You know, this isn’t the first time I’ve played—or even reviewed—a game with an alarmingly prophetic title. Usually, that’s not a good thing, because the game’s got something like “Destruction” or “Doom” in its name, and the game is, quite fittingly, a disaster. However, this time, we’ve got quite the opposite situation because, much like its name suggests, Monster Hunter Rise has very quickly risen to the top and comfortably taken its position as the best in the series so far.
It’s almost astounding how much Monster Hunter Rise has managed to shake things up while, in many ways, remaining exactly the same as it always has. You’ve got better graphics, smoother controls, diversified combat options, and even giant ninja dogs that you can ride up walls yet, at the end of the day, you’re still just a tiny human with a comically oversized weapon trying—with a frighteningly high amount of success—to kill the most terrifying creatures that Mother Nature can think of. It’s beautiful, really, and I applaud Capcom for being able to outdo themselves to such a degree with a single game.
To Quell the Oncoming Storm
I know that the story, generally speaking, is one of the furthest things away from people’s minds when it comes to playing Monster Hunter games. I’ve always been fond of them, though, and it seems like Rise really put some effort into this one, so it seems like a shame to just completely gloss over it—no worries, though, we’ll make it quick. The entirety of Monster Hunter Rise takes place within the not-so-sizable Kamura village. While typically a very laid-back place (or so it seems), Kamura Village once fell victim to an event—known only as “the Rampage”—which saw it being invited by not just one or two, but literal hordes of monsters at once. Despite almost being entirely destroyed, the village managed to pull through, however, it seems as though signs of the Rampage occurring are once showing themselves—and it’s up to Kamura’s only properly qualified hunter (which would be you) to stop it once more.
I’ve always thought that the Monster Hunter franchise has done a great job with creating unique stories for each of its games. However, I also think that it’s just as important that each game’s locales are equally as unique—and boy does Kamura ever live up to that. While the series, in my opinion, has always done its best with what it had at the time, Rise did a phenomenal job of utilizing Switch’s capabilities to create a hub world that felt unlike the series has given us before. Sure, we’ve had towns that were sort of Japanese-themed before, but Kamura feels like an authentic, old-school Japanese village—or at least the Monster Hunter equivalent anyway. It’s fun just to explore, and it makes me excited for what kinds of locales the series—or perhaps even this game in future updates—will throw at us next.
Charging Bravely Toward Victory
This is going to be one of those reviews where talking about the gameplay is going to be kind of weird. Don’t get me wrong or anything; it’s not because there isn’t any gameplay to talk about. Monster Hunter Rise is quite literally the best Monster Hunter game I’ve ever played, and both can and will keep me entertained for dozens—possibly hundreds—of hours to come. But, I mean, it’s Monster Hunter. You know what Monster Hunter is, right? You go run around and hunt monsters. Sometimes you do things like collect honey, but most of the time, you just get into fights with things that are about 10 times bigger than you and, if you’re good enough, you win. If you’ve played a Monster Hunter game before, you already know about 90% of what’s going on in this game. And, aside from me saying that it feels more refined than ever, I don’t really need to say much more than I already have.
But let’s take a look at that other 10% (or whatever it is), yeah? What is it about Rise that makes it so different? Well, ironically, a lot of it doesn’t directly involve hunting monsters. I really felt like Rise‘s indirect hunting elements were what stood out the most. Take, for example, the levels. While Rise sticks to all of the same basic climates that the series is known for, each location’s makeup is a unique hybrid of original MH and World, creating places that feel complex and alive (and the endemic life is a nice touch, too). In previous MH games, this would have actually been incredibly frustrating. Fortunately, however, Rise also introduces a new mechanic (which we’ll get to later) that lets players seamlessly explore each cliff and crevice that the game has to offer—including that weird pyramid in the Flooded Forest that takes up a significant portion of the stage but isn’t used for much of anything.
There’s a part of me that would love to go in-depth about how Rise tweaked each of the weapons. And I would love to listen to said part because I’m sure they absolutely did. However, I’ve got a confession to make (just in case the pictures didn’t give it away)—I’m a diehard lance user. I’ve been that way for a long, long time, and I really don’t plan on changing any time soon. So, while I can’t say much for most of the game’s weapons, I can say that the changes they made to lance were all beneficial thanks to a slightly expanded movepool and Switch Skills (which all weapons get! …Just in case the three other lance mains out there just so happen to stumble across this review.
The lance is a very slow weapon, meaning that solo hunts can take a while. So, whenever I want to hunt more quickly, I hop online for some multiplayer action (how’s that for a segue?). By and large, Rise‘s online multiplayer functionality remains largely the same, albeit with a few nice, new options added in. While creating groups is probably still the way to go if you’re looking for something reliable, players are now able to search for and hop into ongoing quests (provided the host allows it), which is perfect for those who want something specific or don’t have the time to set up or look for groups. Additionally, there’s a feature called Hunter Connect sort of works as a guild in that it can help bring players together, regardless of whether or not they’re on each others’ Friends List. Monster Hunter‘s online features were already great, and these new additions feel like the perfect finishing touches.
No Towers Needed
So, remember how I mentioned earlier that your character was chosen as the one to put an end to the Rampage? Well, it’s not just an important story point—it’s an entirely new game mode! And just what kind of game mode, you ask? Well, it’s a tower defense. Seriously. As far as Rampages go, I could take them or leave them. On one hand, I certainly think that they’re creative—putting a uniquely Monster Hunter spin on a tower defense game is honestly pretty incredible. I, for one, really never found myself too interested in them and, much like the Arena, ignored them to the point where I largely forgot that they existed. I don’t in any way condemn this mode, because I do think that Rampages are a fun and unique addition to Rise—and they also give you tickets that allow you to unlock additional effects on weapons—but it’s easier to think of them as a “bonus mode” more so than a core gameplay mechanic.
Hold off on that Flea Collar!
Monster Hunter World added a lot of really great enhancements to the Monster Hunter series as a whole (I promise I’m going somewhere with this). Some of these—like the ability to fast-travel or quickly forage for items—were ported straight to Rise. Other mechanics, however, were given a complete overhaul—and that’s exactly what the wirebug is. A more defense/maneuverability-focused version of World’s Clutch Claw, wirebugs allow players to do some pretty incredible things in this game, like swing through the air and run up walls and use their own special gauge. Wirebugs can also be paired with weapons to pull off special, weapon-specific attacks, and can even be used to mount monsters (which is one of the few changes I actually didn’t like about this game). Basically, if there’s something that your weapon can’t do, your wirebug probably can—all while remaining surprisingly balanced within the context of most everything else!
Rise‘s second claim to fame is that it finally gives dogs their time in the limelight with the Palamute Buddy’s introduction! Sporting the appearance of a dog, the size of a small horse, and a professional ninja’s skillset, Palamutes are Canyne companions that work differently than their longstanding Felyne counterparts. While Canynes are a little lacking in skill diversity (they don’t have classes like Palicos do), they can equip special pieces of skill-bestowing gear, allowing for a greater degree of player customization. And, even more importantly, you can ride them around during hunts! Not only is this great due to the fact that Rise‘s maps are both huge and multi-layered, but, like, they’re dogs! Giant, friendly, ninja dogs! How cool is that!?
Seeking Even Greater Heights
Sometimes it’s hard to determine what the best game in a series is. This time, it’s not. Regardless of what charms the Monster Hunter games of the past might have to offer, they’re no match for Rise‘s huge jump in overall quality and polish. I’m sure that Capcom will make a new Monster Hunter game someday and, when they do, maybe it will dethrone this one. But, until that time comes, Rise will be sitting at the top—and I’m very happy that it’s there.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Switch (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Capcom ; Developer: Capcom ; Players: 1 – 4 ; Released: March 26, 2021 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: A Monster Hunter Rise review code was provided by Capcom.