“Post-game updates will ultimately determine whether this is a surefire classic or just a solid stepping stone to something bigger, but even at launch, Monster Hunter has never felt better.”
Optimized, fair fight
Full of charm and detail
Deep but streamlined RPG systems
Too dependent on post-game updates
Frame rate spikes
With each new Monster Hunter title comes an tweaked experience designed to destroy the notion that Capcom’s biggest series is a punishment designed to make you cry. On the surface, Monster Hunter Rise could easily be mistaken for a figurative Monster Hunter World Lite – a less visually eye-catching action RPG that simplifies Capcom’s most successful game to date on the compact and comparatively weak Nintendo Switch console. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Monster Hunter Rise is a brilliant standalone entry that builds on what the previous game did both right and wrong. It takes the franchise another bold step in the right direction while retaining just enough of the old-school charm not to further alienate veterans who are left over from the latest shortage. However, whether it beats the previous depends on what the future has in store.
Web slinging wins again
As in previous games, Monster Hunter Rise competes against horrific beasts at the top of their respective food chains. The eponymous monster hunts are protracted battles between the brain and muscles, in which even a poorly timed chugging of a drink can open you to a world full of injuries. Relentlessly long animations and steep learning curves have made many hunters pack up over the years. It’s that stigma that recent titles have tried to shake without sacrificing what made it great.
The crowning glory of Monster Hunter Rise is the wirebug system, which gives the traditionally sluggish combat system a new level of verticality and speed. This new quick recharge resource allows players to move their way through a specific portion of the chase, turning the largely in-depth experience of past games into a far more fluid and reactionary affair.
Whether you’re lugging around a powerful hammer or grabbing lightweight double blades, you can get close to fast-moving targets, get out of the way, or quickly perform a series of eye-catching weapon-specific attacks with the push of a button. It’s both an offensive and a defensive toolkit, building on the situational Wedge Beetle and arguably unbalanced Clutch Claw from the previous title, with at least a half-dozen reasons to use it popping up every second.
Everything about the core formula has been optimized for the T-piece.
However, a certain amount of expertise is required to properly plan a wirebug skill. Getting involved in the attack is like a game-changing shot unfolding in your favorite sport. It’s a tense, risky judgment moment and you’ll doubt your decision until you touch down. From large enemy attacks that you can perform, to hurling from the quest hub and straight into a seat in the restaurant for a pre-hunt meal. It is clear that the game was designed around the wirebug from the start.
As the possibilities arise, it will be difficult to go back to an earlier time. Everything about the core formula has been optimized for the T-piece. From seamless battlefields full of supplies to player mobility far from the franchise norm, there is virtually no downtime between fights. Once you’ve decided the chase is on, it’s on.
Another part of what Monster Hunter Rise’s break-neck pace makes possible is the return of open-world gameplay. Although Rise is significantly less dense and detailed compared to the last main version, it offers extensive zones that at first glance often overshadow those of the predecessor. The reduction in soil clutter leads to areas that feel less embedded in far-fetched fantasies and are better suited to the hectic action of the hunt. Tools like Great Wirebugs, additional spawn camps, and your wheeled palamute dog buddy make traversing the grandiose locations an adventure in and of itself.
To keep quick journeys from shrinking the size of the world, creatures that can increase your combat effectiveness are strategically dispersed and provide just enough reason to go all the way to your destination. There are even a number of secret messages expertly hidden on every map so that the few who are hungry for lore can find out when they are not on the clock. It should take a while to fully reveal them.
Hope you like dango
Kamura Village is a potential victim of efforts to streamline the core experience. It’s a bit smaller than a typical in-game quest hub. But with a smaller village comes a greater concentration of the franchise’s charming cast of disposable characters. The people of Kamura Village range from quaint and elegant to raw, boisterous, and theatrical – although some signature choppy facial animation can cause the English localization to lead to some edgy and awkward cutscenes.
It’s a slight shame to see the Meowster boss get punished after making his big screen debut in last year’s live-action movie, but Yomogi the cook and her cute little kittens pounding rice inject a level of cuteness that was sorely missed in the rudeness and goofy Monster Hunter World. Skip the adorable song and dance that come free with your meal of dubious nutritional value and you will prove that you are the real monster. Like much of the game’s soundtrack, you’ll struggle to resist the whistle as she skewers the little pudding pops like the culinary ninja she actually is.
Skip the adorable song and dance that come free with your meal of dubious nutritional value and you will prove that you are the real monster.
And the fun extends beyond the characters too. When you need supplies, it is your clumsy dog who needs to lose his weight by embarking on a submarine trip to trade for the goods while your feline friend waves goodbye from the safety of the shore. The handier the animals you adopt, the more tedious you can passively deal with them while you’re out there risking life and limb. Just keep telling yourself that they enjoy doing it.
Tower defense makes everything better
The new type of Rampage quest is not satisfied with solely relying on the wirebug to keep the game moving, and it turns the formula upside down even further. It’s not quite the rush that the occasional loading of screen graphics shows, but it’s worth looking forward to. Rampage builds on the siege missions of previous titles and only swaps monsters of earth-shattering size for dozens of the races that you attack in your regular quests.
It’s a glorified tower defense mode aside from the name. Waves of beasts storm over the fences and you’ll need to plant the cannons, ballistae, and even machine guns required to fight them off. Your strategy is also not imposed on you by an arbitrary build limit. You can field as much artillery as you want. Your only limit is how fast you can throw yourself at one weapon or another to keep the beasts from knocking down the walls and smashing the village.
Monster Hunter has always been about tense altercations, and if what Rise has to offer right now are any signs of it, things will really warm up as his life goes on.
Things start out pretty tame, but since Rampage missions often keep you from the next level of quests, this is where you’ll endure some of the most engaging moments in the game – especially in co-op. Having a team of four juggle various types of heavy artillery, stoke the fires to repair damaged towers, or try to host an explosive explosion as a last resort is as exhilarating as it is mentally exhausting. Monster Hunter has always been about tense altercations, and if what Rise has to offer right now are any signs of it, things will really warm up as his life goes on.
That brings us to some of the more uncertain parts of the title. For serial veterans, Monster Hunter World was a case of quality over quantity: a relatively short game with little challenge. Even at the end of his run, his list of monsters stayed behind that of Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate.
Like it or not, a similar story plays out here. Monster Hunter Rise ends up on the hunt with around 31 favorite old, new, and returning animals. It’s not a small number, but it suggests history is repeating itself. Even higher difficulty content that is often viewed as a “real” experience is behind pending free updates. There’s still a lot going on between the single player campaign, multiplayer quests, and arena battles, but if you’ve been hoping for a complete result, it’s time to simmer those expectations. It might not have enough content to please franchise veterans who are betting on the team to correct Monster Hunter World’s few mistakes, but there are still dozens of hours of immersive gameplay to sink your sword into .
A mark of outstanding game design, Capcom has once again managed to breathe new life into the franchise without watering down what made it so special almost 20 years ago. Rampages are a riot and wirebugs are a triumph that opens the door to heartbreaking combat roles and first-pumping combos and even makes newbies feel like master hunters at the push of a button.
Post-game updates will ultimately decide whether this is a surefire classic or just a solid stepping stone to something bigger, but even at launch, Monster Hunter has never felt better. It is an absolute must and one more reason to never doubt Nintendo’s tiny tablet that it could.
Is there a better alternative out there?
Yes and no. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is currently the cheaper game. The Hunter Style System is a forerunner of today’s Monster Hunter. It’s still a great time to experiment with it, but the higher difficulty curve can put off those just looking for a bit of fun. If you don’t have a lot of experience with the franchise’s past, Rise is the place for you.
How long it will take?
Here you can burn through the core experience in around 100 hours. Far less if you’re there just for the story. Free post-launch updates will last for at least a year, but it’s far from the richest game in the series.
You should buy it
If you’re a fan of intense action RPG, there’s little else like it on the Nintendo Switch right now. It is a must. Once you get the fight under control, getting into the hunt in a rush is a rewarding experience.