The boss fight at the end of a level is one of my favourite parts of a game. Some folk like adventuring, others like collect-athons. Me? Give me something big to bash and an epic soundtrack to back it up and I'm satisfied. So it should be no surprise that one of my favourite franchises is Monster Hunter, right? You pick a monster and the whole mission is you hunting it down. I played the original on ye olde PlayStation 2 and have owned it on every possible console available since. Imagine my excitement when Monster Hunter Rise was announced for the Nintendo Switch? Insurmountable. Monster Hunter Rise is a 1-4 player cooperative action game where players take on behemoth-like beasts, dragons and other nasties!
The premise for any Monster Hunter game is simple. You live in a village in a time before technology and before you could easily repel the wildlife of the world. These villages thrive in the use of monster parts for food, materials and for weaponry. (Of course, most of this comes as the byproduct of defending your village from these creatures!) You are a hunter in these games. Your task, as a hunter, is to hunt down these beasts when contracted to do so for money. It's basically your job. You pick up a contract, fulfil it, get paid and gather materials. You use said money and materials to improve your gear, allowing you to take on harder contracts, which in turn provide better materials and money. It's an economy in action!
For Monster Hunter Rise, you play as a rookie hunter who has just got their license to hunt. Kamura Village is your home and everyone knows you and therefore has no trouble asking you to do the odd job from time to time. What makes this village need hunters in particular? The Rampage. Unlike past Monster Hunter villages, this one is under constant threat. For reasons unknown, the village is regularly attacked by rampaging monsters, meaning hunters must defend it. Should they fail, it would mean the destruction of the village and the demise of its inhabitants! The good folk of the village all partake in defending against the Rampage, but it's down to the hunters to do the muscle work to repel these beasts.
Changes and Additions
Each Monster Hunter game has something new mechanically, and Monster Hunter Rise is no different. In this one, there are several additions and some removals from previous games. For a start, the slingers and slinger ammo from Monster Hunter World are now gone, as is the capacity to mount a monster. Also, SOS flares no longer exist. Instead, online quests can instead be opened to random players using a menu option. But the game taketh, and the game giveth too!
Wirebugs are the biggest addition to the game mechanically. They allow a hunter to zip through the air like a grappling hook and are not dependent on surfaces. You can use them to launch upwards, letting you land devastating aerial attacks or traverse steep walls easily. They also allow you to evade danger in a pinch and can be used whilst recovering from a blow. There are also Great Wirebugs that can be placed in locales. These launch you great distances, making travelling even easier!
Switch Skills are a new mechanical change for combat. These are skills that can be utilised using Wirebugs and allow hunters to deliver devastating and versatile skills to monsters. These are weapon-dependent and more are gained throughout play, allowing a good level of customisation in how a hunter will play. They're quite reminiscent of Hunter Styles from the old Nintendo DS variety of games, but with more scope to change what you can do freely. Dependent on how you play a weapon or prefer to position yourself in a fight, certain skills will be more suited than others.
Quality of Life Changes
Monster Hunter Rise adds some new, minor changes and one big change which are so, so helpful. The first is the symbolism associated with monster statuses. If a monster is ready to be captured, it will have a blue symbol next to its image for all hunters to see. Other symbols let you know if the monster is being ridden, is sleeping or is on the move. The other small addition is the inclusion of a map, fully stocked with all gathering point locations on it. Need ore? Check the map and follow a route. It speeds gathering up to no end and ensures you know what's where and how to best get those materials.
Palamutes are the other addition definitely worthy of being mentioned. Like Palicoes, these "buddies" aid the hunter in the hunt by attacking the monster, using status scrolls, being an all-around great guy and being able to be ridden. This speeds up getting around the map to no end. And! Even better! They join you online too, so you can have four hunters, each with their own Palamute aiding them.
How It Handles
Monster Hunter Rise is a fantastic addition to the Nintendo Switch from the franchise. It runs to the letter of what a Monster Hunter game is and how it's executed. Pick a mission, take on a big beast, collect rewards. Spend rewards on new gear, gain more gear to take on bigger nasties. Only it's not a rinse-and-repeat feel. Each monster, each locale, each weapon - they're all unique and feel so different too. It hits hard and there's little downtime between missions, resulting in a barrage of action, excitement and some crazy, flashy moves!
A Whole Cabinet of Deadly Excitement!
The weapons of Monster Hunter Rise are reminiscent of those from a whackier era lost in Monster Hunter. Now that sounds wild, I know. But way back when things were black and white and people had just discovered fire and the PlayStation 2, the weapons in Monster Hunter looked like you'd plucked monster parts off a beast and stuck a stick on them. Boom. Jaw on a stick: instant weapon. Brilliant, right? However, in later games, there was a more sensible and "functional" image to these weapons. What's that about? I'm glad to say that Monster Hunter Rise strips that sense back and lets you have what you want: unique looking weapons with fantastic aesthetics and wild feels.
The other lovely thing about the weaponry and armour is that they're still true to the form of the monsters. The materials needed to create these are derived from the monsters, or from similar areas. Some don't even need monster parts! But they're still true to the aesthetic of what you use to create. You see a hunter in an armour set and you can probably pinpoint which nasties "helped" craft it. And damn do they look good! A little flamboyant in some respects, but if it'll let me wear a pink dressing gown and a fluffy boa as armour, I'm going to do it.
Ninja's the Name, Mobility's My Game!
The scout flies are gone and, in some ways, that makes me sad. But replacing them is something so much cooler! So much better! Wirebugs are the way forward, 100%. I can't even dress it up with little niggles as every element they add mechanically is fantastic! Using these little bugs, you can go airborne and access areas of the map you usually assume were inaccessible. You'll zip around like a real shinobi of ancient Japan and feel untouchable.
Everywhere you can see, you can go. There are parts of the locale map you'll look at and think they're out of bounds. Maybe they're surrounded by invisible walls? Or just not textured? Nope! Every part of the map can be accessed and has a purpose, whether it's a hidden resource deposit, a hidden collectable (though these are few and far between) or a new base camp to unlock. But even if it literally is just the peak of a mountain, knowing you can get there is fantastic!
With The Grace of a Swan!
Adding to this repertoire of ninja skills, you can also combine in some extra moves that allow you to wall run and do in-air dashes. Combining this plethora of ninja skills together in combat leads to not only looking incredible but also being able to deal a fair amount of damage easily. I spent the first few hours playing how I always played. Run in, hit the monster with a hammer a few times, heal as needed. It was tried, tested and enjoyable. Then I learned I could ninja flip, dive mid-fight and launch from point to point. Just when I didn't think it could get better, I learned about Switch Skills and, goodness me, did that change the game entirely. I went from a man with a big hammer to someone straight out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon!
The Beast Rises!
Monster Hunter Rise's long list of monsters includes no end of wild creatures of varying dangers. They come in the classic varieties of wyverns, beasts and dragons. It's very common for Monster Hunter games to keep things hidden. Surprise quests, appearances, twists and turns. There's the odd shock that occurs in this one too. Sometimes it's linked to the story, other times it's that shock of taking on something you never thought you'd be fighting! However! Fear not, I shall include no spoilers, but I will go over some of those that are already known. I mean, I could easily prattle on about each monster and how awesome they are in their own rights, but your experience will be better suited to learning that. Instead, I'd rather mention a few events from my experiences.
One of my favourite hunting experiences was when taking on a Rathian. For the uncultured, that's a big green wyvern - it shoots fire and likes doing backflips. I took this on solo and was doing the rounds of attacking it, chasing it as it fled and maintaining gear. It was a fairly standard hunt until I found myself taking some hits. I was in a pinch, and things looked bleak. Until an unlikely hero rocked up! A Great Baggi (a small velociraptor-like beast that spits sleeping goop) ran in, attacked the Rathian and put it to sleep, then ran out. Wild. So I then planned a big attack out. I planted bombs, laid a trap behind the wyvern and lined myself up for a whopping great attack. I swung, and before any of my grand plans kicked in, I had slain the winged monstrosity! One hit was all it took.
Being able to ride monsters initially felt gimmicky. I can't lie that I overlooked it as something that happened as it happened. I never expected it to be a big part of the game. But more than that, I didn't expect that it would be so useful and fun to do! Monster Hunter Rise allows you to ride monsters when they're weakened. This can happen through well-executed Switch Skills, gradual damage, or another monster attack. Monsters will generally attack one another on sight and one is always mountable afterwards. It's rare for them to avoid confrontation, and when they do it will be a quick swipe and then they'll bolt. If you do manage to pull a ride off though, you get an astounding amount of freedom!
Riding a monster has one of two functions, attacking another monster or launching the one you're riding. Once the monster is mounted, you can control their movements, perform two types of attack, launch the monster and dodge. After a time, you can perform a big combo attack that is devastating! You'll feel tremendously powerful as you use your behemoth to strike another one down. It's crazy fun and can be utilised excellently to gain extra resources or to get in those extra blows. What's more, you can chain mounts to best cash in! Launching one monster into another makes the second rideable.
I didn't think I'd enjoy the riding function of Rise - I thought it was a gimmick - but it's superb. By no means is it a necessity, but like with the Switch Skills and Wirebugs, not using them is to your detriment. Not only for the functionality but also for the fun element!
Monster Hunter Rise: Final Thoughts
Monster Hunter Rise is an excellent addition to the series. It flows with the game's aesthetics, combat and styles, streamlining certain parts and changing up others entirely. As a Switch game, I'd argue this is a must-have. For the console's portability and level of fun, this game is the perfect fit. It works superbly as a solo game and is a fantastic amount of fun online too. There is little to no downtime and a great deal of fun to be had just hunting for the sake of hunting. Couple that in with the plethora of weapons, armours and skills to be used and you've got a game that just keeps on giving!