The most technically advanced game on the Switch is here, looking amazing, selling gangbusters, and making fans obsessed. Monster Hunter Rise is Capcom’s latest addition to their now highest selling franchise in the company's history. Coming off the record number of sales from Monster Hunter World/Icebourne, Rise has quite the Elder Dragon of a challenge but pulls it off incredibly well, securing the portable games future in the franchise. Monster Hunter Rise takes strong inspiration from Japanese mythology as the new monsters are heavily inspired from its history and mythology, providing a beautiful world inspired by the Edo period of Japanese history.

Gameplay

If you’ve ever wondered what you do in Monster Hunter, it’s simple... you hunt monsters, the title says it all. All jokes aside, that’s not everything to the game, however it is the biggest aspect. Although, there are other aspects including gathering materials and using them to upgrade your gear for future hunts. Monster Hunter as a series is one of those endless games with no true end goal; what sets itself apart though is that it includes more of a learning curve as you pick up on the tells of each monster’s attacks instead of the endless slog of the same thing but stronger.

You don't go fighting the monsters bare-handed… although that would be really cool thinking about it. You enter battle with one of 14 weapons, each with their own unique playstyle and an option between melee and range. I personally opt to use the lance – that feeling of sitting there tanking the monster’s biggest hits to then come back at them with a counter feels so satisfying. Some of the weapons have really complex combos and tactics so it’s definitely worth checking out the training area to test out each weapon to find a weapon that suits your playstyle.

Quests are split into two different sections: village quests and gathering hub quests, with village quests only being available in single-player and gathering hub quests are your multiplayer option. One of my favourite things with the multiplayer lobbies is that you can go out into the village and still find your friends instead of only being in the gathering hub like in World. Most quests require you to hunt a single monster to progress to the next difficulty however there are also side quests you can receive from villagers which help expand their available wares or give you access to sub camps out in the field. When you leave to hunt a monster for the first time you get a traditional style film clip accompanied with a poem about them and their behaviour.

While out in the field, you come across a whole bunch of plants and insects you can gather for crafting potions, ammo, or other useful items. One of the newest additions to the field are spiribirds which provide a permanent buff to your hunter if you spend the time going around looking for them. This gives you a bonus while going around to collect some extra materials for later use or even during the hunt.

For the first time, dogs are now available to be used as buddies in the form of Palamutes, while still including Palicos, your cat buddies. You can bring up to two buddies on a hunt by yourself or a single buddy in multiplayer hunts however with four players and four buddies, it does take a little bit to get used to the large amount of attacks going on at the same time. There is a separate section in the village where you can hire additional buddies which can be used in hunts with you or to be sent out on their own quest to gather materials for you.

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Aside from the usual hunts, Monster Hunter Rise introduces rampages as a new quest. Here, you are tasked with protecting the village of Kamura from the impending threat of a large number of monsters trying to get to the village. These take the form of tower defence style gameplay with turrets that can be manned by players or villagers for an automatic defender or special instalments that only have a very limited number of uses. This game mode works much better with four people, so if you don’t have three other friends, you can always play with random players by opening a join request when you take the rampage quest or by joining someone else's. This is a fun addition to the series especially with the challenging Apex fights, which are monsters that are stronger variations of certain monsters.

Wirebugs are a new addition to the franchise which adds a lot of manoeuvrability to all weapons. They allow you to dash into the air, climb up walls and hang in the air, however the manoeuvrability isn’t the only additional feature they’ve brought with them. Wirebugs allow hunters to use special silk attacks that use one or two wirebugs to perform - some are really powerful attacks and each weapon has two default silk attacks. By completing quests or by forging eight of a particular weapon, you can unlock additional attacks that are swappable for standard attacks or a new silk attack. But these wirebugs aren’t done yet. Have you ever wanted to re-enact Godzilla vs King Kong? Well, with the wirebugs, you have the ability to mount the monsters and take control of them for a limited amount of time, allowing you to fight other monsters or just ram them into walls for additional damage. The wirebug adds a plethora of features that are really fun to explore and very satisfying to pull off.

The internal Capcom RE Engine is working wonders on the Nintendo Switch as load times in the Village are near instant, even moving between different zones of the village. These fast load times also extend to entering a hunt, from pressing depart to arriving in the main camp and ready to run off, I was consistently under 15 seconds. And during those 15 seconds you are graced with stunning art of various monsters, the entire game is a technical marvel. When you select what quest you want to go into, you can immediately depart for the field, which is a vast improvement on Monster Hunter World and the 20-30 second time waiting for the quest to load before being able to depart waiting an extra 15+ seconds.

World / Level Design

There are a total of five field areas (with two of them returning from Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate) and three original areas. Each map has a distinct theme and house monsters that fit each field, like a giant mudfish type monster living in the flooded forest. That’s not to say that monsters are restricted to each area as they migrate between different fields. With the added wirebug feature there is a lot of verticality added to the fields, encouraging a lot of exploration.

Story / Personality

The village of Kamura was devastated by a rampage of monsters over 50 years ago and now that you’ve been given your guild registration as a hunter, the rampage is stirring back up again. This leads you down a road of quest after quest to help people within the village and defend Kamura from the impending rampage and what that brings with it. One thing to note is that the story is not finished yet as more will be added through post launch DLC with the first coming out at the end of April. Without going into spoilers, I’m very excited to see where the story goes but any details will spoil major end-game events.

Graphics / Art Direction

Monster Hunter Rise’s art design is reminiscent of Monster Hunter World, especially considering they’re both from the fifth generation of Monster Hunter. However, Rise contains a stunning Japanese coat of paint. The new monsters added to Rise are all inspired by Japanese Yokai and one example of this is Tetranadon which is based off of a Kappa – they even use sumo moves because that’s just something they love to do. Monsters feel unique for the most part, with only a few feeling relatively similar (Rathian and Rathalos are the two most obvious) however, they’re the same species, just the female and male versions respectively.

Some weapon and armour designs are lifted from Monster Hunter World and you can tell where the complaints about those designs came from, however the designs that are made for Rise are really unique, providing a unique flair and focusing on the monster they’re based off. Rise also marks the return of joke weapon designs with an origami switch axe and a gunlance that is a piece of corn named the Cornpopper. Then there is Kamura itself and this place is a beautiful area to look at, just like the field areas as previously described. Kamura looks as if it is lifted directly from a painting, then brought to life.

Then you have the monster art used in the in-game guide and on the quest board; these are designed in a traditional Japanese art style and they are absolutely beautiful to look at, to the point that I want a tattoo of one of these art pieces. Graphically, the game runs at 30 FPS docked and undocked with only one specific instance of frame drops happening while docked with frames dropping to 26 frames at the lowest when actions are performed next to a waterfall. However even with three large monsters, four hunters and their buddies on the screen at once, I never noticed a single frame drop. It is genuinely jaw dropping at the miracles that the RE Engine has made happen on the Nintendo Switch.

Music / Sound Design

Fluffy Bunny Dango! They’re a tasty treat! The Bunny Dango song is so cute and catchy; almost every time before a hunt, I would listen to the full song, unless I’ve only got a short time to do a hunt, like before going to sleep, which is usually followed by three more hunts and shame for a lack of self-control. However, this section is about the game's music, not my addiction to this game and all the tracks used are dynamic and captivating. As you make your way around in the field, everything is peaceful and quiet, giving a peaceful ambience – then the music kicks in as the hunt begins.

There is a generic theme for some of the weaker large monsters and the small monsters also get their own theme, each of them scaling in their urgency. When you start reaching the more difficult monsters like Magnamalo, this is where each monster has their own theme and the muscles tense in readiness for a real challenge. The unique themes are truly a piece of work that are so great to listen to, so much so that I’m listening to a playlist of them while writing this review. But the most hype moment comes toward the end of the game and this is only made so due to the music as it kicks in when the hunters are taking the initiative.

Final Score: 100%

Monster Hunter Rise is genuinely a masterpiece of a game on the Nintendo Switch and has very quickly taken the spot as my favourite game on the system. It contains some of the most satisfying combat on the Switch, especially when you confirm the kill of a monster, but it’s also a real joy to explore the different areas and find the hidden secrets. Monster Hunter Rise brings the Japanese influence to a whole new level that permeates throughout the entire game, bringing with it a visually striking game and captivating music. It all features an interwoven and complex system of game mechanics, coming together to form an extremely fun experience to be played solo or with friends.

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