It’s weird to think how Monster Hunter low key became Capcom’s top franchise in an instant.
While Street Fighter and Resident Evil still reign supreme overall, with multiple entries dotting the top 10 list, Monster Hunter is the absolute king with over 16 million units of Monster Hunter World sold.
Why would Capcom stop now?
Monster Hunter Rise (PC, Nintendo Switch [reviewed])
Released: March 26, 2021
Monster Hunter is a fascinating series, mostly because of how open-ended it is.
Nearly everyone’s experience is different. Whether that involves frustration or elation at any given moment is entirely up to you. Even as a veteran, it can be a mix of both! But Monster Hunter Rise has so much personality, and adds several key mechanics into the mix, that it elicits far more joy than suffering, so long as you’re willing to work with it.
As is the case with most entries, Rise once again tasks players with literally hunting down various big bad beasties, with a variety of weapons and playstyles. Once you’ve bested them, you can skin them for parts, gear up, upgrade, and repeat the process; solo, or with friends. You do this until you kill a really big monster in the main storyline, then kill more monsters in a postgame.
The general flow is still the same. But Rise has the benefit of working with a very clear theme (feudal Japan) as a throughput. Rather than becoming numb to the environments and the game’s hub zone, I embraced them, and started to take notice of all of its colorful nuances. The NPCs grew on me in a way that many hadn’t before! And the beautiful, majestic soundtrack drew me into the world even further.
It can still be a slow start. A few of the early monsters are a little bland, as are the ins and outs of early equipment pieces and weapons. But ramp you will, and the creatures — and their lovely haiku intros — get even more interesting to look at aesthetically. Even some of the older concepts have a little more flair in Rise, as you witness them in a new light.
If you felt like Monster Hunter was clunky in the past, the wirebug might change that notion. Think of it like a flavorful grappling hook, which can not only zoom you around the map for exploration purposes, but zip you around in combat as an action-centric dodge. Hunters have access to a recover ability (think fighting games when you get knocked down), which prevents you from getting stunlocked or comboed by enemies, as well as special wirebug moves.
It’s up to you to govern your wirebug meter (which refills over time via a cooldown) and decide which enemy attacks are worth recovering from, how much ground you need to cover, and how useful your individual weapon powers are. It’s a neat little metagame that has a relatively low skill floor in terms of picking up the dodge element of the wirebug mechanic, while providing a high ceiling and opening up weapon tech.
The Palamute (dog) companion deserves a special shout-out, too. While having a little deadly mutt running around is its own reward, you can ride it to get places quickly and chase down monsters. Period. In a game where you might be pursuing a creature four or five times a match, it breaks down the monotony. Riding monsters (who can quickly get from place to place and start bar fights with other creatures) similarly feels straightforward and to the point.
Then there’s the rampage missions. These work kind of like a light tower-defense gimmick, allowing hunters to create weapon platforms in specific locations in an arena, as well as spring one-time-use traps or NPC powers. You can opt to pilot a platform (such as a bow gun or a cannon) yourself, or put an NPC in charge. It’s a little streamlined, but it is fun to see a handful of big monsters on-screen while you blow them up with heavy-duty weaponry. It’s more like controlled chaos, but given that the game doesn’t force you to do rampage missions en masse, it works out more like a welcome diversion than a slog.
Playing through the “main story,” you can defeat the Magnamalo in one-on-one combat in around 15 hours. But as all Monster Hunter fans know, the game begins when the credits roll. After that’s said and done you’ll unlock a weapon and start the endgame with higher-rank monsters to hunt. Replaying rampage missions is also a treat, because the general chaos lends itself well to repeat viewings.
Beyond that “village progress” questline, you’ll have access to the “hub progress” branch, which is the meat of the game. This is where you’ll make your way through the ranks fighting near-endless foes; with other people, if you so choose. Although my access to multiplayer was limited prior to launch (it was cut off at one point), Monster Hunter Rise is still very fun in terms of group coordination. With the wirebug, seeing everyone zip around is a treat.
You also have the fairly deep buddy system to play around with, which operates with its own hub zone, and allows you to recruit more furry friends for off-screen adventures and item rewards. With 14 weapons to test and a very useful training ground (which shows button inputs, combos, and moves on-screen), it’s easy to get sucked into village life. There’s a good chunk of fun busywork abound if you want a break from hunting. I even found myself rewatching monster intros just to show my wife how cool/silly something looked; I’m not sure if I’ve ever done that!
Like a lot of Monster Hunter games, I slowly started to get more and more acclimated to Rise until I hit a positive tipping point. Once it clicked, it was hard to go back to the old ways, before the wirebug opened up combat and the theme was arguably the most on-point it’s ever been. Rise should delight fans both new and old, as long as the former group is willing to work a little bit for it.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]