I have so many good things to say about Monster Hunter Rise that I don't know where to start, so I guess that's my opener. Capcom set me up with early access to the Monster Hunter Rise Switch demo, which is out today, and after more than a few hours with it, I am absolutely desperate to play the full game come March 26. Thus far, it is everything I loved about Monster Hunter World and its Iceborne expansion, expertly balanced with the flavor of classic titles like Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. The scope of the game and its monster roster will obviously affect its long-term appeal, but based on everything in this demo, Rise is shaping up to be an all-timer.
After putting a couple hundred hours into Monster Hunter World and Iceborne on PC, I will admit it was a bit jarring to go back to playing Monster Hunter on the Switch. But even without my 2080 and M.2 SSD to spoil me, I frequently caught myself marveling at just how lovely Monster Hunter Rise looks. World had the best-looking monster models in the series, but as a whole it sometimes looked washed out to me, so I'm thrilled to see Rise reclaim the vibrant, slightly cartoonish art style of the older games. I didn't notice any significant FPS dips in my time with the demo, either, so no worries there.
The best kind of bug
Game Monster Hunter Rise
Platforms Nintendo Switch
Release date March 26, 2021
As the next big Monster Hunter, Rise has been positioned as a spiritual successor to Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate rather than Monster Hunter World, but fans of either game will feel right at home. The series has always had a thin divide between mainline entries and portable entries, with the latter often producing more out-there ideas on different platforms. Monster Hunter Rise falls into this group, but there's no question that it feels like a huge step forward for the franchise.
Monster Hunter Rise plays incredibly well. All 14 weapons will feel familiar to World fans, but they've got some fresh moves thanks to wirebugs, which are like little grappling hooks you can carry around and use on a fairly short cooldown. Each weapon has two wirebug attacks, many of which are based on hunter arts and styles from Monster Hunter Generations, and most feel every bit as anime now as they did then.
The variety of special attacks is astounding and they're all fun to pull off, which is good because you can (and should) use them very frequently in fights. You can also use wirebugs to recover after being hit, or with your weapon sheathed, to grapple through the air, and up basically any ledge. This gives environments a tremendous sense of verticality, as well as a degree of freedom that World never fully delivered.
Beyond expanding weapon move sets, Wirebugs have also fixed some of the biggest problems I had with World. Firstly, every weapon now has a good way to fight flying monsters that stubbornly refuse to land. Gone are the days of impotently watching Kushala Daora or Azure Rathalos hover for minutes on end; you can swiftly bring anything to the ground with a few well-placed wirebug launch attacks.
On top of that, wirebugs are used in the new Wyvern Riding mounting system, which is not only the coolest shit on planet Earth, it's also the perfect solution to World's problem of overly invasive monsters interrupting fights. After you land enough aerial or wirebug attacks, you can mount a monster and pilot it like a freaking Gundam puppet, running it into walls or attacking other monsters. Like the mounts of old, this gives you a big opportunity to deal damage on a downed target, and it also tethers the monster in place for a bit afterward. The best part is that large monsters now seem to automatically fight each other if two are ever in the same area, and one of them will quickly become mountable since monster attacks deal heavy mount damage, essentially handing you some free hits and a big finisher.
While I'm on about Monster Hunter Rise fixing World's shortcomings, let's talk about weapon designs, if only because if I'm liable to explode if I don't. I obviously can't speak to the full game, but every single weapon in the demo looks amazing. The boring, often hideous iron and bone weapon templates that plagued World and Iceborne are nowhere to be found, and I sincerely hope Capcom never finds them again. Monster Hunter Rise looks to have a glorious arsenal of beautiful, flavorful weapons that properly show off the monster parts that go into crafting them. It's hard to overstate how essential good-looking weapons are to the game loop and power fantasy of Monster Hunter, so this is a huge relief.
Letting the dogs out
Of course, I know what you're all really here for. Austin, tell me about the dogs, the puppers, the good boys. Well, I suppose I did spend three paragraphs on the wirebugs, so I should probably talk about the new Palamute canine companions. I mean, what more do you want, it's a dog you can ride and pet; that's game of the year material, right there.
Palamutes can ferry you all over the map in style, and they're invaluable for chasing fleeing monsters. As someone who prefers to play Monster Hunter totally solo, I also appreciate the option to tell my Palamute and Palico to stand by at a distance, that way I can bring them on hunts while still keeping the monster's attention on me. Needless to say, I look forward to crafting armor for my Palamute to make him the strongest good boy in all the land.
Even if it was just a limited demo with five monsters and one map, my time with Monster Hunter Rise was positively invigorating; I'm just excited to have a new Monster Hunter game to play, man. The quality of life updates in World have ruined me to the point that I've found it hard to go back to the older games, but Monster Hunter Rise has everything I want and tons of new stuff to master.
You can gather on the fly, drink potions while running, move around the map with no loading screens, carve en masse by holding the attack button down – these are little things from World, but it's great to see Rise officially carve them into Monster Hunter canon while meaningfully building on the coolest ideas from World. A new Monster Hunter is always a time of celebration for me, and Rise could well be my favorite entry yet.
Big in 2021 is GamesRadar's look at the most anticipated games of the new year. Every day throughout January, we will be exploring the most anticipated games on the near horizon with brand new previews and exclusive developer interviews. In the meantime, you can pre-order Monster Hunter Rise via our guide or check out the upcoming Monster Hunter World board game that's coming our way in the near future.