The chilling winds of the tundra brush against my hunter’s fittingly snow-white armour. For the first time in my life I have bested a creature which frustrated me to no end. So much so that I almost quit a game that would go on to be a ten-year long obsession; a series which would go on to forge strong, real-life friendships. The year was 2013; on my dinky 3DS, after half a dozen failed attempts, I finally slayed a Lagombi for the first time, thus my story commenced. I’ve played every Monster Hunter game released since that demo (including Freedom Unite) going as far as importing Japanese versions of Monster Hunter 4, 4 Ultimate, Generations, and Generations Ultimate. In selfless devotion to an online community I produced visual references to aid other hunters in enemy weaknesses and Kinsect raising – a function of the Insect Glaive weapon introduced in Monster Hunter’s fourth entry. Clocking thousands of hours in game time, my long and storied journey through this massive world nearly ended when a large white rabbit knocked me on my rear.
Since its inception, Capcom has made numerous attempts in finding ways to gently nudge newcomers into the daunting world of Monster Hunter. Between the dango stall, two types of blacksmiths, a shopkeeper, a walking tutorial ninja, a frog-riding elder, and a quest counter, Rise’s campaign initiates in a village meet-and-greet. Once you are able to take on your first quest, the aforementioned tutorial ninja will take the reigns and show you the basics. Monster Hunter tutorials have a reputation for being a little overbearing or monotonous, but Rise has managed to cut the fat. The basics are displayed and demonstrated in a respective manner; Objectives highlighted in blue are requests from the villagers with the number of quests evidently escalating as you progress. If you’re expecting to confront a behemoth out of the gate, you may need to wait a little while, but at the very least Monster Hunter Rise allows you to hunt small creatures and gather materials with little resistance.
There are Monsters and you may Hunt them...
Upon clearing the beginner quests, I was alerted to an urgent threat; A Great Izuchi. By this time I had settled on using a Light Bowgun (a lightweight ranged weapon) as my main tool for my traipse throughout my initial run. All 14 weapon types available since Monster Hunter 4 are present in Rise. They behave more or less like their counterparts in World with a few amendments, so handling the firearm was fairly seamless. If you played Generations or Gen Ultimate, the brand-new Wirebug abilities serve as a stand-in for the Hunter Artes, enabling your hunter to perform super-human leaps mid-fight with a small cooldown. A good mix of offensive and defensive Wirebug abilities are available, with the potential to unlock more as you continue the campaign. Great Izuchi is presented as a massive threat to the Hunter, but a series veteran like myself, a Great Izuchi is nothing more than an angry lizard with an overly confident repertoire. This pattern remains consistent upon the first few hours for those familiar with the franchise, but is a necessary concession to gently ramp up the difficulty for newcomers.
You will encounter a number of notable foes from World’s initial lineup with strikingly new features – a personal favourite Almudron; a muddy leviathan with a centipede-like tail it uses to manipulate the earth around the arena to its advantage. Monsters returning from World are mostly what you’d expect, but each creature entails a new ability to try and catch veterans off guard. Monsters omitted from World, but found their way to Rise have been given a modernised upgrade – à la “World-like” treatment. The days of the Instant Chicken Rush are long over with improvements made for engaging and intuitive encounters. In the years since my first Lagombi, I now get excited when an old monster has a new trick up their sleeve, allowing for compelling combat. Nothing better than a strong, meaty attack from the opposition to get those juices flowing. This occurred a few times, with Zinogre’s new fakeout attack as a leading example, and one I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Rise borrows quality of life improvements seen in World. A seamless map, simpler crafting, and streamlined items all fold into an aesthetic that closely resembles the Monster Hunter of the third and fourth generations, where World would have enemies confront you in tiny corridors and provoke you while climbing tall trees. Rise tends to tip the scales in the player’s favour with each arena consisting of monsters that rotate in a timely routine. Gameplay between the battlefield is the domain of the hunter; certain area’s void of any looming threats. The positives of this are highlighted within the advantage of utilising discreet areas to continuously heal your hunter. On the other hand I earnestly believe an angry Wyvern could climb a hill and intimidate me a more than what is demonstrated here.
The quest system seems to have rolled back a peg in comparison to Rise’s prequel counterpart, where Monster Hunter World bridged the Solo and Multiplayer quests into a single unit. This is so hunters can enjoy the story as a party, whereas Rise has split the difference by keeping lists separate, but has shifted its focus on its Single Player content. The option to “skip ahead” in Multiplayer progress after certain thresholds are met within story. This means you won’t need to repeat the low rank content in the Guild, upon completing the Village Quests.
Monster Hunter Rise is quite possibly the best Monster Hunter has ever been. [...] a compulsory buy for JRPG lovers, and an essential for Switch owners.
Capcom love their hallmarks, cramming notable gimmicks into each game regardless of Monster Hunter’s highly regarded foundations. The Iceborne expansion introduced the concept of tenderising a creature’s hitbox, while endlessly bonking the menacing fiends into walls, dealing fixed damage with the Hunter’s Clutch Claw. The Wirebugs in Rise have minimised the mechanics which were abused in previous entries. The title re-introduces a “back to basics” gameplay loop, but it’s quite evident that Capcom aren’t ready to let these gimmicks rest. Throughout Monster Hunter’s legacy, when two of the series’ notorious monsters occupy a key area, their attention would turn directly to the hunter which has been the cause for frustration in most of the franchise’s faithful. Monsters would neglect their cohorts presence until World, with all setting their sights on the protagonist – friendly fire between enemies was only incidental.
Turf Wars make a return for set combinations of creatures, with set combat animations that are triggered when two monsters within the vicinity would come face-to-face. It aided in delegating each creature’s status within the food chain; a natural progression of the things that Monster Hunter aims to be. There are some AI quirks that can be ironed out, but initially experiencing some were confounding, for example; In Rise, engaging with monsters can be scrupulous. Maintaining their attention can be a battle in its own. Mid-combat when another foe enters the fray they forget the hunter exists and begin to attack each other. Whichever one gets unlucky becomes the temporary puppet for our hero to manipulate. Wyvern Riding was a delight, but only for the first few times. Its charm dwindled when it was the result of an Arzuros accidentally walking too close within the area I happened to be engaging in battle.
After a few hours of exploration, you are introduced to a brand new mode, Rampage Quests. The objective here is for the hunter to set up defences and ward off an onslaught of devious swarms. As compelling as it sounds, Rampage Quests aren’t very engaging. Rather than making me feel like I’ve progressed and have become an all mighty being, they turn monsters from maniacal miscreants to retreating puppies, when firing a few ballista shots. Rampage Quests certainly become more challenging over time and introduce original mechanics, but tying them to a particular quest wasn’t overly gratifying. Rise does a great job addressing the many issues that World entailed, but it does so by introducing its some of its own.
In silence I rest,
Under sunlight's soft caress,
My name was known once...
✔️Combat is smooth and satisfying.
✔️The environments are beautiful and full of mystery.
❌No groundbreaking story being told.
❌Some gimmicks get in the way of the fun.
Rise may be the Nintendo Switch’s most aesthetically gorgeous title to be released within the console’s ongoing four-year lifespan. Combined with a fairly consistent 30fps, I had hours of fun simply exploring the ancient ruins of the campaign’s five maps. There aren’t dozens of endemic creatures bursting from the vine-covered overlay of World, but there are countless rocky outcrops which hide the secrets of an ancient civilisation, revered by the people of Kamura Village. In contrast to its multiplatform prequel, Rise asks the player to protect and preserve a continent filled with culture and tradition.
This is evident throughout every facet of Rise’s design even down to a traditionally rendered interpretation of creatures and other life which bring context into the universe crafted here. I may not remember every single hunt, but I do recall the moment I thought to use a Barrel Bomb in hopes of blasting my way into a completely optional chamber to collect one of sixty Relic Records, or the cliff-side outcrop overlooking a waterfall littered in bugs. Despite the exploration being such a large emphasis, minor setbacks rear their misfortunes later on.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild demonstrated its cliff-side climbing mechanic to be an extremely freeing experience. While in Rise, not every surface is attainable. It can be exhausting trying to find which wall is mountable with no indication on which you may or may not climb. The Wirebug Cursor may change to symbolise which surface is climbable, but only if you’re within close range. Upon ascending diagonally, it can be tricky to steer your hunter into running vertically. There are a number of caves which are not displayed, giving the impression that the map isn’t the most meaningful resource when considering exploration, but at times the only indication that a path is impassable leading to invisible barriers at the map’s border and around certain impediments.
These however, are all minor inconveniences to an otherwise stellar mode of transport. Between utilising Wirebugs for climbing, and using them for soaring through the air, it’s quite possibly the most powerful sensation delivered in Monster Hunter Rise. Highlighting an unsung hero of the Monster Hunter franchise is its stellar sound design, and Rise is no exception. A light breeze brushes through its astonishing cornucopia, the light chirping of birds, the bristles of each tree, and the flowing water of each river makes this surrounding an absolute joy to exist in. A natural transition between calm and combat is not forgotten here, with each of the environments’ battle themes disposing a fitting overture for emotions Lead Composer Satoshi Hori (Resident Evil VII), is trying to evoke.
The Monster Hunter franchise has always been filled to the brim with endearment and charm. Rise encapsulates these key facets and takes them to the next level. Joining Palicoes as your partners in crime, are the loyal Palamutes; a dog-like creature that aids you on your expedition. Additionally, when you begin the game you are also gifted a pet owl; All pet pals can be given their own respective names. You can sit and relax on benches in Kamura and call your owl to hang out, sometimes when you pet your Palamute they will push you to the ground and pet you back, and of course you can pose for pictures with your companions to really show off your hunter skills in the field.
Monster Hunter Rise is quite possibly the best Monster Hunter has ever been. Sure there may be a need to deliver more behemoths in the future but each of the monsters is given a lot of love and time in the spotlight. Capcom has created a world worth protecting despite some questionable additions and design decisions. Monster Hunter Rise is a compulsory buy for JRPG lovers, and an essential for Switch owners.
Monster Hunter Rise is an action role-playing game developed and published by Capcom for the Nintendo Switch. It is the sixth mainline installment in the Monster Hunter series after Monster Hunter: World and was released worldwide on March 26, 2021.