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Monster Hunter Rise review: Switching up the hunt in all the right ways

Monster Hunter Rise launches players into the next era of the franchise as it swings back onto the Nintendo Switch with Master Rank expertise.

6

When I heard that the next major chapter of Monster Hunter was going not to the PS5, Xbox Series X/S, or PC (at least not right away), but rather starting out on the Nintendo Switch, I had my reservations. How could one not after the absolutely breathtaking experience that was Monster Hunter World and its expansion, Iceborne? I went into Monster Hunter Rise thinking I just wanted it to be adequate in comparison.

I misjudged. Monster Hunter Rise is more than adequate. Its inclusion of familiar and new mechanics and an all-new full-fledged adventure packed with new and returning beasties would be enough to make Monster Hunter Rise of note. That said, the fact that it can bring all of these things to the table and then play proficiently offline and online makes this a must-have for any player looking for a quality and lengthy dragon-slaying adventure you’ll enjoy at home and on the road.

Enter the walls of Kamura

Monster Hunter Rise brings players to the hugely far Eastern-inspired village of Kamura. There’s often a great deal of European, bohemian, and naval influence behind the home base settlements of Monster Hunter games, but Monster Hunter Rise makes no bones about the fact that it’s all about ninjas, shrine maidens, and further feudal Japanese iconography. More importantly, Kamura faces a problem. Every fifty years or so, a ruckus known as the Rampage stirs up the wyverns and drives them to attack Kamura in gathering masses. If Kamura is to survive, the Rampage must be driven back and defeated.

That’s where you come in! As a budding hunter in Kamura, your task is to build your might, master your weapons and tools in increasingly dangerous hunts, learn to thwart the Rampage, and hunt down its source once and for all. As is often the case, the narrative of Monster Hunter is little more than corny buffer to get you to the action, but it does its job well enough. The whole point is getting you ready to hunt bigger and bigger beasties.

Now I will say, getting you ready for the hunt is one area where Monster Hunter Rise is tedious and unintuitive. If you’re a seasoned Monster Hunter player, it probably won’t take you long to figure out what you remember, how it works, and the new tricks that go with it. Where it doesn’t do so great is for complete newbies. I’d say the first hour of Monster Hunter Rise is a dizzying array of tutorials that barrage you with information overload. There are some new things you'll need, but it’s still an annoying flood of info rather than thoughtfully training you learn up on what you can do.

That aside, nearly all of the staples return, including the 14 classes of weaponry to explore, the eating before a hunt, the sending for supplies, and more. Palicos also return and they even have classes this time, like Healer to keep your health up or Bombardier to dish out explosive damage. They aren’t your only best friend in the lonely wild. Canine hunting partners known as Palamutes also make an entrance this game. These large pups can not only be equipped with special weapons, but you can also ride them like a steed and travel around maps quickly. Heck, while you’re moving on their backs, you can do things like drink a potion or sharpen your weapon on the ride. They're a fantastic addition to the overall solo squad – so much so that you can only choose to take a Palico or Palamute with you in multiplayer games. Slight bummer.

Journey into the Rampaging wilds

Once you’ve prepped yourself, picked your weapon of choice, and readied to leave camp, you can head for the available locales. At first you just get the Shrine Ruins, but eventually you unlock various environments all with a myriad of opportunities to explore and unique creatures to pick apart for gear crafting materials. I’m not going to sit here and say the locales are as intricately gorgeous as Monster Hunter World’s were, but they are charming in their own right, featuring their own fun variety and style to keep your hunts interesting.

The inhabitants that wander these locales are good too. Monster Hunter Rise features the return of a lot familiar creatures, as well as some new challenges to chase down. The likes of Great Izuchi, Aknosom, and Tetranadon join staples like Rathalos, Anjanath, Khezu, and plenty more. Each monster comes into the game in grand form, offering a unique challenge and equipment rewards for overcoming it. Monster Hunter Rise will still make you grind some monsters several times to get what you need, but generally the battles were so fun and intense that I hardly noticed.

This is due in large part to several new elements throughout Monster Hunter Rise’s hunts and combat. For one, there’s the Permabuffers. These are bird-like little creatures that embue you with a stat gain if you come near them. There’s Attack, Defense, Stamina, and Health Permabuffers, and you can even equip certain accessories to boost one style of effects or another. It makes your pathing to collect these little critters as paramount as popping a Demondrug potion for attack or an Armorskin potion for defense at the start of the match.

Then there’s the Wirebugs. These critters serve several purposes throughout the hunt. For one, you can use a Wirebug like a grappling shot to yank you forward or up to walls. If you hit a wall, you’ll run up it a bit before having to jump and Wirebug grapple again. You can use this to scale cliffs you otherwise couldn’t, and it adds player-controlled verticality to Monster Hunter Rise. There’s also Wirebug attacks. These are done using the Wirebug button with your usual attack buttons. They can do anything from sending out a barrage of silken slashes on the Long Sword to giving you temporary impenetrabale shields against an attack. Some weapons feel more limited or niche with these attacks, but it’s hard to complain about their inclusion on top of the usual move sets.

The most delightful part of this is easily setting up Wyvern Riding. Monster Hunter Rise lost regular monster mounting, but by dealing damage with Wirebug attacks, utilizing Puppet Spiders found in the wild, or letting a wyvern get attacked by another wyvern, you can jump to take control of them. In this moment, you can use them to wage a battle on another monster and damage them severely, or you could just launch them into a wall, jump off, and wail on them while they’re recovering. No matter what, Wyvern Riding provides massive opportunities for big damage and stuns and despite regular mountings going away, Wyvern Riding feels highly bombastic and satisfying when you do it right.

Finally, there's Rampage Quests. These are gate defending scenarios where you'll ward off several waves of Wyverns with automated and operable ballistas, cannons, machine guns, and bombs. These were basically tower defense sections, and while okay. I didn't really feel one way or the other about them.

Offline, online, in the cradle, & on the go

One of the things I was most concerned about coming into this review was online play in Monster Hunter Rise. Even if Capcom was running the servers, with Nintendo Switch Online, I was expecting very little. So, color me shocked when I hooked up a hunt with my colleague in Australia and the hunt was practically lag free - a completely smooth experience both when I hosted and he hosted a match. I was floored by how well it handled in even the most chaotic hunting moments. All of our hunts ran the same as when I was offline. I will note that Monster Hunter Rise's online menus are a convoluted joke for a game that has been around so long, asking you to do all sorts of extra presses to get to a place that would take one or two buttons in other games, but once I was in a hunt, it was hard to complain.

Moreover, the game performed that well in docked and handheld mode for the Nintendo Switch. When I took the Switch off the dock to test it out, I was equally shocked to find it handled nearly as well as when docked. The only noticeable quirk in quality, was that objects at distance (like over fifty feet) are dulled and living entities are choppy in their movements. However, up close and in most combat range, I found the Nintendo Switch handled my exploration and battles with a maintained standard regardless of whether it was docked or not, quite the good news for anyone hoping to hunt on the go.

Monster Hunter Rising above my doubts

When I think about the problems I have with Monster Hunter Rise… They are trite in comparison to the overall experience. Most of them are inconveniences that we can learn to deal with in time even if I'd say it's silly they're there at all at this point. Some are just mild ho-hums I wish were better. Overall however, Monster Hunter Rise was beyond anything I expected. The tried and true grind of Monster Hunter's giant beast battles is alive and performing exceedingly well for the Switch’s hardware. Its formula is also thoughtfully augmented with Palamutes, Wirebugs, and Wyvern Riding, all of which I’d love to see stay in the series after this game. Grab a friend, near or far, or make some new ones as you engage in Rise’s grand new hunt. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.


This review is based upon a Nintendo Switch digital copy supplied by the publisher. Monster Hunter Rise is scheduled to launch on the Nintendo Switch on March 26, 2021 and on PC in 2022.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

Review for
Monster Hunter Rise
9
Pros
  • Huge bestiary of new and returning wyverns to hunt
  • Wonderfully varied environments to explore
  • Wirebugs add another fun layer to offense and mobility
  • Wyvern riding is highly satisfying
  • Palamute buddies are both adorable and highly functional
  • Online is amazingly smooth
  • Handheld play runs stable even in chaotic situations
Cons
  • Tutorials are a non-intuitive gauntlet of text
  • Some weapons got far more practical Wirebug attacks
  • Too many menus to access simple things like online
  • Still quite grindy
  • Story is tremendously corny and non-essential
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