It’s Monster Hunter but now with a pet dog. If that doesn’t convince you to play Monster Hunter Rise on the Nintendo Switch, nothing will.
Rise is the latest in Capcom’s Monster Hunter series, which has traditionally been huge in Japan on the PSP and Nintendo DS handhelds, but hit the mainstream with the release of Monster Hunter: World in 2017 on home consoles. Where that game gave the series the semi-open world fans desired, Rise returns to Nintendo and adds further improvements to make it the best Monster Hunter yet.
As the title implies, Monster Hunter is all about hunting monsters. Imagine Pokémon but instead of collecting cute critters, you’re battling hulking beasts and then wearing their skins. Except less gruesome than that sounds.
The story in Rise is as minimal as ever: protect a village from an incoming rampage of monsters. It’s a simple setup for the core gameplay of hunting monsters, collecting their parts and using them to upgrade your armour and weaponry as you work your way ever upwards through the food chain.
That core gameplay loop is such a strong draw that Rise gets away with improving the series rather than revolutionising it. But it manages to get plenty of mileage out of that singular idea alone.
For starters, there are a multitude of weapons to try out, from simple swords, lances and bows, to the more imaginative hunting horns, insect glaives, and switch axes. Each requires a distinct style of hunting and combos to get to grips with – a considerable challenge in itself.
Then there are the various mission types. Rise splits its missions between single player Village Quests and multiplayer Hub Quests where you can team up with three others to take down monsters. Within these are hunting missions, capture missions, exploration missions, arena battles and more.
The game’s only real flaw is the brevity of its main story. At under 20 hours, it’s easy to rush through the key quests that don’t quite reach a satisfying climax and miss out on plenty of monster types. Yet here the game is just getting started, with many more side quests to play through, hunts to explore, and outfits to unlock. And let’s face it, the ultimate goal of any Monster Hunter is simply looking as cool as possible.
There are plenty of revisions to the formula from previous games that ensure Rise is an essential purchase for fans and newcomers alike. First up are the aforementioned dogs. Where World had you fighting alongside your Palico (a cat), Rise adds in a Palamute (dog) too. Both are fully customisable in appearance, weapons and armour, and give plenty of assistance in battle. Palamutes can also be ridden, which makes travel much quicker than before.
Speaking of travel, another major new addition are the Wirebugs. With these you can catapult yourself through the world like Spider-Man, a feature that adds a wonderful level of freedom to exploration, not to mention the unique moves they provide to each weapon type to make you more manoeuvrable in combat.
Perhaps the biggest monsters to face are the complex systems and obtuse menus the series has been heavily criticised for in the past. Rise, though, is the most accessible game yet. It’s not perfect – there’s still plenty to get to grips with – but the game is overall much smaller in scale and removes systems from World, which is a welcome trade-off. That means smaller levels (though they’re still densely packed with monsters and resources) and a smaller hub village that makes finding the blacksmith, marketplace and quest givers far easier.
What’s more, the hunts themselves are much shorter. Where in World you could be fighting a monster for well over 30 minutes, here the average is more like ten. In a game known for its grinding for monster materials, it certainly cuts back on repetition.
On top of the stellar gameplay is some of the best presentation on the Switch. Yes, the graphics are impressive with its varied and large locales, plus truly unique and imaginative monster designs. But it’s a game that’s bursting with personality. Rise leans into a distinct Japanese setting with both the monsters and the locations. Capcom’s own Okami is seemingly an influence too – from the wolf-like Palamutes to the beautiful traditional art of the loading screens.
Each new hunt begins with a fun poetic introduction that builds anticipation for the beast to come, while the Palicoes and Palamutes are adorably animated. Did we mention there’s a cat canteen where they sing as they cook cute bunny dango dumplings? If you’re not singing along, you’re playing it wrong.
It all adds up to one of the best games on Nintendo’s Switch. The single player might be brief, but the real fun of Monster Hunter are the friends you hunt with along the way.
Monster Hunter Rise is available now on Nintendo Switch. A demo is also available to download.