The monsters… they’ve gone wild! For those of us old school Hunters, it’s been almost three years since the last Nintendo
outing for the franchise. And now, the long wait is over. As I’m writing this I’ve got the soundtrack kickin’ on Spotify
and it's pumping me up at the level songs about tigers pump up Rocky B. That’s the thing though, if you’ve been bitten by the Monster Hunter
bug, chances are you’re going to get this game.
For those of you in that club all I can do is put on some shades that clip on the nose and show you the door. On the other side? Not some pipsqueek that can bend a spoon or a silly cave rave. It’s a party that's won over millions of players.
Which makes this the sixth entry in the mainline Monster Hunter series. So then, why isn’t this called Monster Hunter 6: Join the Party Edition? Well to borrow a phrase from Charlie Darwin, it’s all about evolution girl. No doubt the team at Capcom
felt that it was time to evolve the series, freshen up those beats, but still wrap returning players in a comfy blue blanket of Monster Hunter goodness. And that's where I feel Monster Hunter Rise
(lets call it MHR for short) fits and sits -- a welcome evolution.
Before we dig a little deeper, a little history on my lovematic connection to the series. I got into Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
all the way back on the Nintendo 3DS
, and once it got its hooks in me I never looked back. On that note it’s the handheld editions of the franchise that have always been my raspberry jam. Fast forward to the last release on the Nintendo Switch
, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate
, that felt like a great send off to the tried and true formula of old -- a tribute worthy of a salute, neatly wrapped flag, and solitary tear.
If you’ve been bitten by the Monster Hunter bug, chances are you’re going to get this game.
Now that Monster Hunter Rise is here it’s worth looking at what makes it feel fresh. From the outset it’s a game that’s more accessible than ever, though there is a heck of a lot of tutorial text to wade through in the early parts. There is a lot of ‘splainin' to do so that’s understandable, covering the many systems you need to know about takes time. For returning players that were like ‘I got you Morph’ after the intro, well, you might find it all annoying. But like all things hand-holding it does quiet down eventually, let go of your hips, and let you fly.
Also, as a Monster Hunter fan and someone who thinks Rise is awesome -- that’s basically one of the only negative things you’re going to get from me. This is a love story.
With so many games out there, good games I might add, Monster Hunter is one of those titles you can keep coming back to. The first and probably the most important mantra you can feel this time around, is that Monster Hunter Rise respects your time. This isn’t a grind for the sake of the grind or replicating the same age-old formula. That accessibility talk earlier isn’t simply about making things easier to understand, everything feels more streamlined to the point where annoying parts from the old games are just -- gone.
Make no mistake, this is still Monster Hunter, and I spent nearly all my time with the game doing exactly that -- hunting monsters. But what does that mean exactly? Glad you asked.
Let's talk about how the early game is paced. Older versions would usually involve a lot of missions gathering mushrooms, carrying eggs, mining ore, and other fantasy role-playing tasks. Here most of that is pushed to the side or not necessary to progress the game at all. And speaking of gathering, in the Monster Hunter of old each time you collected a resource it would play an animation, you’d wait a few seconds, and then bam! You got a herb. MHR has totally flipped the pacing of the gathering -- most items you can simply collect whilst running. That might sound like a small thing but gathering stuff is a huge part of the experience, and this change has seriously tightened the belt on those frequent momentary lulls in action.
If you’ve come from the last Switch iteration you’re in for a plethora of quality of life changes. If you’re coming from Monster Hunter World
you’ll see a few ideas from that game here but with some added evolution on top. Speaking from the perspective of the last Switch outing, you no longer have to stock a mining axe, fishing rod, or whetstone for sharpening -- you just have them with you all the time.
The first and probably the most important mantra you can feel this time around, is that Monster Hunter Rise respects your time.
Not having to remember to stock items or worry about where they might fit in your inventory is always welcome, but Capcom has taken this concept one step further by encouraging you to explore off the main path. And having that sit alongside a seemingly simple change leads to the discovery of fishing spots, hidden mineral deposits, and other resources to collect. Oddities to uncover. By omitting the need to keep a list of things you need to bring with you, or having your pickaxe break sending you home mid-expedition, the experience feels fresh and new.
Let's talk briefly about the graphics because there's no beating around the bush -- Monster Hunter World for consoles and PC not only has a great art style but features visuals that are at the sort of level where Switch hardware simply cannot compete. But boy, Monster Hunter Rise can look and sound impressive at times. From the fantasy-inspired hub world to the bustling and catchy music to the little things like the detailed character creator or the broader art-style -- MHR is a visual feast compared to past handheld iterations.
We have image-based lighting this time around, so there’s a consistency across the environments no matter the weather or lighting conditions. We have five large worlds to hunt in, each bringing their own varying biomes to the table covering series staples like snow, desert, and lava. They’ve even managed to put in screen-space reflections in some areas to give battles and exploration an extra dose of immersion. The stars of the show are of course the monsters themselves and here the more basic designs of old are gone with the beasties on display more in line with the style and grandiose menace found in Monster Hunter World.
On the monster front we have some returning faves and quite a few new contenders too. In terms of presence they vary in quality and impact, with early game monsters not quite at the same level as later ones. Monster design from a sheer spectacle perspective ramps up throughout and for those that stick with the hunt there are several ‘monster moments’ that make the journey continuously worth it. And with action being such a key component it’s also worth highlighting that the framerate here is mostly rocky solid balboa, no matter if you’re playing handheld or docked. In fact, the overall presentation is crisp, detailed, and smooth in either sitch.
On top of that all of the game’s various biomes are connected, which means your hunts are no longer bound by the old timey restraint known as ‘the loading screen’. This is a major improvement for the handheld side of the franchise, adding an open-world sheen and sense of realism to the biodiversity that is flora, fauna, and big bad monsters. In terms of actual exploration, traversal is also, yeah, better than ever. Which partly comes thanks to your new canine companion -- called a Palamute. What makes this furry friend cool is you get to ride it, climb walls with it, and charge into battle.
And take a few snaps to showcase your burgeoning friendship.
You can take your Palamute with you on all single player and multiplayer missions, and with that I pretty much refused to travel on foot on the account of it being more fun to ride. Plus, palling on a Palamute doesn’t cost any of that stamina nonsense. Another introduction found in MHR is the Wirebug, which is your everyday garden-variety grappling hook that allows you to zip around and take advantage of all the verticality found across the different locales. In terms of Monster Hunter action it’s something to behold -- riding into battle, flying off your pal, swinging towards a monster with an oversized weapon, and striking with all the power and fury of the ancient ones. It’s Matthew Mcconaughey in Reign of Fire levels of epic.
The stars of the show are of course the monsters themselves and here the more basic designs of old are gone with the beasties on display more in line with the style and grandiose menace found in Monster Hunter World.
With new mechanics and ways to move about, in addition to the streamlining of things like resource gathering, the moment to moment pace has definitely been cranked to 11 in Monster Hunter Rise. The new horde-style Rampage mode that sees you set-up defences and fend off waves of attacking monsters is enjoyable too, and a great change of pace for the series.
For the veteran hunters out there the fact that it's now common to always have more than a single major monster on missions will totally get your ‘oooh’ face primed. In the later tiers, you frequently get three major encounters! Insane.
And here’s the kicker, the monsters can fight each other. It doesn’t happen all the time but on the rare occasion it does, you’ll be in for Clash of the Titans level bout of epic monsters taking to the skies, fighting and flinging each other around. The first time it happened for me I was left stunned -- so much so that after I did a comical rubbing of the eyes, I regretted not hitting the record button.
To quote a late night infomercial, but wait there’s more! Yeah, this leads to another new feature called Wyvern Riding. Where once a monster is in a weakened state, you can temporarily control them. A fun addition where you can do some serious damage against another monster or simply finish the job by riding your monster head first into a wall.
What makes the Monster Hunter so special is, well, the monsters. Each monster feels unique, its movements inspired by the behaviour of real world animals and creatures. This diversity ensures that each battle is impressive in its own way, a situation where you spend the time to read the monster, learn its tells, and find the right time to strike. This is something that has remained a constant throughout the series and one of the main reasons the veteren hunter in me keeps coming back.
Varied monsters are only one half of the epic told in-front of a campfire story, the fun and tactile nature of the combat is as equally impressive thanks to the various weapons and play-styles. Like the monsters there’s too many to list, each weapon has its own combo system and best of all the shift in combat direction makes switching things up feel like a different game.
Monsters can fight each other. It doesn’t happen all the time but on the rare occasion it does, you’ll be in for Clash of the Titans level bout of epic monsters taking to the skies, fighting and flinging each other around.
In the end what makes Monster Hunter so damn good is the culmination of a lot of different things. The battles are a lot of fun, sure, but there’s a great loot system where you can find materials throughout the world in addition to carving out pieces from each monster for crafting. You get to upgrade weapons and armour based on the monster you fought. You also progress through different tiers where you face off against more challenging and, well, more interesting monsters. Monster Hunter feels at home on a portable system like the Switch too, on the account of being able to pause the often considerably lengthy fights and resume them later.
You don’t have to always dedicate a large chunk of time to the game, which is remarkable considering the scope. Back in the day, when we all used to ride these things called ‘trai-ns’ to and from places -- Monster Hunter was my travel go-to.
Monster Hunter Rise is also lengthy, though getting to the credits only takes roughly a dozen or so hours. MHR is more than defeating the hero monster, it’s an experience that grows and expands and offers the sort of reward that can support a playtime anywhere in the 50-100 hour region or more. Some of the coolest battles happen in the later ranks, stuff that feels on par with the series at its absolute best. And really, Rise is probably that -- the latest and most confident entry to date, chock full of new and old, past and present, and a game that lays the groundwork for a bright Monster Hunter future.