Monster Hunter Rise, the latest entry in Capcom’s second-best selling franchise, launched exclusively on the Nintendo Switch last month. Rise takes the portable on-the-go action last seen in Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate and introduces some new improvements and lessons learned from the highly successful Monster Hunter World. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks hunting down every new monster, crafting fantastical armor sets, and using the new Wirebugs to traverse around the open maps. But does this new Monster Hunter title Rise to the occasion? Here’s our full review of Monster Hunter Rise.
Monster Hunter Rise takes a lot of the successes from World and cuts off a lot of the excess waste while improving on the series for a better portable experience. I imported Monster Hunter XX when it launched for Japan in March of 2017 because I couldn’t wait for it to be ported to the West, which I am grateful for, because it took over a year for the Western version, Generations Ultimate, to come out. Within that time, Monster Hunter World launched and completely changed how Monster Hunter was played - from removing key quests to changing the armor skill system. It was a night and day difference.
The Rise of a New Hunter
Rise brings a lot of the familiarity from previous entries and modernizes them, such as the return of key quests. Previously, you just had access to a list of quests and didn’t know which specific ones would need to be completed in order to progress the story. This meant that you had to either complete all of the quests until an urgent request became available to rank up, or look up a guide online that listed out which ones needed to be completed. Now, Rise will just tell you right in the mission screen: how many key quests you need to complete, and which quests will count towards that. This removes the linear feel from World while still keeping the traditional feel of quest progression intact.
Additionally, Rise brings back the buddy system in a big way. In World, you only had your one Palico pal to go on hunts alongside you. You could choose to customize how they fought and what equipment they wore, but otherwise it lacked the depth that previous titles used them for. In Rise there is a lot that your little Palico friends - and the new Palamutes - can help you with. Instead of just one cat pal, you can hire a whole army of them. The new rideable canine friends, the Palamutes, are a very fun and cool addition to Monster Hunter as well. This makes the maps feel less like a slog to travel through, and helps get you into the action more quickly.
In fact, a lot of the changes to Monster Hunter Rise tend to cater towards improving the speed of progression - both in getting into a quest and actually hunting the monsters. There’s very little frill surrounding either the story or in trying to hunt. I still remember starting off in World and not even being able to fight monsters at first, but having to run around and then suffer through loading screens only to run around again and then finally get an unsolicited tour of the town. It felt like it took ages! In Rise, there’s a singular tutorial mission and then the training wheels come off. Go hunt monsters!
To my delightful surprise, the actual “hunting” down the monsters is now nonexistent. Instead of having to track down a monster first, the minimap will show their icon as soon as you start a quest. To some, this may feel like Rise removes a key component of the actual hunting of the monsters, but to me this just saves me time and frustration. Honestly, tracking monsters was some of the most laborious chore-work I’ve ever done in a video game - there were whole story quests in World centered around merely picking up the tracks for certain monsters which could span several missions. I just want to get in there and beat up monsters with impossibly-large swords or an oversized saxophone. Fighting the monsters is the best part and Monster Hunter Rise lets me do just that.
The Land of the Rise-ing Sun
The primary setting in Monster Hunter Rise is completely new and is heavily influenced by Japanese culture and history. The main hub in Rise is Kamura village, a very serene and tight-knight community, shrinks down the comparatively massive scale from World into a much more navigable hub to traverse. In town, you can ride around your Palamute companion or swing around Spider-Man style with the new Wirebugs in order to quickly cross the town. Additionally, there is a new fast travel option in the menu that allows you to instantly travel to a particular location, such as inside the Gathering Hub to take on Guild quests or to the Buddy Plaza to check on your Palicos. Rise really feels like it respects your time and makes everything convenient for you to get in, take care of business, and get out.
Even the actual fighting feels faster compared to World or Generations Ultimate, especially with the addition of the new Silkbind attacks. Utilizing the Wirebugs as an attack resource, the Silkbind attacks are new, powerful moves that have a variety of different functions depending on your chosen weapon. For my new go-to, the Hunting Horn, the Silkbind moves, by default, are either a dash attack that propels me towards the monster and whacks away, or an ultra-slow and ultra-powerful thrust with my Horn that requires proper timing to deal massive damage. There are additional Silkbind attacks that can be unlocked and these moves can be swapped in-between hunts to further customize your Hunter towards a specific playstyle.
However, Hunter beware, as sometimes leveraging these techniques at an inopportune time could be disastrous. The Hunting Horn’s dash attack, for instance, doesn’t allow you to change your direction once you’ve initiated the attack and can’t be dodge-rolled out of, so you are stuck performing that animation. At the same time, you’re momentarily invulnerable during the very first part of the attack - which means that monster roars and most attacks won’t have any effect. Proper timing could be the difference between ending the hunt early, or carting back to the Village in defeat. I loved the deeper gameplay in managing the additional Wirebugs as a resource to pull off these moves, and I hope that future updates will include even more moves to experiment with.
There are also returning maps that veteran players will recognize, such as the Sandy Plains and Flooded Forest from Monster Hunter 3. These locations have been given a glow-up and, while still retaining the same general design as previously, have now been expanded to include vertical depth. I had a blast exploring these two returning maps in particular because I already knew the general layout so well. It was so much fun for me to now completely bypass old routes I used to take and just scale the sides in order to use the Wirebugs to gain new heights and zip across the map. This vertical traversal is one of my favorite ways to get around, even if riding my Palamute along the old trails would be faster.
Almost all of the new monsters in Rise share the same Japanese influence as well, with many designed after famous yokai in Japanese folklore. The new bird wyvern Aknosom for instance is a crane that has been styled like the yokai ‘Kasa-obake’, a very famous umbrella-looking yokai. Or the Goss Harag, which is styled after the 'Namahage' , a demonlike being that wears an ogre mask and runs around with knives scaring children that may (or may not have) been naughty. There are 34 total monsters in Rise as of right now, of which 11 of them are wholly new to the franchise. There will be additional content updates coming throughout the year as well which will include even more monsters, such as the Chameleos which will be added in Rise’s first title update later this month.
How To Rise A Dragon
I was initially disappointed in the selection of monsters in Rise, but that was because I started by progressing through the single-player Village quests at first. The quests given in the Village, as opposed to the Gathering Hub, are all low-rank hunts that are catered towards a solo experience. Most hunts ended in 5-10 minutes without me ever breaking a sweat, but that’s because these missions are really designed for just getting started into Rise and quick solo runs. The story for the Village quests involve hunting Rise’s new flagship monster, Magnamalo, who is a vicious fanged wyvern that resembles a demonic tiger. Successfully defeating Magnamalo will roll credits, but really it’s only the beginning. I noticed that after I defeated him and unlocked the highest rank missions I could take in the village, there were still some monsters that I saw from trailers that were missing.
As it turns out, there are several more monsters that are exclusive to the Gathering Hub via Guild quests, and only at higher hunter ranks. The Gathering Hub hunts are closer to the traditional difficulty of Monster Hunter and will definitely give players more of a challenge - especially at High Rank. Similar to the Village quests, the Gathering Hub has a separate progression system to complete key quests in order to unlock higher rank hunts. However, if you play through the Village quests first, you’ll have the option to take on special license tests which will increase your hunter rank. In doing this, you’ll be able to progress directly into High Rank hunts without having to go through completing all of the key quests again for Low Rank.
Once in High Rank, the story picks up where it left off after Magnamalo and culminates in a fight with a new elder dragon. I won’t spoil any details here - including its name - but what I will say is that the fight against this elder dragon was one of the best boss fights I’ve had in a Monster Hunter game to date. I absolutely loved how it involved taking advantage of the new Wirebugs and how it mixed in some boss mechanics that I would expect to see out of an MMORPG like Final Fantasy XIV. In fact, the elder dragon seemed like a boss straight out of FFXIV anyways.
Sadly, the story does end on a cliffhanger which is both good and bad to me. On one hand, the story does seem complete and I did get a sense of finality. I beat the big, bad elder dragon and saved the town. Hooray! On the other hand, it leans on an old trope to continue the story which feels like faux pas in this era. Again, no spoilers, but I feel like the last cutscene could have been omitted entirely and used as an intro for whenever additional story content does drop. Initially, Capcom planned for the first title update coming in April to include more story, but has since revamped its roadmap to delay the story beats until later this year. At least we will get the cap removed on Hunter Ranks and at least one new monster to hunt later this month.
Rise Against the Rampage
The one aspect of Rise that I didn’t enjoy so much was the new Tower Defense like mode called Rampage. These Rampage quests have you set up ballista, cannons, and traps in order to fend off a rampaging horde of monsters from ransacking the village. At the end of the horde is an especially powerful boss monster that, once defeated, will end the mission. Honestly, this new mode should speak to me as I absolutely love tower defense games. However, the way that Rise tackles this mode makes it feel like a side attraction and doesn’t feel rewarding to pursue, outside of unlocking a singular weapon tree.
There are rare Apex versions of boss monsters in this Rampage mode that can add to the excitement, but currently there are only 3 types of these Apex bosses, which leave much to be desired. There will be a fourth Apex monster added in the April title update as well, but it still feels like this doesn’t add up to a lot. I do hope that the Rampage mode gets further expanded upon, as it seems like they could be fun side activities that add to the overall depth of gameplay. Unfortunately, outside of crafting specific armor pieces, or the ‘Rampage’ weapons which require specific Apex materials from this mode, there’s not much incentive to keep running it over other missions.
Monster Hunter Rise is some of the most fun I’ve gotten to enjoy on my Nintendo Switch since the system launched. It brings back some of the traditional aspects of Monster Hunter, but still respects my time and lets me get into the action faster than ever. I would say that Rise is probably the easiest Monster Hunter game to get into now, and the portable nature of playing it on the Switch means that it’s enjoyable virtually everywhere. Unfortunately, the list of monsters is one of the lowest in the franchise’s history and, as of right now, the story is still unfinished. It’s well-polished and fun to play, but feels incomplete and lacks any kind of endgame. I wish the fun wouldn’t end, but after only about 50 hours spent in-game, there wasn't much left to see.
After the upcoming planned title updates, Rise could be a real winner. As it stands right now, I still highly recommend picking up Rise, but if you’re on the fence then it might be best to hold off at least until the story is complete. The good news for PC players is that Monster Hunter Rise will be coming to PC next year, so maybe it will launch alongside a new expansion that adds G-Rank hunts and even more monsters into the mix. Until then, I’m going to go beat that elder dragon just one more time… okay, maybe two.