Somewhat paradoxically, Monster Hunter Rise is facing a bit of a second album scenario. It's certainly not the second Monster Hunter game, but it is the game to follow Monster Hunter World, a massive mainstream success that got countless people into a series that has long gotten by with a devoted cult following. So to a lot of people, Rise is their second Monster Hunter game. How will the Switch exclusive – the Switch console exclusive, rather, what with a Monster Hunter Rise PC port coming in early 2022 – follow up one of the most innovative Monster Hunters yet?
I'll tell you how: with giant dogs that you can ride.
The adorable palamute companions have become the face of Monster Hunter Rise, and beyond being incredibly good boys and girls, they're a great representation of what sets Rise apart from World. Under the routine of turning monster hides into fancy hats, Monster Hunter is a traditionally upbeat and comical series – though you wouldn't know it from World's deliberate grittiness – and Rise is proudly reviving that colorful atmosphere while integrating some of the best features and feedback from World's record-breaking run. And as we learned in a recent chat with series producer Ryozo Tsujimoto and Rise director Yasunori Ichinose, it's also leaning on several other games in the series, from Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate to Monster Hunter Generations.
Frankenstein's Monster Hunter
"Every time we make a new Monster Hunter game, we make it a new thing," Tsujimoto says of the origins of Monster Hunter Rise. "We come up with a new concept for a new game. In this case it's the portability of the Switch; we want you to be able to pick up the game and play wherever you want. That's the main idea for this game, but we don't really know if it's going to be a [core game in the franchise]. We don't really think about future titles too much when we're focusing on one specific title. Some elements of Rise may carry over into future titles, we just can't say because we haven't thought about it yet."
The Switch shaped the features of Rise, but much of the game and its story are built around the Rampage, a mysterious phenomenon that drives whole hordes of monsters to attack. "The Rampage is a very important part of the story this time, it's pretty much the main element," Ichinose says. "It involves large hordes of monsters attacking the village that the hunter lives in. You'll be seeing a new kind of quest, Rampage quests, where you have to protect the stronghold from hordes of monsters so they don't get into the village."
We caught a glimpse of Rampage quests in the trailer released at the recent Nintendo Direct, and this also confirmed the surprise return of Apex monsters. Originally introduced in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, Apex monsters are tougher, more wily creatures that require skill and caution to hunt. However, they're no longer tied to G-Rank like they were in 4U; much like World, Monster Hunter Rise won't have G-Rank or Master Rank hunts at launch. The Apex monsters in Rise are similar in that they come packing new moves, but Ichinose says that's where the similarities end.
"These are actually very different," he says. "They have the same name but they're actually different creatures. They serve as the boss of a horde during the Rampage quests. They're the biggest and strongest monster that you'll face in that quest. We've shown Apex Arzuros, and he has a lot of new tricks up his sleeve and behaves differently than the regular Arzuros you're used to."
Likewise, the new silkbind arts – special attacks that use the grappling hook-like wire bugs to dazzling effect – are partly a nod to hunter arts from Monster Hunter Generations, Ichinose explains. Some moves from Monster Hunter World have also been turned into silkbind arts, like the longsword's helmsplitter finisher. Here again, the idea is familiar but the execution is different: the integration of the wire bugs leans into the naturalist themes that Monster Hunter is also known for.
Rise to the occasion
Even as it worked to make Rise stand out from its predecessors, Capcom has also integrated some key lessons and innovations from Monster Hunter World. It retains the streamlined armor system that uses direct skill points rather than obscure thresholds, for example, and it's also added dynamic, adaptive scaling to all multiplayer hunts, letting players solo or duo them without facing an over-buffed monster. The more digestible weapon crafting tree is back as well, and there's another free-reign training area where you can practice with different weapons – a godsend for learning how to make good use of all those silkbind arts.
According to a new gameplay presentation that Capcom showed us after our interview, Rise has also made some welcome changes of its own. The key quests for the guild hall – the ones you have to clear to unlock the next rank – are now denoted, so no more wiki stalking when you just want to progress. Many weapons have also received some long-requested upgrades. Tsujimoto, an outspoken hammer enthusiast, says he's thrilled with the changes to the hammer in particular: "It's a lot more speedy now, it's got a lot more freedom of movement. I'll be maining it again."
Just as promisingly, Rise has addressed some of the criticisms of World, the most prominent being its sometimes-drab weapon designs. "Each weapon will have its own unique monster variant, but it's just one per monster per weapon," Ichinose confirms. "We'll also be bringing back some non-monster weapons like bone and steel, and we're re-using some designs from Monster Hunter World which we've brushed up a little and tweaked the designs a bit. But you are going to see unique weapons per monster."
The Switch demo for Monster Hunter Rise has been another source of valuable feedback for Ichinose and his team. He wouldn't go into too much detail, but he did confirm that several damage values were tweaked based on user data from the demo – to the surprise of approximately zero longsword users, all of whom utterly deleted everything in sight. You know who you are.
The more I learn about Monster Hunter Rise, the more eager I am to play the final game. As someone who enjoyed hundreds of hours with Monster Hunter World but found it missing a certain something compared to older games, Tsujimoto and Ichinose are absolutely speaking to the hunter fan in me. I've been hoping for a mix of that classic Monster Hunter atmosphere and the modernized features of World for years now, and that's explicitly what Rise is going for. At that point, the giant dogs are just a bonus, and if giant rideable dogs somehow aren't the peak of your game's feature list, you're probably in a good spot.
Looking for more on Monster Hunter's return to handheld? Then you'll want to read our Monster Hunter Rise hands-on impressions.