Monster Hunter Rise hands-on preview: Wacky wyvern rodeo

We got a hands-on look at an early build of Capcom's Monster Hunter Rise demo on the Nintendo Switch. Check out how our early hunts fared!

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Coming off of Monster Hunter World, and especially MHW: Iceborne on PC, it’s hard to imagine going back to a platform with limited capabilities. We’ve seen some gorgeous things come out of the latest iterations of the Monster Hunter franchise, and to limit it to the Switch after that sounded like a bit of a drag. That said, I got a chance to play an early version of Monster Hunter Rise’s demo on the Nintendo Switch. Despite its limitations, I came away impressed with how the Switch handled the exploration and battle across new and gorgeous environments and the sturdy beasts that inhabit them.

A little relearning and some all-new tricks

The Monster Hunter Rise demo is a bit limited, but it most certainly has a lot to show off about what we can expect from the new features of the upcoming game. If you’ve followed our coverage, you may have already learned of Palamutes (canine companions that will aid you in your hunts like the feline-based Palicos), but recently we also got a good look at the Wirebug system, and especially Wyvern Riding.

In addition to your usual various weapon classes, potions, armor, and other equipment and gadgets, the Wirebug system is something that adds options to Monster Hunter Rise that we didn’t really have before. At its most basic, you can use the Wirebug system to create swinging grapple points in the air and zip around, reaching otherwise unclimbable locations. You can gain access to a perch to survey the terrain or just use it to zip in and get the drop on unsuspecting foe. You can also use Wirebugs to empower your attacks. More on this later. Lastly, Wirebugs figure heavily into the new Wyvern Riding system. Wirebugs are also limited, so using them wisely adds a whole new angle to combat and mobility in Monster Hunter Rise.

Palamutes also add interesting alternative options as these canines can be mounted and ridden to take you rapidly across the map. This is important because Palicos and Palamutes do very different things when it comes to supporting you in exploration and combat, and while you can bring both of them into solo play at the same time, you can only choose one to come with you when going online with other players. That means considering which companion will suit your needs best when you get to the hunt.

Other than that, Monster Hunter Rise remains straightforward in its expectations of players and the progress you’ll grind towards. You pick a weapon class, become well-versed in it, and hunt down increasingly intense foes. Each weapon has an altogether different attack style and all of the weapon styles that were in MH: World remain intact here. Out in the world, there’s also non-target minor monsters you can strike down for minor parts and endemic life which can help boost your stats or have other effects, so making use of the life and discoveries in the field is as beneficial as ever.

Getting our hunt on

The demo offered two different main hunts for us, one being an Easy Quest to hunt a Great Izuchi and the other being a tougher Intermediate Quest to hunt a Mizutsune. They lived up to their quest difficulties. The velociraptor-like Izuchi could be occasionally tricky since there were minor Izuchis it could team with to gang up on you. It also had a scorpion-like hooktail to watch for in many of its swift attacks. but generally speaking it wasn’t horribly hard to bring down. Mizutsune was far more challenging, being a large wyvern with the ability to cast projectile bubbles and use a laser spray of fluid to inflict you with various status debuffs in addition to its bulky physical attacks. Both hunts had vastly different tactics when it came to success.

My favorite part of all of this was experimenting with the Wirebug. In addition to your normal attacks and combos, each weapon class has two different abilities when utilizing Wirebug attacks, some more useful than others. The Sword and Shield offered a forward leap and stab on one Wirebug attack and a spinning area-of-effect attack on the other. Meanwhile the twin blades offered a multi-hitting projectile and a quick grapple forward which seemed a little less useful outside of evasion purposes. The importance of a Wirebug attack is in setting up a foe up for Wyvern Riding, which is where things got really fun.

By using a Wirebug attack on an injured foe, I was able to set up a situation where I could mount and ride them. While riding, I could move around with them, access their abilities to make them attack, run them into walls to stun them, or even build up a bar to unleash a devastating attack if I could hang onto them long enough. When a Wyvern is alone, running it into walls to knock it over is the obvious play, but when other Wyverns were about, I was able to use Wyvern Riding to instigate battles between these massive beasts, which was just an utter delight. I came away wanting to do Wyvern Riding at every opportunity, and it will be interesting to see how to set this up on increasingly dangerous monsters.

What’s more impressive, is that the Nintendo Switch seemed to handle all of this chaos very well. I don’t think I’d say it’s even close to the visuals found in high-quality PC Monster Hunter World, but I do think it looks at least comparable base Monster Hunter World on a regular PS4, and while it also has a pretty low cap on frame rate at 30fps, I also found that it never really stuttered or slowed down down the demo. All-in-all, it’s easily the best-looking and performing version of portable Monster Hunter I’ve seen by far.

Ready and waiting for the big hunt

Monster Hunter Rise already had my full attention as the next fully-fleshed out Monster Hunter adventure, despite being on the limited Switch. I’m curious to see how things are going to go with Nintendo Switch Online play, and I still don’t think this will draw the love of those who’ve been through the ringer in MH: World Iceborne on PC and have become accustomed to high framerates and stellar visuals, but Monster Hunter Rise still plays well and is looking well worth exploring for many of its own reasons. Wyvern Riding was a blast and experimenting with the Wirebug and its use with the game’s various weapons will be a wonderfully fun time. Palamutes are also a welcome addition to our Palico friends. With that in mind, this appetizer has me delighted to see what the main course has in store when Monster Hunter Rise launches in March 2021.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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