Welcome to Kamura Village. This serene settlement is the base of operations for those that choose to answer the triumphant call from Capcom’s Hunting Horn. After the resounding success that Monster Hunter World was met with, the company understandably hopes to tap into that momentum with Monster Hunter Rise, which will soon present the chance for would-be hunters to rejoin the hunt on Nintendo Switch.
Set in a locale that is steeped in tradition, the otherwise quaint ninja-inspired land that becomes your stomping ground is overshadowed by the threat of the Rampage – a catastrophic event that those who still call Kamura Village home live in constant fear of one day happening again. Seeing a giant stampede of countless monsters attacking the village at once, it came close to wiping out the village 50 years ago and acts as an immediate major plot point from which an adventure of a lifetime will unravel.
After creating and customising your character and their Palicoe and Palamute companions, you wake in Kamura Village as Elder Fugen receives word that the Rampage has returned. Now a certified hunter with the Guild, your chosen profession will task you with completing quests that challenge you to overcome behemoth-toppling encounters and help the village to prepare for the oncoming onslaught.
The now well-trodden gameplay loop to Monster Hunter Rise holds no surprises and is as many will expect. Whether speaking to Hinoa the Quest Maiden to work your way through the story-orientated Village Quests or tackling the multiplayer-orientated Hub Quests that her twin sister Minoto the Hub Maiden manages from the Gathering Hub, you will set out to a designated hunting ground – the Shrine Ruins, Flooded Forest, Frost Islands, Sandy Plains or Lava Cavern – where your sole intention more often than not is to slaughter or capture a colossal monster to carve up their carcass. You have three chances to succeed, and the materials that you collect can then be used to craft more powerful weapons and armour, helping you to gather enough strength to feel confident enough to confront even the mightiest creatures that Capcom has created.
It isn’t long before Capcom throws you into the thick of it, but an effort has once again been made to make sure that everyone understands the core aspects that underpin Monster Hunter Rise. Veterans will look to fast-track their way through this basic training, but newcomers and those less experienced with the trappings that make up a Monster Hunter game will surely benefit from the guidance given in these early lessons. It’s worth mentioning that you start you off with the Long Sword, but you’re free to change to another weapon type as you wish.
These tutorials also cover what’s new this time around, of course. With Palicoes returning to lend you their support, Palamutes have been added as a new type of Buddy character. These canine-like companions can join you on your hunts, and while they will help by retaliating against any monster that threatens you, the role that they have to play has greater importance in letting you cover ground more quickly. Riding on their back, you can more rapidly traverse your surroundings to save time reaching your target or to chase down a weakened monster that is desperately attempting to flee from you. Your stamina is not drained while riding your Palamute, meaning that you can also use healing items or a whetstone to re-sharpen your weapon before recklessly hurling yourself back into the fight.
Next up is the Wirebug, which is a versatile tool that often made me feel like your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. Limited to a set number of rechargeable uses, there are many actions that you can perform such as the web-slinging Wiredash, a ninja-like Wall Run or the evasive Wirefall that can let you recover your footing when knocked back by a monster. There are also powerful Switch Attacks that the Wirebug allows you to unleash when combined with the weapon you wield, but the new gameplay mechanic that proves to be easily the most entertaining is Wyvern Riding.
When a monster is stunned into a mountable state, you can use the Wirebug to restrain and temporarily place them under your control. I actively sought out these situations as they can be tremendously beneficial, not to mention that using the monster that you are controlling to pound another into submission is satisfying enough in itself. Unleashing strong attacks while using Emergency Evade to shrug off incoming damage, strike your target enough times before you are forced to dismount and you can even land a ferociously heavy-hitting Mounted Punisher attack. These are lucrative instances that can let you easily break monster parts to reward yourself with more crafting materials to hand over to Hamon the Blacksmith in Kamura Village after a successful hunt.
The hunting grounds that you visit are also teeming with endemic life – small lifeforms that inhabit the area. There are lots of these to briefly summarise, but they grant boons and benefits to your character for the duration of that particular hunt. For example, Spiribirds are Permabuffers that can increase your health, stamina or attack, Great Wirebugs can be placed at Jewel Lilies to launch you over great distances, or the Clothfly is a Temp Buffer whose powder will temporarily increase your defence. There are also Hunting Helpers, which are creatures that you can stuff in your Helper Cage that can be used just like an item. The weasel-like Stinkmink became an early favourite, which can be used to lure a large monster across the map to wreak havoc on another – triggering a turf war that will inevitably open up more opportunities for Wyvern Riding.
Capcom’s string of meaningful additions makes Monster Hunter Rise feel honed for portable play, smart decisions having been made that help to get you into the midst of the action more quickly and want nothing more than to keep you there. I’m above average at best with Monster Hunter games, and, aside from an unexplainable desire to slice off every monster’s tail, regular hunts would usually take me around 15-20 minutes to complete. The game’s pacing is certainly a much more streamlined experience than Monster Hunter World, with more importance placed on you going toe-to-toe with Capcom’s gargantuan beasts rather than having you waste time tracking them first after examining footprints and scrawled doodles.
Tied in with the game’s premise, Rampage Quests have also been introduced this time around. These challenge you to defend Kamura Village against waves of monsters and are effectively the world of Monster Hunter’s take on horde mode. Your goal is to hold out until either the last wave is defeated or a designated Major Threat has been eliminated, using Hunting Installations – on which you can place ballistae, cannons, bamboo bombs or support characters that can be summoned temporarily – to fend off the ravenous creatures that attack your location. Allow the Gates that protect each area to be destroyed, and you will fail the quest.
The Rampage Quests are as much exhilarating as they are stressful, in that I found later quests far trickier to tackle when playing solo. There are automated CPU-controlled Hunting Installations that lend strength to your damage-dealing efforts, and successfully repelling waves of monsters will increase your Stronghold Level – in turn, unlocking new and more powerful tools for you to deploy. It can be hard not to feel overwhelmed, especially when an Apex Monster turns up, and this is one area of the game that I admittedly still need to sink more time in to comprehend the best strategies and approaches. The idea works and the long-term potential is there, at least.
It will be no surprise that Monster Hunter Rise really comes to life in multiplayer, somewhere that we know the experience has always excelled in. I had a limited window to join up with other hunters online pre-launch, but it was painless, trouble-free and it didn’t feel like there was any lag or severe latency to our connection even though we were on opposite sides of the globe. I have no concerns with that being any different upon release. At least, if the servers can cope with the anticipated demand.
We have come a long way since Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Monster Hunter Generations on Nintendo 3DS, and Monster Hunter Rise becomes the first game to be created for Nintendo Switch using the RE Engine. The result is a triumphant tour de force, with Capcom delivering not only one of the best-looking games on the portable home console but a technical marvel that performs consistently regardless of how much chaotic on-screen action is happening, as far as I can tell. The Japanese-inspired soundtrack deserves a shout out too, the music encapsulating every mood from the serene to the majestic and taps into the trepidation that you will feel in each terrifying encounter.
Monster Hunter Rise is exceptional. 17 years on, and there still isn’t a gameplay experience that can deliver such tremendously heroic thrills at the same level as this. Evading increasingly crippling blows from a monster desperately fending for its life to managing to capture a monster while on the brink of your own failure, the excitement once the game clicks with you is constant and palpable. Capcom has crafted yet another sensational addition to the Nintendo Switch library, which represents portable Monster Hunter at its unrivalled best, an outstanding hunt to set out on and a game that I look forward to playing for many years to come.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo