Monster Hunter Rise Review: A Playful Dance with Danger

Written by Allen

April 24, 2021

Back around the start of 2018 Capcom released what would be, at that time, their biggest selling title ever. Monster Hunter World, the game that used to be just a small niche in the gaming scene finally hit mainstream success thanks to its impressive visuals, many quality-of-life improvements, accessibility, and its strong focus on the multiplayer experience. Thanks to that, the announcement of Monster Hunter Rise made it one of the most anticipated games on the Nintendo Switch. Heck, it convinced me to buy a pro controller, it convinced my brother to get a Switch for himself, as well.

By the way, hello again, Lentropy here. So, as some of you might know, I’ve become a huge fan Monster Hunter World. And I’m very likely to have a close look at what they’ve done to improve on it since then. I’ve written a bunch of guides before and I’ve also reviewed the previous game. We’re probably not going to go into too much detail about things that we already recognize to be part of this title. It’s going to more generally focus on what they’ve changed and how that’s good or bad for the series.

So without further ado, we wake up to a very welcome ‘ara-ara’ quickly followed by the stereo system that are the shrine maidens of Kamura. After a quick tour of things around the hidden ninja village, you are quickly dispatched to do your job. And that job, as the name of the game implies, is to hunt monsters. Well, that and face the Rampage, an event every 50 years that has a horde of monsters travelling the through the land. And Kamura Village is in the way.

Sights and Sounds (4.7 / 5)

While the Switch is a more modest piece of hardware, Monster Hunter Rise (MHR) is definitely no slouch in terms of games that look good on it. Yes, it’s not going to be MHW but how this game looks and performs considering it’s on a portable device is amazing. If you look closely, you’ll see technical things like pixelated edges or textures that could have looked better. But how it works seamlessly between docked and portable mode is already an achievement. It pretty much runs on a consistent 30 fps almost the entire time, even with an army of monsters going wild on your screen.

Also, instead of making this vast world that kind of dances around the line of realism and fantasy. MHR settles on a more home-ey feel of a small village with its colorful characters, while embracing a more stylized and campy approach. The liveliness of the village is expressed much the same way as the monsters show how powerful they are, through how they move.

The whole way the game is presented bears the Japanese inspirations it draws from. You carry kunais all the time, you eat rice cakes before leaving for a quest, even the depictions of the monsters you will fight against are given the whole oil painting treatment. In fact, some of the music have a very oriental ring to them too.

Speaking of music, I ended up having a lot of favorites in the soundtrack so far. Honestly speaking I didn’t realize I wanted to have vocal tracks while fighting epic enemies until now. Like normally I’d find it too pervasive in a fight that’s asking you to give all your attention to this one monster. But I think they pulled off an alright way of having somebody singing in the background without it being distracting.

The voicework is also pretty okay, there isn’t much story for the characters to capitalize on so it’s a little difficult to say if they really nailed it. But I instantly recommend the Japanese voice set to complete the campy old Japan feel. The English voices do a pretty alright job if you can go with the campiness. I mean, in case you missed it the game is deliberately made that way. Just in case the old grainy film intros, the dango song, and the surfer dude instructor didn’t give it away.

Overall, I think MH Rise is well-put together in terms of presentation and performance. Can’t wait to see how well their new engine performs for their next games.

Mechanics (5 / 5)

Alright so by now we all know that you run around, and attack, dodge, block monsters in this game. What else is new? We’ll go over them in a bit, but let’s have a closer look on what makes the gameplay loop so compelling for this title.

So far, the actual hunts in Monster Hunter have been a lot like eating a layer cake. It’s made of pretty solid individual parts, but when put together, man is the whole greater than the sum of its parts. You master and refine not only your own equipment and your mastery of using them. But you also have to know how to use said gear up against the specific monster you’re taking on. You must know what the tells are for what attacks, and be able to decipher openings between them. Underneath all of this is the actual map you are having your battle to the death on. You must know the intricacies of the terrain, knowing not only how to traverse it, but also what’s useful within it and what you’re better off avoiding or preparing for. With the three pieces of you, the monster, and the world you are in are put together, they create a delectable cake called the encounter design. And all you have to do to mix things up is change any of the three factors it puts together. Giving you iterations of something familiar to feel good to play but at the same time has something new for you to learn along the way. These layered, intertwining game loops are very things that made me fall in love with Monster Hunter.

So what have they made to capitalize on this really solid core? They added bugs. No, not the bugs that ruins your game saves (which they have thankfully patched) but little magical creatures that serve as your universal tool for doing really, really cool things in this game.

The wire bug mechanic was initially presented as a new way of getting around, allowing you to quickly go through the air to maybe make quick jumps across the area or climb to higher places, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s a resource for basically doing cool things, yes, I know I’ve said it twice, but I can’t think of a better way of describing it.

The added vertical layer of movement in the game made it possible to move through maps faster and give everyone new ways of moving during combat. Want to do air attacks? Sure. You have a heavy weapon but need to chase something fast? No problem.

But that’s not all it does, wirebugs also enable Silkbind Techniques. They augment your chosen weapons capabilities both in offense and defense by giving you much more powerful moves that help make fights easier.

In return, monsters also become more relentless, move faster, they also have insane range and some even trap you into deadly combos. Don’t worry, there’s a wire bug for that. Wire fall allows you to escape and quickly recover so long as you’re not stunned. There are times that it’s impossible but this serves as a ‘get out of jail’ card for players if they’re willing to spend the wirebug for it.

So ultimately it becomes a question of what do you want to do? Because there’s a limit of how much you can use wirebugs and you can’t do much if they’re all cooling down. Anyway, swinging around the map, fun. Doing new attack, defense and escape moves, more fun. These little winged fellas have given so much more to Monster Hunter and we’re all better for it. I honestly can’t believe how far they’ve taken the idea of the Clutch Claw from MHW.

But that’s not all, they’ve also added the Palamutes, which serves as an alternate assistant you can bring along in hunts, they’re actually very useful specially if you’re still getting used to the game. These lovely dogs and the cat assistants called Palicoes have a whole new system to them as well, allowing you to further customize how you want them to help you out. Because they can also go on their own little quests and bring back some unique materials for you.

Another new, and really fun thing they’ve added to Monster Hunter is the evolution of mounting, and that’s Wyvern Riding. I mean, yeah fighting monsters is fun, but have you tried fighting AS a monster? This stuff is amazing. It’s nothing too complicated, but it makes fights a lot more dynamic as you get this one minute where you’re nearly invincible to make a hunt easier. Honestly I think this function is a little overpowered right now, but I’m also having too much fun with it to think it’s a problem.

Content (4.5 / 5)

If you think you’re in for an epic story with Monster Hunter Rise, you clearly don’t know Capcom very well. But they do enough to set the stage and get you going. Characters are fun and memorable enough to be fun to interact with. I mean I’m sure there are people out there trying to decide who the best girl is by now, but you know and I know that the real waifus are the longswords, gunlances, bows, and what-have-you. Also, Minoto stan, fight me.

The base game comes at you with 35 big baddies to fight and take down. Where you can seek them through village quests, basically the training wheels edition, or hub quests which is where the real hunts begin. I think this is a nifty way of introducing new players to the game while respecting the time of the more avid fans as you can start hub quests almost immediately after the start of Monster Hunter Rise.

One of the most amazing thing they’ve added in this title is basically putting the entire evolution of each weapon in the game. They do this by giving you a choice of what skills to switch on each weapon, having a total of 6 possible different versions of every weapon out there. So far none of the weapons I’ve tried have felt less viable than any other, as well. Everything so far just seems fun and interesting to use.

Monster Hunter Rise doesn’t only refine the formula but tries something completely new as well. Rampage quests is a mix of some sort of tower defense and a horde mode. Where you fight off a small army of monsters with whatever you can muster. This initially felt like a mess because of how used I was to intense 1 on 1 battles throughout my play sessions with this series. But when I got used to the mechanics and understood what to do things clicked a lot better and I’m just as excited to play Rampages as I am to do regular quests these days. It definitely changes up the pace, so while they didn’t quite stick the landing on this one, I think it’s a great addition.

Next point would be all the secrets and side quests you can do in this game. Monster Hunter Rise is really a small game, looking back. But it never really feels that way while I play it. It just feels so dense with the little secrets you find and small side-activities you can do, which nearly all contribute to making hunting better for you, making them worthwhile to do. I also personally really enjoyed exploring the maps to really get to know them and even reach hidden areas or finding easter eggs. I mean that’s exactly how I came up with the money maker video before this one. Side quests and activities actually don’t vary much, but they’re all definitely worth doing and they never feel like they’re in the way. So I generally enjoy doing them.

And finally, well, they had to put the RNG grind somewhere, right? Talismans are here for you to meld and hope that you get what you actually need. Since this is more of an extra piece of equipment it’s not so bad, but man, I play enough gacha games and I know where this is going.

Features (5 / 5)

Monster Hunter Rise has a rather impressive online experience, while the capacity is cut down to a fourth, it still brings a lot of World’s innovations and more. You can still join other people’s quests or join yours (at your own risk, by the way, we’ll always run into randos that won’t play in a way we like). The more impressive part is how good this online experience is. Coming from a place that has notoriously bad connection for games, how stable it is really encourages me to keep playing online.

But that’s not the only improvement they offered for online. Back then once another player drops in on your quest, the difficulty was automatically set for fighting a team of four. Now, it incremental changes to accommodate a team of two or three as well. To top it all off, the dynamic monster difficulty now swings both ways. Got a player disconnected in the middle of the fight for whatever reason? No problem, the game will automatically set the monster HP to a proportional ratio. This makes disconnections a lot less painful, which I really treasure because we can’t all have pristine internet connections.

Of course, there’s also the local wifi connection between the portable Nintendo Switches, which works seamlessly. Also, did I mention how well the game loads at pretty much any point? I had to get used to fairly long load times on the PS4 with Monster Hunter World, with Rise loading time is pretty negligible. Honestly the game achieves so much on a technical level. I do kinda wish that there were better personalization features, or at least more hairdo options as compared to its predecessors.

Conclusion

A constant theme I keep running into here is the insane amount of freedom Monster Hunter Rise. You can customize how your weapon of choice works, you can focus on using wirebugs to move around a fight or just dedicate them for powerful silk bin techniques, you can choose to bring a palamute to traverse the larger maps or just swing around the entire map, and pretend you’re a in a spiderman game. You can rush the game or just play at whatever pace you like, you can play solo or play regularly with your own party of friends. You can stick to just learning a part of the game and generally get through it okay. But if you choose to make use of everything this Monster Hunter title has to offer, you are rewarded in a multitude of useful ways. All this freedom so that you can dance as freely as you like with the obstacles that the game wants to throw at you.

Ever heard of the saying ‘it takes two to tango?’ Like for a dances meant for pairs, there’s supposed to be an interaction between the two people dancing or else it just doesn’t look good. While there’s traditionally a guy who takes the lead in the beat or the steps to take, the lady dancing along still has to pull off the moves when it’s their turn to show-off. Hours and hours poured into rehearsals to pull off a routine as perfectly as they can. I’d say this would be the same for games known for their difficulty, like of the FromSoftware games, Fury, Devil May Cry, and of course Monster Hunter. The difficulty isn’t there to give you a bad time, but to get you to a higher level of play. The difficulty lends some substance to the term ‘beating the game,’ where it becomes an actual achievement. This remains the core of Monster Hunter Rise, but at the same time it continues on the developments that the previous title, Monster Hunter World, left off. By adding in accessibility, quality of life improvements, and giving a new degree of freedom to the players, it’s easier than ever to get into. The real miracle here is how they achieve this balance this without compromising the challenge that the game wants you to overcome.

Monster Hunter Rise gets so many things right, and it’s only getting started. I recommend picking up this title and see how easily you will quickly come back for ‘just one more hunt’ by yourself and even with other players.

Monster Hunter Rise is certainly raising the bar, scoring a 4.8 / 5

Get this game on the Nintendo Switch. PC Port expected on 2022.

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