When you launch a game like Monster Hunter: World, it’s hard to go back. While Monster Hunter has always been a huge hit in Japan, it was originally a more niche series in the West. But now that World has officially become Capcom’s best-selling game of all time, with over 16 million copies sold in September 2020 (and we’re not even counting the additional 7.2 million units of Monster Hunter World: Iceborne) It’s safe to say that Monster Hunter has become a worldwide phenomenon. In 2017, after the success of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo’s Eiji Aonuma suggested that Breath of the Wild could become “the foundation” for future series entries, and it appears Capcom is taking a similar approach. with World for the foreseeable future of Monster Hunter.
It’s no coincidence that Monster Hunter Rise, Capcom’s latest installment in the series, developed exclusively for the Nintendo Switch, is a perfect hunting experience with maps roughly the same size as the vast environments of World. That’s impressive to say the least, especially when you consider that it runs on a significantly less powerful home-portable hybrid console than pure desktop consoles.
A monstrous bar to reach
Curiously, Rise’s development started long before World was released under a completely different team. Director Yasunori Ichinose told IGN in an exclusive interview that the team originally planned areas separated by loading screens, as was standard for Monster Hunter games before World.
“On Nintendo Switch, we thought it would be difficult to preserve visual quality and detail in a sandbox environment. However, as development progressed, we began to realize that open environments had increasingly become the norm for blockbuster titles, and the success of World inspired us to take up the challenge, ”recalls Ichinose.
Shrine Ruins, the area featured in the demo that launched on Nintendo eShop in January, is a testament to the efforts of Ichinose and his team. Not only did they manage to pull off a perfect hunting experience on a scale similar to World (albeit with slightly less detailed environments), but the game looks impressive on Switch.
Check out our exclusive Monster Rise gameplay.
Open environments aren’t the only idea Rise borrows from World. With a more user-friendly design overall, World successfully introduced the series to a new audience. Quality of life improvements, such as wish lists that make it easy to keep track of material needed for weapon and armor upgrades, the ability to return to camp from anywhere on the map, allowing players to change equipment without having to go back to the hub, weapons trees that provide information that you would have previously had to look for in tutorials; the list goes on. “In this sense, there are certainly many changes that we have adapted from World,” says Ichinose.
A more action-oriented beast
But Rise is not a title that simply relies on the success of World to play it safe. Use the foundations of World to offer a whole new vision of what a Monster Hunter title can be. The moment you step into a mission, it becomes apparent that Rise is a much more action-oriented beast, literally speaking. With the Canyne (a new dog-like companion) that you can ride and the “cordoptera“Which you can use to swing through the air and run up the walls, the help of these creatures makes exploring the environments a breeze. While World showed its detailed environments making you examine footprints and other clues that would slowly lead you to your goal, In Rise you’ll be making your way to monsters in no time.
The dragonflies that guided you to the next track in World are also gone, and instead, the monster locations are indicated on the map from the beginning. While you don’t know the monster’s identity until you find it and the details of each area until you actually explore it, it’s still obvious that Rise targets a much faster scan flow. For players who were put off by the time-consuming monster hunt in previous installments, Rise lowers the bar significantly by allowing players to enjoy their exploration and combat more like a pure action game.
While preparation for the hunt was a big part of Monster Hunter’s identity until now, Rise allows players to fully prepare along the way. Various types of local wildlife are scattered around the Rise areas, and by collecting these creatures along the way, your stats will increase until the end of the mission. The local wildlife you encounter depends on the route you take, and heading towards your target in a straight line will make hunting that much more challenging.
While it is still possible to eat before going on a mission, the local wildlife alone offers plenty of stat upgrades so players can jump straight into the action without having to later regret doing so. Just like in the world, items like whetstones, fishing rods, and catch nets are all fixed items, and while maintaining weapon quality with whetstones is still one thing, you can do it while you drive your Canyne on the way to the monster’s whereabouts, so there is no need to stop, like with Iceborne’s Raider Ride. Also, while in previous deliveries you would be in trouble if you forgot to make a hot drink when heading to a cold area like Frost Islands, Ichinose has announced that this item will not be returning. For players who enjoyed the action of Monster Hunter World but were overwhelmed by its levels of readiness, Rise appears to be a much more forgiving experience.
More accessible, but still challenging
This does not mean that the action itself has become a piece of cake. As the demo’s middle mission indicates, killing a monster can be as exhausting and stressful as ever, posing a good challenge for even the most experienced gamer. But here too Capcom has found a way to make it more accessible. By eating before embarking on the mission and capturing as many wildlife creatures as possible to maximize your stats before heading into battle, players can meet the challenge with more advantages than ever. The beauty is that while Capcom still chooses not to implement difficulty settings, you can balance the difficulty for each individual mission yourself by choosing how many stat boosts you get along the way. If you want an intense experience, completely ignore the food and wildlife.
“I think the more experienced hunter doesn’t need to swerve before entering a fight, but if you want a well-balanced challenge, you probably want to at least collect the wildlife you come across while chasing your target,” advises Ichinose.
Still, the nature of Monster Hunter’s challenging and rewarding battles remains intact. If you’re new to the series, expect to get your butt kicked multiple times on the toughest missions, even with your stats maxed out. To make the learning curve a bit more accessible, Ichinose advises beginning players to start with the village missions. In previous Monster Hunter games, these are the single player story missions.
“We’ve reduced the difficulty of the village quests, so they should work as a good entry point for new players,” Ichinose tells us.
United we are stronger
As in the previous games, the comrades will be there to help you in your search. The Felyne, the beloved feline critters of the series, can help the player in several ways, from some offensive ones that will charge the monsters together with the hunter, to others that will heal you when you need it most. But the aforementioned Canyne dogs create a whole new layer of support and comfort. Not only do they make exploration much faster, but they can also perform timed attacks together, making it possible to quickly jump into close combat for a surprise attack.
“You can choose up to two friends. Of course, the most basic and balanced combination is to carry a Felyne and a Canyne each. But if you’re a gunner, for example, choosing two Felynes instead can also be an effective strategy, ”Ichinose explains.
If even with your friends the search is too intense, there is always the option to switch to multiplayer. Ichinose tells us that connecting with other players has also been simplified. While in World your friends would only appear in the meeting room on the fourth floor of the village, in Rise you can explore the entirety of Kamura Village together with other players, making the meeting much less confusing.
The whole of Kamura Village can be explored together with other players
You can even head to the Training Area together to test your teamwork without any threat before heading on real missions. And while there are separate tutorials for mastering cable jumping action, the chordopter can also be used within the village. You can always fast travel to any facility in the village, but moving around can work as a way to get used to the game’s new mobility in a safe environment. Ichinose proudly tells us that he himself has been able to swing and land exactly in front of the facilities and the village NPCs.
The Training Area has also evolved, as players can adjust the attack patterns and head position of the mechanized Tetranadon giant in the center of the area. This allows players to practice in different situations with the weapon of their choice.
Weapons are still difficult to master, but easy to upgrade
Speaking of weapons, Ichinose expects players to switch weapons more frequently than before.. While you understand the fun of becoming an expert on a specific weapon, with 14 vastly different weapons available, these players will only experience a fraction of the diversity of Monster Hunter.
“One reason players always stuck with the same weapon was the fact that it takes a long time to upgrade weapons, so we decided to significantly reduce the amount of materials needed to upgrade weapons for Rise,” he tells us. Ichinose.
Considering that searching for materials in previous titles could easily take hours, this setting sounds like another big step forward in welcoming more casual gamers.
… we have decided to significantly reduce the number of materials needed to upgrade weapons for Rise.
Mastering the weapons themselves is as challenging as ever, and the tutorials only scratch the surface of the many combos each weapon has. Ichinose tells us that the team considered teaching the player more combos, but ultimately came to the conclusion that this would be more confusing and overwhelming than helpful for most players.
When asked what was the best weapon to start with, Ichinose says that the sword and shield used to be his standard answer, but the weapon has evolved so much that it has become difficult to recommend it as a starting option.
“I think the long sword may have become the best weapon for beginners, as you can easily launch a good flow of attacks by simply pressing the buttons without having to master how to block,” says Ichinose.
With katana-based sword moves, the longsword should also be a great match with Rise’s Japan-inspired setting!
Monster Hunter Rise will be released exclusively for Nintendo Switch on March 26. It will be just the first of the two games in the franchise to hit Nintendo’s handheld soon, as Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin was also announced for summer 2021.