It is kind of crazy to think that the Switch has been out for a few years now, and has only had ports of Monster Hunter released for it to date. With last year’s major sales for the console, Capcom have delivered Monster Hunter Rise to appease fans of the portable, delivering a full experience with new features and baddies alike. Seeing how Monster Hunter World kind of revolutionized the franchise for the west, does Rise follow suit? Let’s find out.
Every time I talk about Monster Hunter, I want to go into detail speaking about the plot, and every single time, most of my thoughts are trimmed down to a mere paragraph. Rise is no different mostly, as outside of introducing a couple of interesting characters, the plot merely exists to glue together this massive universe. Players quickly are greeted by twins by the name of Hinoa and Minoto, who basically exist to lead the player to single and multiplayer quests. Sure, there is a narrative about a massive serpant, dragons, and so on, but nothing is really fleshed out, but for this franchise, that is fine. These walls speak volumes without a lot of writing in-between, as the player’s own choices and playstyle do well enough to interpret whatever journey they want to have.
I’m going to start here by speaking about my own beginnings with Rise, as even though there is a lot of good to speak of, I would rather begin by getting some of the many nuisances out there first. There is a lot to take in when you boot up rise. Players are dropped into their main village and basically must kind of figure out where to go next, which of course is on quests to kill monsters, claim loot, and repeat. That is perfectly fine, but the menu system really is not. While it is understandable after time, the overwhelming layout places tons of menu screens within menu screens, within menu screens. On top of this, there are tutorials that are shot off like a machine gun for almost everything you view within these menus. It is overwhelming and time consuming to get through all of the clutter, as even though the game is straightforward, the menu system is almost built to make it feel larger – and more complicated than it really is.
It took my friend and I almost an hour to simply join a multiplayer hunt, and that was with us almost giving up a few times to go on with our single player game. For a franchise as old as this and a console built for portability and ease of play, it is a bit baffling why more time wasn’t spent streamlining the experience for accessibility. Personally, I think World got this right and did well with giving gameplay a focus. Rise isn’t by any means a difficult game to jump into, it just comes with a lot of cobwebs to wipe away that are surely going to fatigue newcomers along with those who grew more accustomed to the accessible fare of the portable entries on the 3DS.
With that out the way, we have a lot of meat to explore within these bones. Hunts are basically categorized, and players go to one large-scale map to get to work collecting, hunting, or simply exploring these maps. The controls are fairly simple, which each weapon type offering a completely different feel from the next, creating an illusion of variation. I say illusion as you always find the same result for kills, with the same loot no matter what style you play. Again, not a bad thing, but it would be nice to see different drops based on your chosen play-style.
New to the franchise comes one of the best additions to date, the Palamute. This dog of sorts can be customized and rode throughout the hub world as well as in most quests, giving the player a sense of speed without sacrificing control. Palicos also return as a friendly ally, aiding you in battle with healing items or a bit more bit to enemies. There is still a great deal of balance in the mechanics with the tweaked features, and even though the game is made a bit easier with less grinding required, there are hundreds of hours to be spent collecting and hunting in these massive locations.
Survival mode is interesting, as it takes the overarching incoming “Rampage” story theme and has players defend the main town they begin in. It isn’t the most organic of experiences, but it does add a fine layer of strategy in a place where we typically just visited to handle business. Online multiplayer is fine, but could use a bit of work as server speed creates a bit of slowdown, causing a few skips that slightly hinder some of the fast-paced battle sequences.
Visually, this may be one of the better-looking games to ever hit the Switch. The array of colors and heavily detailed environments capture an atmosphere like no other. Characters also are heavily animated and full of personality, with bouncy Palicos and random dancing NPCs to be found all over that make you feel truly invited to a stunning world beneath your feet. I do wish the menus were a little less cluttered, but after the curve, navigation becomes a little less cluttered, where players can basically choose to actually go to one place, or just pull up a menu and fast-travel.
The audio is also something of a marvel for Rise. With a fantastic and memorable soundtrack, I think Monster Hunter has finally found its voice to define it within Rise, as these melodies are sure to keep you swaying and smiling while in gentle moments, or on the edge of your seat during intense battles. The voice acting is also well done, as characters never came off as wooden, despite the lack of overall story in the main game.
Make no mistake, Monster Hunter Rise is a great time, and has more than enough to please even the most tenured of fans. I do think that the shortcomings of the Switch have led to it being built with an artificial enhancement of depth for this entry, complicating and crowding the platform in order to stand toe to toe with its more massive kin. Either way, Switch owners have what is sure to be a mainstay of their favorite franchise for years to come here, as long as they can wipe away the extra details to view that same gratifying core which has made it such a popular namesake worldwide.