After the record-breaking success that Monster Hunter World was met with, Capcom will soon sound their hunting horn to rally you to join the hunt in Monster Hunter Rise on Nintendo Switch. While we’re still a few months away from release, you can now get a taste for the adventure that awaits you in a world that has taken inspiration from ancient Japan thanks to a free demo that has been made available on the Nintendo eShop today.
I have been lucky enough to have been more than happily sinking time into an early access version of the Monster Hunter Rise demo throughout this week, and it’s hard not to have come away mightily impressed with the experience. It’s exciting enough to have had a brief glimpse at what’s next for the series on the portable home console after Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, but, even more so, this marks the first game to use the developer’s RE Engine and the technical showcase that it looks set to deliver is palpable. I won’t be alone in my expectation that this will end up becoming one of the best-looking games on Nintendo Switch, at least.
In terms of the content on offer, the Monster Hunter Rise demo is straightforward by design. It is limited-use in that you will only be able to set out on 30 quests, to which there are two standard hunts that will challenge you to slay a Great Izuchi or a Mizutsune and two tutorials that teach you the basics and introduce the new Wyvern Riding gameplay mechanic. The good news is that playing the tutorials does not subtract from your total available quest runs, meaning that you will have a greater chance to work hard to topple the monsters that you can find in each quest while experimenting with the series’ 14 weapon types. There are more that you will encounter in each quest beyond the Great Izuchi and Mizutsune, which I think’s best that I leave as a surprise for you to discover for yourself.
While my early access version was limited to offline play, you will also have the chance for up to four players to join your hunt in local or online multiplayer. With the COVID-19 pandemic that the world continues to endure meaning that local multiplayer won’t be possible for most, it’s probably important to mention that you will need an active Nintendo Switch Online subscription to team up with others online. I haven’t been able to test online connectivity before the demo’s general release, but I wouldn’t anticipate that there will be any issues based on my experience with previous games.
It is what’s new to the experience that will interest long-term fans the most, and, in that regard, Capcom has been particularly bold. I assume that RE Engine has made it possible, but this is the first portable Monster Hunter game to have no loading screens between map areas. It cannot be understated how much of a positive change this is, removing an irritation that had once impacted the thrill of the hunt as you chased down a fleeing monster that you had mortally wounded.
That leads me on to the Palamute, a new canine-like companion that let you ride on their back to help you to quickly make your way across the map. This is hugely beneficial, seeing as riding the Palamute does not consume any of your stamina bar. That makes traversing the map area a much quicker process, whether that be to find your target or to rejoin the fight after fainting. It’s a great addition to this portable iteration of Monster Hunter, and, under normal circumstances, will let you achieve more from your short burst sessions whenever you have limited time to play on a bus or train journey. Palicoes also make a welcome return, supporting you as they have done before. There are no surprises there, that I can see.
I need some more time to get used to the Wirebug, a new hunting action that similarly helps you rapidly move across the map. You can perform a Wiredash – more easily described as a forward dash – or an evasive Wirefall to dodge an income attack, while Capcom has demonstrated that this new gameplay mechanic can even be used to wall run. You have a limited Wirebug gauge that determines how many of these actions you can perform in quick succession, and, thanks to that, it’s something that I need more time to get to grips with. There are specific locations on the map that you can place a Great Wirebug, which will allow you to scale otherwise impassable terrain such as a tall cliffside.
The Wirebug is also used for the new Wyvern Riding feature, which was revealed in the Monster Hunter Digital Event earlier today. Described as a “gnarly technique” by Master Utsushi in-game, it lets you use Ironsilk to bend a monster to your will when it is in a mountable state, with the method the tutorial teaches you being to use Silkbind attacks. What’s entertaining is that you can either use the monster you control to attack other monstrous bounties or simply launch it into a wall to make it suffer more damage. There are more benefits from looking to harm other monsters in that your successive attacks will build the Wyvern Riding Gauge, which, once full, can be expended to unleash a devastating Mounted Punisher attack.
Another seemingly subtle change is the endemic life that you will encounter around the map, which are curious creatures that grant permanent boons until the end of your quest. Your hunter carries the Petalace, made from a plant called a Sending Sprig. This bracelet can, for example, collect the pollen that Spiribirds carry which can buff your health, stamina, attack or defense. There are other endemic life such as the Stinkmink that can be used to lure larger monsters towards each other to start a turf war, or the Clothfly which releases a cloud of dust when disturbed that temporarily increases your defense. It’ll be interest to see how these affect strategies, as well as help newcomers confront Monster Hunter’s most threatening creatures.
Monster Hunter Rise is shaping up to be everything that I hoped it would be. The demo shows so much promise that Capcom is about to deliver a true beast of an experience on Nintendo Switch, with fresh and meaningful additions seemingly set to make it the best portable iteration that the storied franchise has ever seen. All with the added genius that you can play it at home or on the go.
Monster Hunter Rise will release exclusively for Nintendo Switch worldwide on 26th March 2021.