Gaming

Monster Hunter Rise: Condensed and Sweetened

Screenshot via Nintendo Switch

To explain my excitement to play my twelfth Monster Hunter title, I should just mention a little interaction I had. I was simply asked: ” any upcoming games you hype for?” For the first time that I can remember (<not as big a deal as it sounds), I drew a complete blank. It’s as if my train of thought pulled into a familiar subject, only to find the station missing. Not a hole. Nah, that’d be something. But this, this was the Nothing. I couldn’t think of anything post-Monster Hunter: Rise. In a rare case of getting one’s hopes up and having those hopes ridiculously exceeded, I am easily reminded that the Monster Hunter team has honed this series into one of the most entertaining video game experiences one can possibly find.

I fell in love with this series back on the PS2. I remember how we met. Me, half tipsy and fresh off work at a diner, pacing a Walmart electronics for something, anything to fill the void that is getting off of work at 3 am. We met at the bargain bin. $15.99 was the price of a ticket to a crazy-ass world I would revisit as many times as I was offered the opportunity. There’s an “it” factor that some games have when it comes to personality. These days, you can’t swing a comically oversized anime sword without hitting some looty-shooty “games as a service” or huge, overmarketed reminders of the lesson Duke Nukem: Forever taught us. Monster Hunter is quirky and charming in a way that is completely unique; often imitated, never duplicated.

Monster Hunter has been criticized for being difficult to get into, and with the difficulty of the earlier games, it’s easy to see why. Where the series really shines is the strides it takes in improvement from title to title. I can easily say that, for me, every new Monster Hunter has been in some way better than its predecessor through advances that are almost always aimed at making the game more enjoyable. Quality of life improvements, new monsters, and content, the ultra-rare introduction of a new weapon…every title aspires to be the most fun you can have playing Monster Hunter. Some longtime fans believe that the difficulty has been dumbed down, but in the interest of sparing you one of those long, droning, one-sided fan explanations with too many facts and not enough context, I offer a cliff-notes version and this bonus comma ridden run-on sentence: games and specifically Monster Hunter games have gotten better.

Tighter hitboxes mean seeing your character dodge an attack properly ensures you avoided damage. New items and skills give you more options. Most importantly, you get better. There’s a reason the Dark Souls community and the Monster Hunter community have a lot of overlap. Both have a strong sense of challenging the player to improve through difficult and fair challenges. There have been a few stumbles along the way, but both franchises have nailed this, time and time again.

Anyway, the newest installment, Monster Hunter Rise was released late March after the one that introduced it to more players than ever, Monster Hunter World. With every generation, Monster Hunter takes a large step into uncharted territory, taking risks with a big new gameplay mechanic. Typically, there are one or two subsequent games a generation that builds and expand on this new idea. My personal favorite was Monster Hunter Portable 3rd, the second game of the third generation in the franchise. I do mean WAS. Rise is to the fifth generation as P3 was to the third. It takes what I liked about World and fine-tunes it. I can’t get over how much fun this game is to play.

Where Monster Hunter World introduced intricate, sprawling maps, teeming with life and free of the zones of the older games and their loading times, Rise speeds things up into a fluid experience that feels like they figured out what makes a Spider-Man game feel so damn good to play and wove it flawlessly into their own game. The result is the Wirebug. Think of it as a zip line you can attach to thin air. Given the fact that the first beast ever slain in this series was practical physics (no fall damage regardless of height, hauling ass up walls like its nothing), after a brief period of playing around with the new mechanics, I found myself zipping around, exploring the maps with ease. And it’s a lot of fun.

Screenshot via Nintendo Switch

The monsters are a good mix of returning fan favorites as well as some really neat new ones, with many more on the way. Monster Hunter has always released new monsters and quests for free and this game is no exception. I’ve always respected this development team for that. The new maps are not nearly as lush and vibrant as the ones in World, but given that game released for high-end consoles and PC, Rise is certainly one of the best looking games on the console.

From a gameplay perspective, I feel that Rise is the next step. I had a lot of good times with World, and I’m having even more of a blast with Rise. The music and sound are still great. Natural sounds draw you in and the battle music lends a truly epic feeling for lack of a better word. The maps feel organic and alive.

Screenshot via Nintendo Switch

New “endemic life” makes their home across hills, valleys, roads, and rivers, aiding the player in a variety of ways. Some are critters that act as an item, some inflict status debuffs on monsters, and there are little stat-boosting birds all over the place. Often, these will lead you to areas chock full of useful resources in that “follow the coins to the real reward” way games like Mario use to encourage exploration. The expansion of the endemic life concept that began in the world as a fun collecting activity has become a great new core element that just adds to the overall experience.

I could go on forever about the new customizable wolf mount and the ability to ride monsters. The “Palamute” doubles as a speedy mount and a stalwart companion in battle. The increase in movement speed they allow makes exploring faster and breezier than ever. Also, dogs are pretty cool. I don’t think I can describe the joy to be found in decimating a monster that’s giving you trouble on the back of a monster that has troubled you before. You can only mount and attack with monsters for a limited time, but nothing says payback for getting beaten and sent back to camp than returning atop a pissed-off and understandably confused behemoth in a hail of Dragonfire.

Awesome gif via Nintendo Switch and my gif makin skills

The only real way to do this game justice is to experience it for yourself. If you want to try before you buy, download the demo, find a weapon that feels good, and just run around. Look for a point of interest and get there. It doesn’t take long before zipping around wherever you please feels natural. The mechanic is well designed and fluid once you get the hang of it. It’s a game that makes you want to play it more, and with the inclusion of free content for the next year, there’s a lot of bang for your buck here. In a game with a premise so simple (take a pointy thing and defeat monster), Rise has good times on tap for years to come. Soooo TASTY!

Monster Hunter: Rise property of Capcom

Nintendo Switch property of Nintendo. All screenshots were captured on Nintendo Switch hardware.

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