Following the success of Monster Hunter World, the iconic series is heading back to the Nintendo Switch.
The Monster Hunter series exploded in popularity with 2018's World becoming Capcom's best-selling title, but it doesn't mean that the series has forgotten its time on Nintendo platforms. The latest outing into the series, Rise, has been built from the ground up for the Nintendo Switch and it utilities many of the platform's features such as gyro controls and amiibo support. The RPG also pushes the series forward by introducing several new mechanics such as a Wire Bug and the Palamute.
Monster Hunter Rise takes place within a new locale for the series called Kamura Village. 50 years after the village was devastated by attacking monsters in an event known as The Rampage, history has repeated itself and it's up to you to come to the rescue. Things seem much more challenging this time, as poster boy Mangnamalo has joined the fight. The story admittedly isn't the game's strong suit with its overall plot and many of the villagers being pretty forgettable, but fortunately, it doesn't take too long to get into the action.
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If you haven't already played a Monster Hunter title before, then allow me to explain the basics. The gameplay sees you fighting against many different types of powerful and dangerous creatures, and with the actions being stamina-based, you'll have to keep track of your health and the sharpness of your weapon. There's an incredible amount of depth present within the game and there are 16 different weapon classes, and every monster you slay has a unique armour set that you can forge out of the material that drops. The catch is that you only have a set amount of time to take down the monsters and there isn't a health bar present, so you'll have to be persistent and read their cues for success.
Monster Hunter Rise justifies its existence as a sequel, as it isn't just another re-tread of the series and it introduces several exciting new mechanics. Perhaps the most versatile of these is the Wire Bug, which can assist your efforts in both combat and traversal. The Wire Big can be used to propel yourself like a grappling hook either horizontally or vertically, which makes it handy for scaling cliffs and avoiding oncoming enemy attacks. It's also really simple to use, as you just need to push ZL and X to move vertically and A to instead move horizontally.
Another meaningful new addition is the Palamute, which is a canine companion with a different set of strengths and abilities to the Palico. You can ride on the back of the Palamute to significantly speed up traversal and items can be used on its back, so you aren't left vulnerable in the face of an attacking monster. You can also attack monsters whilst riding the Palamute using a sword in its mouth and it will fight alongside you in hunts like the Palico. Having this new furry companion to fight alongside, as well as the Palico meant that I didn't feel disadvantaged when playing alone within single player and without a party of hunters.
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Rise additionally adds a new type of quests for players to embark on that can be completed alongside hunts and requests for villages. Rampage Quests add a flavour of tower defence to the Monster Hunter series and see you defend a stronghold against several attacking hordes of monsters. Here you have three different categories of traps that you can position (Mountable, Auto, and Limited) and these all have their own different levels with more potent and efficient traps being available as the difficulty starts to climb. Sure, I didn't find myself gravitating to these as much as typical hunts, but they still provided a fun twist on gameplay.
I'm going to struggle to touch upon everything new that Rise adds within this review, but two others that I want to highlight are Bunny Dango and Wyvern Riding. Bunny Dango are snacks that you can consume three at a time before a hunt to give you different buffs and these add a new layer of strategy. One Dango might increase your resistance to fire, for example, and another might save you from getting knocked over as much in battle. The Wyvern Riding mechanic allows you to jump onto a downed beast using the Wire Bug and you can control them to attack the beast you're hunting. This seemed fun at first but I soon grew bored of it when I realised that you can just spam a single button press to do damage.
The roster of 33 large monsters here sees many series favourites such as Diablos, Tigrex, and Anjnath make a return and there are also 11 newcomers. Personally, I was really impressed by the designs of these newer creatures, as they showcased designs and mechanics that we haven't seen before within the series. Amongst my favourites were Bishaten, a monkey-like fanged-wyvern that slings toxic fruit at the player and Goss Harag, an intimidating monster resembling an abominable snowman that can summon an ice sword.
Along with the creatures already present within the game, more are set to arrive in future within free updates and the first to join will be Monster Hunter 2's Chameleos in April. Personally, I am pretty torn on this idea for introducing content. Sure, it does give players incentive to keep returning back to the game, but I can't help but feel like it would have been a stronger product overall if all planned creatures were included from the get-go.
I found myself enjoying the majority of Rise's contributions to the series, but I do feel like it has its fair share of shortcomings that hold it back from being a definitive MH experience. Firstly, the game lacks challenge, and I rarely felt intimidated or under pressure even when taking on some of its most deadly creatures. The new additions, as fun as they are, really hurt the challenge of the game and I found that I didn't fail a simple quest until taking on some of Rise's post-game challenges. On top of this, being able to mount other creatures allows you to do significant damage to your foes and time was never an issue due to having the Palamute.
I also felt that the game was pretty short when compared to both World and Generations (two of the most recent and best received entries into the franchise). It took me roughly ten hours playing solo until I was grappling against the game's box art monster and a further five hours until I had slayed all of the larger creatures present. Sure, there are more challenging post-game quests (some task you with slaying two or three creatures in the same time limit, for example), but at this point you have pretty much explored all the game has to offer.
Monster Hunter Rise might not be the gold standard for the series, but it still stands as a worthy sequel with many exciting new additions. The Palamute and Wire Bug both shake up the formula in fun new ways and the 11 monsters making their debut are all well designed and don't feel like reskins of existing beasts. That said, the game is still shorter than I expected, and I'm sure that veterans will have little trouble breezing through its story.
8 / 10
The Wire Bug and Palamute are welcomed additions, the new monsters are well designed, it features the same addictive gameplay loop the series is known for.
Veterans will have little challenge, the game is a little on the short side, there's only five different biomes.