with setting up bombs, weaponry and special characters to help fend them off.
It builds on the series’ occasional large-scale battles, but where they so often felt tiresome and were only loosely hands-on, Rampage puts you in the middle of the action. When your gun emplacements aren’t cutting it, or a host of monster have poured over the wall, you leap into the fray and start swinging. It puts you under a huge amount of pressure as multiple monsters try to smash through to the last gate. Victory here often feels more hard-won than the regular hunts.
Of course, the core of Monster Hunter remains; wonderfully challenging encounters with huge, incredibly designed monsters, that you can then turn into new weaponry or armour so you can take on even bigger and even more dangerous foes. The armour designs live up to expectations too, with some old favourites returning while the new monsters offer some great-looking fresh choices. As ever, the meta-game of working out the best combinations is fully present, and it’ll keep you invested for many, many months.
The first credits will roll terrifyingly early if you’re a seasoned veteran, but as ever, it’s just Monster Hunter giving you false sense of security. The monsters keep on coming, multiplayer meetups form a key part of both the central progression and the endgame experience, and the continuous addition of new monsters – which have already been confirmed – should keep Rise on the agenda for years to come.
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