Monster Hunter Rise

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Action
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: March 26, 2021


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Switch Review - 'Monster Hunter Rise'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on April 5, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

In Monster Hunter Rise, players rise above the world, using special creatures to scale cliffs and vault high above the magnificent terrain around them.

Buy Monster Hunter Rise

Monster Hunter is a long-running franchise that dates back to the PS2 era, but it only took off with the release of Monster Hunter World. The series had been mostly relegated to handhelds or local multiplayer, and its best features were often buried under poorly explained or confusing gameplay mechanics. Monster Hunter World went a long way to putting the franchise's best foot forward. Thankfully, Monster Hunter Rise keeps the franchise's methodical and immensely enjoyable combat while ensuring that players are getting all of the fun and less of the frustration.

Monster Hunter Rise is set in the small (and very Japanese) village of Kamura. As is the norm for these games, you play as an up-and-coming hunter. Kamura is surrounded by dangerous monsters that threaten the daily life of the villagers and provide valuable materials to craft weapons and armor, so you must hunt. Lurking in the background is the Rampage, a mysterious gathering of monsters that causes them to be more dangerous than ever before. You have to hunt the monsters and protect your village from them.

At its core, Monster Hunter Rise is a basic Monster Hunter offering, so the core gameplay mechanics are present and unchanged. You go into the field with a selection of familiar weapons and beat the crap out of monsters to harvest their precious parts so you can beat up stronger monsters. Almost everything in the game is at least as streamlined — if not more so — than Monster Hunter World, so it's very easy to juggle items and monsters without needing to pause the action.

Longtime Monster Hunter fans know and love the adorable Palacos, tiny anthropomorphic cats that fight alongside your hunter. Monster Hunter Rise adds a pet dog and a floating owl to the mix. The Dog (Palamute) is a close companion that fights alongside you just like Palacos, and you can hop on his back to speed-travel around the world. This makes chasing fleeing monsters easier than ever, and every game should have an adorable customizable dog companion. The Owl (or Cohoot) is a more limited monster that serves as an excuse for the in-game camera system, but I'm not going to say no to more cute allies in the battle against dangerous beasts.

Perhaps the single biggest new feature in Monster Hunter Rise are wirebugs, which are like a fusion of Monster Hunter World's grappling claw and Monster Hunter Generations' special arts. In essence, you have two charges of "wirebug," and at any time, you can tap a button to send yourself flying upward or flying forward. Fly into a wall, and you can run up it at a heavy cost to stamina, but careful use of wirebugs and wall-running can let you climb pretty much any obstacle in your path. This gives Rise an unparalleled sense of movement compared to other games in the series, and it couldn't be a better addition. Being able to come at monsters quickly or from unexpected angles makes any weapon more fun to use, allowing you to fight from high up in a way that was previously limited to the Insect Glaive. The wirebug charges replenish quickly over time, so you can use them often.

However, there's another feature to these miraculous little bugs. Every weapon has multiple Silkbind moves that cost one or more wirebug charges but are incredibly powerful. Every weapon has two by default, but you can unlock variants that give you more flexibility. The attacks tend to be something that complements the play style of the weapon. For example, the bow gains the ability to leap away into a crouching stance that quickly recovers stamina or charge in to close range with a special attack buff that applies tons of damage. The dual blades allow a powerful charge-in attack that does damage if it intercepts an enemy attack or allows you to stab an enemy with a kunai, which charges up as you attack for extra damage.

The wirebugs are such a fantastic addition that I can't imagine a future Monster Hunter title without them. While the core gameplay is the same, you are much more mobile and powerful than you have ever been in a Monster Hunter title, and it feels great. The fact that the Silkbind moves mesh so well with the basic weapon builds make them feel like a central part of your abilities, and it is satisfying to charge up a hammer to unleash a crippling heavy smash on an unsuspecting monster's head.

However, the wirebugs, along with some other features, have one potential downside: Monster Hunter really isn't about the hunting aspect anymore. You can quickly move around the map, and if you've visited a location once and cleared out the fog surrounding the area, you'll be able to see where monsters are on your minimap. This essentially removes a lot of the tracking and build-up elements of the game in favor of pushing you toward the monster part of Monster Hunter.

This feels like an improvement. Monster Hunter World was a step toward making things more straightforward, but with that element sidelined, it allows the game to focus on the parts that most people want: finding and fighting increasingly dangerous beasts. Some may argue that the game has been simplified, but I think it's more that it has been streamlined. You still need to know your class and mechanics to take down the biggest bads; it's just less fuss to get there. It's a negative for fans who wished the "hunter" part of the title received greater focus, but for casual or new players, it makes Rise even more instantly accessible than World. For die-hards, it probably feels easier, but a lot of the increased ease comes from feeling powerful, not poor design.

This also pays off in a lot of ways. Previously in Monster Hunter, I found two or three weapons that I liked and stuck with them. In Rise, I faced choice paralysis because every weapon felt great. Making all of the weapons mesh well and easier to use actually encouraged more experimentation, not less. In particular, the revamped hunting horn is a huge step up and verges on the realm of overpowered. It automatically plays tunes as you fight, so it feels like a smoother and more naturally flowing weapon; support players like myself can aid their teams while having fun.

Monster Hunter Rise has a bucketload of content, and there's a ton of monsters to fight, missions to complete, gear to grind, and more coming in DLC down the line. There's even the best version of the large-scale battles, like the Zorah Magdaros from World. You defend the village against the rampaging monsters, and while it's still not quite as fun as hunting, it's more exciting than the slow, plodding version from World. Rise now competes with World as my favorite game in the franchise, and I think Rise will come out ahead once I've had time to let things settle. It's a near-perfect embodiment of everything that Monster Hunter should be.

In addition, it helps that it has its own personality. The Japanese-themed aesthetic really gives the game it is own distinctive feel. The environments are often incredibly pretty, even if they're not quite as polished as some of World's, and Capcom's near-miraculous RE Engine pulls out a ton from the Nintendo Switch with largely solid frame rates. The music is also wonderful, with lots of vocal tracks that set the mood and get you incredibly hyped for battle. There are a few areas where you can see the budget poking through, but especially in handheld mode, Rise is a damn good-looking Monster Hunter.

Monster Hunter Rise is probably the most accessible and enjoyable entry of the long-running franchise to date. Streamlined, focused, and incredibly fun, Monster Hunter Rise is a must-have for fans and newcomers alike. One of the best action games on the Switch and easily one of its best console exclusives, it's everything a video game should be. Even if you've bounced off previous Monster Hunters, I recommend giving Rise's demo a shot, and if you're looking for a great way to hunt some monsters, there's no better option on the Switch.

Score: 9.0/10

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